Write a Reboot

One of the biggest problems many novice screenwriters face is completing their first screenplay. Writing a 110-120 screenplay can be daunting so it’s likely you’r first screenplay will be mediocre at best because screenwriting is just a skill. The first time you try anything whether it’s knitting, baseball, or cooking, you simply don’t know what you’re doing so you’re likely to make plenty of mistakes.

Just as an exercise, consider writing a reboot of an existing movie. This screenplay has almost zero chances of selling because you won’t  own the rights to the  intellectual property, but writing a reboot can give you a huge advantage in learning to write a complete screenplay because you already know the characters and story line. Now you can focus on dialogue, formatting, and developing the stamina to write 110-120 pages.

For example, compare the original “Ghostbusters” to the current remake. The plot is the same, the characters are the same, and the setting is the same. What’s different are the details of the story. Watch both movies and ask yourself what you would have done differently?

One reason why the original “Ghostbusters” is considered a classic is because the hero has a much clearer goal that’s emphasized for laughs throughout the story. In the original movie, the hero wants to find love. He does that in a humorous way in the beginning by shocking a young man mercilessly to drive him away while lying to a pretty co-ed that she has psychic powers.

Later when the hero goes to investigate a ghost sighting in a woman’s apartment, he tries to hit on this woman while pretending to look for the ghost. The hero has a clear goal and constantly pursues it in funny ways.

In the remake, the hero’s goal is less distinct. She’s upset with her friend for publishing a book they wrote about ghosts. At the end she saves her friend. Yet in between, there’s no tension because they seem to be friends while working together. Instead, the hero spends most of the middle time falling in love with a handsome but stupid receptionist.

So right away, the hero’s goal is divided. Is her goal to fall in love with a handsome man or is her goal to get back with her friend? If here goal is to get back with her friend, she appears to achieve that when she agrees to work with her friend again, so the ending when she rescues her friend doesn’t feel so emotionally important since she was already helping and working with her friend after all.

Another problem are the obstacles. In the original, the heroes not only face the main villain, a spirit that wants to cross into another dimension, but they also face a threat from the government that thinks the Ghostbusters are frauds. This causes the villain to release the ghosts in the end. So the Ghostbusters not only are fighting the main villain, but they’re also fighting against this government man intent on proving they’re frauds so he can shut them down.

In the remake, the Ghostbusters fight against the villain but they’re actually working with the government agency that pretends to debunk the Ghostbusters while actually supporting them. So there’s much fewer obstacles for the Ghostbusters to overcome and fewer villains to defeat. The fewer villains to fight against, the less drama and the less interesting the overall story becomes.

At the end of the original movie, the Ghostbusters fight the villain and still remember to inject humor as they fight such as when one Ghostbuster reads the villain his rights like a cop or when one Ghostbuster yells at another one after they nearly died, “The next time someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes!” (If both of these examples of humor don’t sound funny when described, it’s because they’re hilarious within the context of the story, which is a crucial element of comedy.)

In comparison, in the remake when the Ghostbusters are fighting the villain and the ghosts, it’s just special effects and fighting, but little humor. The remake interjects humor occasionally that’s funny, but these moments are far too few. Instead of the humor constantly supporting the story, the remake seems to interject humor just for laughs whether it supports the story or not. (There’s a running joke in the remake about the stupid receptionist hating coffee but constantly drinking it and spitting it out. It’s not that funny the first time and it does nothing to support any of the subplots.)

So when you compare the original to the remake you can see how the remake of “Ghostbusters” fell short of the original but at least exceeded the mediocre sequel “Ghostbusters 2.” The problem with the remake has nothing to do with the actresses or director but more to do with the far weaker storyline and inconsistent script. In other words, more and fancier special effects and fighting scenes can’t make up for the lack of a stronger script.

If you want to challenge yourself, write your own remake and compare it to the original. This will simply be an interesting exercise to show you what your strengths and weaknesses might be as a screenwriter.

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