Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day #3 - Any Given Sunday

I'm in Newcastle, on the Hunter, the most English of Australian cities that I've come across and it's appropriate that I'm here as the crime film I'm embarking on is set not far from here, in the Barrington Tops National Park; but that's for another day. I try to put Sundays aside to not write and not think about writing, but not thinking about writing is actually thinking about writing, isn't it? My experience has been that once I get deep into the territory of a screenplay, closing my computer down at the end of a working day feels like abandoning my characters at a bus stop somewhere and there they wait until I come along and pick them up in the morning

Day #3 Tip - Marinate Yourself in Your Genre
I'm writing Crime in this screenplay, because, as I've already said, I love the Crime genre. Of the twelve sub-genres of crime, my particular favourite is "The Detective Story" (again, I'll talk at greater length soon in greater detail about the twelve sub-genres of Crime). But, whatever Genre I'm writing in, I choose to immerse and saturate myself in that genre for the bulk, if not all of the time that I'm writing: I watch Crime films, I read crime novels, I get hold of crime screenplays and study them and stop short of living a life of Crime. Hollywood Bob (McKee) suggests that we master our genres. I set aside one night a week - Monday - and devote four hours to watching a film of my genre, hired from the DVD story and I view it at least twice (1) the first time I watch it through for pure enjoyment (2) the second time I watch it through, with a copy of the screenplay on my lap, studying it frame-by-frame for what are known as the conventions of the genre. For instance: in a crime film, within the first 1-10 minutes of the film, the world is going to be turned unjust - a body is discovered, a crime is committed, a just world is turned unjust. That is a convention of a crime film in the same way that boy-meets-girl is the convention of a Romantic Comedy or Love Story. I'll go through the film & script minute by minute, looking for these familiar conventions so that I can build up an idea of what the conventions of the genre are that I'm writing in (conventions not clich├ęs). Doing this on a weekly basis for six months means that I soon become the master of my genre as you will be too. I note these conventions down in a file on my computer because these are the conventions and audience has unconscious expectations of when they come to watch a movie; it's my choice as to whether I'll break a convention, twist, refresh of go with a convention. William Goldman in his book 'Which Lie Did I Tell' (a recommended read by the Hungry Screenwriter) pens a great chapter on how the Coen brothers do this time and time again in their films. The Coen Bros don't create whacky characters, they study conventions and profoundly twist them; the best example for me in my detective sub-genre is from their film Fargo where the detective in that story is a married pregnant woman...a far cry from the detective convention of the hard-bitten, hard-drinking, philandering private investigator like Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe.

Prepare to become the master of your genre.

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