Monday, March 25, 2013

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pixar story rules (one version)

Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the past month and a half — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Stages and Steps in the Storyboarding Process

Stage 1 - Development
Goal: to visualize all of the Elements BEFORE you start boarding. 

Step 1 - Script
GOAL: to create a script that clearly lays out all the action and Dial in a concise visual way. 
At this Point don’t get hung up with: too many details, research, shots or visuals. You don’t need to draw at this stage you are building the backbone of the sequence.
If you are starting out with a script you want to identify or even write down all the beats. 
The whole point of this stage is to get a CLEAR picture of the whole story and get the steps all down on paper and in your head before you even start to draw. Make sure everything works and flows and makes sense. Imagine someone picking it up and reading it who has NO idea about what the story is about or anything about the characters. Would they be able to see it play out in their mind step by step and would they not get lost or confused?

Step 2 - Visual Inspiration 
Goal: is to QUICKLY gather visual reference and inspiration material that you will be able to refer back to as you go. Of course you may have to do this as you go but this is so you have a good amount to start with.
At this Point don’t get hung up with: story, shots, boarding, details, too much researching.
This Stage is Vital because you cannot draw out of a void. "You are only as good as your reference" may not be entirely true but has a lot of truth in it. The wider your reference inventory the more options you have. Imagine Reference as being the material that you have to build with. If you find yourself stuck as far as creativity goes you need to "refresh" your visual innovatory. 
Now as vital as Reference is it is also vital to NOT GET LOST in the research stage. You don't want research to be an EXCUSE to NOT create anything. So the way to avoid that is to keep focused on what specifically you are researching. It’s best to write a list and STOP when that list is completed.

Step 3 - Design the Characters and Visual Elements
Goal: To create a SIMPLE visual vocabulary that you can use as you storyboard. This includes Character sheets, prop/vehicle/object designs. In short all of the story elements that will fill your world. ALL of these elements must end up on sheets for easy reference BEFORE you start boarding. 
At this Point don’t get hung up with: story, shots, boarding, research,
Now these designs are NOT as complicated and detailed as they would be for the final animation/film. These designs are more like pictography or hieroglyphs. They are simple ways to CLEARLY indicated props and characters without losing form and necessary elements (such as expressions). These designs are rather subjective but EACH design MUST be CLEAR CLEAR CLEAR. And discernible from each other even though they all be drawn say and inch high. 

Characters should all be iconic and clearly discernible from each other. If you are not sure if they are clear enough from each other draw them all side by side and either zoom out so the image is an inch high or look at the drawing from across the room. They should be all clearly different from each other. And don't fool yourself. Ask someone to look at it and see if they see what you see. 

IF your characters are unclear make them more so by making them more iconic. And for use creative types we may not like this but as story artists we are in the business of COMMUNICATION NOT ART (though it goes without saying that the better we are the more Art will show though.) SO ICONIC. If its a female give her hips and boobs or make her curvy or something. If a man wider shoulders etc. (this is of course subjective to the character but in general its best to just push it even to be cliché because cliché is easy to COMMUNICATE) The Character should be unique even in silhouette. 

As for props and all other objects (all that are listed in the script or are important) should be just as clear and treated the same way as the characters. 

Step 4 - Design the World
Goal: To create a scene schematics, and spatial layouts that visualize the SETS your characters will be acting in. These will take the form of drawings that you will be able to refer to as you board.
At this Point don’t get hung up with: character designs, reference, shots, boarding, too much detail or too much world

You wouldn't start filming without a set or place to shoot and so you should not start boarding until you have a CLEAR picture of the world that your story will be taking place in. 

Now this "world" is not the whole freakn' world but ONLY the Environment that your sequence appears in. SO to FIRST go through your script and make a list of all the scenes (scene headings), and background elements that are listed. 

From that list really picture and visualize the spatial relationships, how big the characters are in their environments, how far they have to go from here to there. What time period, where, when what feeling. Create floor plans and even building cross-sections  and floor plans for entire towns (Still only as they are called for by the list you made.)  

As it is with the previous step make sure that all of these locations are iconic. If you are unsure use a visual cliché. 


Storyboarding is
NOT about being pretty
It is about
CLEARLY COMMUNICATING the VISUAL STORY
SO
USE ICONIC VISUALS
and When in doubt
USE VISUAL CLICHE's because they are easy, iconic and most people understand them.


Stage 2 – Thumbnailing
Goal: To get the whole sequence down on paper so that is shows all you have in your mind. It can be rough but it cannot be incomplete. Any person looking at it should be able to follow the boards without you explaining anything to them. 
Step 1 – Find the Money Shots
GOAL: To find the KEY Shots in the sequence. 
At this Point don’t get hung up with: the order of the shots (though if they are its okay,) numbering the shots, figuring out how it all will work together. 
You are just trying to get the “Tent Poles” of your sequence up. IE: images you have clearly in your mind, the Money Shots, The shots that inspired this sequence, the shots that you cannot live without. 
You will later build the rest of the sequence with these shots in mind and if you have to cut things down you will know to keep these and sacrifice the shots that link them together. 
Get down on paper what is clearest in your mind and don’t get bogged down with the logistics yet. 

Step 2 – Rough Thumbnail Pass
GOAL: To conquer the white page. You want to do whatever is necessary to just blast through the whole sequence and get it down on paper from beginning to end. 
At this Point don’t get hung up with: pretty drawing (stick figures are okay,) logistics, thinking too much. 
At this point you want to think in order and you want to roughly number the shots. You also want to start indicating the camera work.

Step 3 – 1st Thumbnail Pass
GOAL: To get all the way through the sequence again only and this time really get at least a rough indication of all you have visualized for the sequence.
At this Point don’t get hung up with: pretty drawing (though now the stick figures should take on enough form so the characters are different from each other and they are at first glance spatially clear,) thinking, editing, visual arches or progression (at least let that simmer on the back burner)
This is a hard stage but a very necessary one. 

You start by looking over the rough pass and visualize what all is not yet drawn and what you want to see. 

At the end of this stage: 
1- ALL BGs should be indicated (at first glance they should communicate where the characters are in their environment and how big the environment is too the characters)
2 - ALL shots should be properly numbered 
3 - ALL shots should have the Horizon line and/or perspective/planes indicated 
4 - Basic character action should be indicated 
5 - All characters should be roughly the correct size in the frame and relative to each other. 
6 - All camera moves should be indicated  
7 - the characters don't need to be on model but they NEED to be visually discernible from each other in EVERY Panel. The same goes for important objects/props. 
8 – Action notes should be indicated (though the visuals should do most of the explaining) and all Dialogue and important sounds should be written out below the panels. 

The Key to getting through this stage is to not edit your self (you will edit later). JUST GET DOWN your ORIGINAL gut instincts, visuals, feeling etc from BEGINNING to END. At the end of this pass you should be able to have someone look over what you have done and it should stand for itself (with no explanation on your part).

Step 4 – Reexamine 1st Thumbnail Pass
GOAL: To critically analyze 
At this Point don’t get hung up with: 
More to come

Step 5 – 2nd Thumbnail Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with: 
More to come

Step 6 – Reexamine 2nd Thumbnail Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 7 – Final Thumbnail Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo


Stage 3 – Boarding!!!
Goal: 
Step 1 – “Comping”
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 2 – Reexamine, re-thumb and recomp as needed
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 3 – Rough Acting Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 3 – Reexamine Acting Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 4 – 1st Acting Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 5 – Reexamine Acting Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 7 – Final Acting Pass
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Step 5 – Shading, light effects and polish
GOAL: 
At this Point don’t get hung up with:  
Yo

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Storyboarding Tutorial - Part 2 - Thumbnailing


Now I am at the phase where I just want to visualize the story.

I don't want to think too hard about the logistics yet.


Inspiration Stage

First I go look at images that inspire that I am going to draw. This of course can be dangerous as research can easily turn into another form of procrastination. So I try and only look at images a bit then get onto drawing. AND limit my researches to only what i need for this particular project.

A simple list of the elements I will limit myself to:
Farm, farmhouse, fox, crow, rural landscapes.

The two places I go to is google images, My Curiosities Site and Flickr Hive Mind

I will open a couple tabs with the different queries and keep them on hand to just look through while I am boarding.

So in the case of this boarding project these are all opened in tabs:


I Really like having these images sites open as it helps me visualize and keep inspired as I work.


Thumb-nailing






So Here I have put my first ROUGH thumb-nailing pass.

Now what I was trying to do with this is just getting something down. Even though I already thought of better shots and things I wanted to add I just wanted to finish this step so I don't get caught up in editing before I have a step finished.

The only editing I've done to these thumbs is to put them in order as my first first pass was very random. I just start getting images down. Then after I put them in order I numbered the scenes and put the action and dial in.

So Now that I have something to work off of I will go through them again and start to flesh the thumbs out with a second pass.





So This is a second pass on the roughs but I only got through two shots before I had to go home. So I Uploaded just these changes with Notes.

A Storyboarding Tutorial - Part 1 - Starting out

Here I will detail my entire story boarding process from beginning to end with all of my though process and different revisions so you can get an idea of how to board through a sequence. 


To start 


I found a short story to board, an aesop's fable:
A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. "That's for me, as I am a Fox," said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree. "Good-day, Mistress Crow," he cried. "How well you are looking to-day: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds." The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the
piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox. "That will do," said he. "That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future.
"Do not trust flatterers"



I choose this story for a number of reasons:


Two characters, a simple setting, two levels (up in the tree and down on the ground, it will make for some nice angles), I like the animals, I like the ending, Its very short, it remains in one location, I can think of a cool location etc.




The most important part of the storyboarding process is the planning you do before you start drawing. 


So I will write up my thought process as follows:



Now first I will tweak the story:

A Fox turns over a trash-can next to a barn and looks inside for some food. The trash can is empty. 

Then the Fox sees a Crow fly over with a sandwich in its beak. The Crow settles on a branch of a tree nearby. 

The Fox smirks and walks up to the foot of the tree.

The Fox:
 "Good-day, Mistress Crow." 

The crow glances down at the fox then away uninterested and makes to fly away. 

The Fox (Con't)
"How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does"

The Crow looks down with more interest.

The Fox (Con't)
"let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds." 

The Crow lifts up her head proudly and begins to caw. Her sandwhich falls to the ground, at the foxes feet.

The Fox -
"Next time don't trust a flatterer."

With that the Fox picks up the sandwich in its mouth and skampers away. 


Notes on the changes:
First off Story boarding is a visual medium. 


"Show. Don't tell" 


So I had to rewrite so all of the beats can be seen.  




Below are each change and why I made it so you can see the beginning of how i start on a sequence: 

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. "That's for me, as I am a Fox," said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree. 

TO




A Fox turns over a trash-can next to a barn and looks inside for some food. The trash can is empty. 

Then the Fox sees a Crow fly over with a sandwich in its beak. The Crow settles on a branch of a tree nearby. 

The Fox smirks and walks up to the foot of the tree.




So I wrote the revision of the story to be beat by beat. I described the action to be visual. 

For Visual storytelling we must always think in terms of small bits of information, one piece at a time. when I looked at the story I had to analyzed that information that was being presented and put it in order that it can be easily received. Ill explain that in detail. 

I started with "A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree. "That's for me, as I am a Fox," said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree."

I see first my main character is a Fox. I have to clearly introduce a fox which is one bit of information. I must show the location clearly. I must show the Crow. And that the crow has a desirable bit of food. and that the crow is flying. It is mundane but a story artist must think this way because the first rule of storyboarding is clarity

Then too one must think about the order that the elements are presented. In the original story it is in this order:
Fox, Crow, Flying, Food, Branch, Tree, The food is desirable to the fox, the fox goes up to the tree. 

That works in Prose but I wanted to make a clearer string of events:
Fox, Location = Rural/Barn, Fox is hungry, fox sees a crow with food (and of course wants it), this crow lands on tree nearby. the fox goes to the foot of the tree and looks up. 

I am writing this out to show my though process but this all goes through my head and I just react to it. 

And more notes:


I do not want the fox to start talking to himself "that's for me," so I devised a way of showing that he wants the food. 


Well the most simple way of showing that is to show him to be hungry. Well he is hungry because he does not have food. 


But how do you show a lack of food? An empty plate? Why would he have a plate he is a fox? Well an empty chicken pen? That would require a whole new location and a bit more set up than i want to deal with. So a trash can then because foxes scavenge and I can show the trash can upright at first and the fox knocks it over and looks inside and finds the trash has been picked up or something in any case it is empty. So because he was already desperate enough to look through a trash can he is probably already very hungry. This can all be shown by a simple action. 

Where is this story? Reading through the story I see it only requires a tree but that tree can be anywhere. Also a fox and a crow are limited to their surroundings. Unless I want to make it a comedy then I might place them underwater or in a jungle but as I wanted to focus on the fable and not on my revision of it I decided a rural setting. A chose a barn because I could see a tree standing by a barn and a trash-can also being set beside it. It says "humans are near by but not swarming the place." 


When you start boarding anything it is vital that you have the location and setup clearly in mind. You must also have clearly in mind a setup that will allow for all the actions that you want to have in that location.


For this reason I may not go with my first idea. which in this case was to have him in a chicken pen. Perhaps someone else might be able to make it clear and simple but I foresaw that for me I would have to first introduce a clear place where the chicken pen is then have show the fox walking in then show a wide interior to show that there is no chickens...altogehter doable but for the sake of time I found a simpler and more iconic way of setting up that the fox is hungry. As you can see: "A Fox turns over a trash-can next to a barn and looks inside for some food. The trash can is empty." Is only one line. 

What food? So cheese may be tasty but it does not make for a clear shape and it does instantly say "meal" so i thought "should it be a chicken? A fox would like a chicken. But it would be a weird crow that wants to eat a chicken. Grapes maybe...Maybe... But I go for sandwich because it is a whole meal and something a fox might not be able to get all of the time. This is another simpler choice. 


While I am thinking through all of this I am starting to Visualize how these elements with look. 


And the Next Part:


"Good-day, Mistress Crow," he cried. "How well you are looking to-day: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds."

TO





The Fox:
 "Good-day, Mistress Crow." 

The crow glances down at the fox then away uninterested and makes to fly away. 

The Fox (Con't)
"How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does"

The Crow looks down with more interest.

The Fox (Con't)
"let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds."



This part of the story is the fight as it where. In the original story it doesn't feel like that. 


The fox is like like " yo you beautiful" and the crow is like okay, drops food.


I don't want to draw it out, though I could, because i want it to stay short. 


So I just add some more beats: 


I have the fox address the crow.


The crow passively resists by ignoring the fox and making to fly away to another tree to eat in peace.


the fox continues with his flattery to keep her from leaving.


The crow being, in spite of herself, rather narcissistic can't help but pause a minute to listen. 


The fox has her and finishes his line with a bit of flattery that she cannot resist. 


This story is really just a character moment so I think of who these two characters are.


I don't want it to just be a dumb crow and a malicious fox (which is more like the original story.) 


I want the crow to be a good crow but she is beautiful and has a wonderful voice and she can't help but know it and she is not surprised when others do. 


The fox is an honest hungry fox and can't help but know that the bird is narcissistic and can't help but use this to the advantage of his hungry stomach. Besides it would do her good as every other animal either ignores her obnoxious cawing or flatters her outright. 


Most likely I will not show all of this but creating this backstory in my mind helps me make the characters more unique and believable. And it will be vital in coming up with acting beats in the boards.


If you are having trouble drawing or writing just pause and clearly imagine the characters and the situation. 




The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the
piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox. "That will do," said he. "That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future.
"Do not trust flatterers"


TO 





The Crow lifts up her head proudly and begins to caw. Her sandwich falls to the ground, at the foxes feet.

The Fox -
"Next time don't trust a flatterer."

With that the Fox picks up the sandwhich in its mouth and skampers away. 




Notes:


Again I made is clear beats instead of a bunch of dialogue and explanation. 


The Crow lifts up her head proudly and begins to caw. Her sandwhich falls to the ground, at the foxes feet:


The audience can't know she is singing her best but they can see when a character is proud (which implies that it must be their best) So I just wrote that she cawed proudly. 


Then I had the food fall at the foxes feet which iconicity says the fox has it now. I know I can easily show that is one shot.


I didn't like the sermon he gives at the end so I let him just say one clever thing then drive it home by running off with her food. 




Actions Speak louder than words.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

14+ Film Genres


Action (Disaster): Stories whose central struggle plays out mainly through a clash of physical forces.
48 Hours
Face/Off
Die Hard
Air Force One
Jurassic Park
Lethal Weapon
Return of the Jedi (also Science Fiction)Speed (also a Thriller)
Titanic (also a Love story)
The Terminator
True Lies
Twister

Adventure: Stories whose central struggle plays out mainly through encounters with new "worlds."
Apollo 13
The Deep
Get Shorty (extraordinary blend of Gangster, Love, and Crime with a twist)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (also an Action picture)
Little Big Man (Also Epic/Myth)Lawrence of Arabia
Quest For Fire
Rain Man
Robinson Crusoe
Water World

Comedy: Stories whose central struggle causes hilarious results.
Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (also Adventure - the name gives it away)
Analyze This
Annie Hall
Bowfinger
French Kiss
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (also Fantasy)

My Best Friend's Wedding
Nine to Five
Shakespeare in Love
The Spy Who Shagged Me
When Harry Met Sally
Working Girl (also Love Story)
Coming-of-Age Drama: Stories whose central struggle is about the hero finding his or her place in the world.
American Beauty
American Graffiti
The Breakfast Club
The Graduate
The Last Picture Show
The Lion King
My Brilliant Career
The Paper Chase
Pretty In Pink

Rebel Without a Cause
Risky Business
Saturday Night Fever
Shakespeare in Love (also Romantic Comedy)Splendor in the Grass
Top Gun (also Action)The Water Boy (also Comedy)
Crime: Stories whose central struggle is about catching a criminal.
48 Hours
Basic Instinct
Fargo
French Connection
Ghost (also Love and Thriller)
L.A.Confidential

Patriot Games
Pulp Fiction (Also Black Comedy, Bends the Genre a lot))The Sting
The Untouchables
Detective Story/Courtroom Drama: Stories whose central struggle is to find out what really happened and thus to expose the truth.
Caine Mutiny
Chinatown
Death and the Maiden
A Few Good Men
The General's Daughter
Inherit the Wind

The Maltese Falcon
Philadelphia
Rear Window
A Time to Kill
The Verdict
Vertigo
Epic/Myth: Stories whose central struggle plays out in the midst of a clash of great forces or in the sweep of great historical change.
Apocalypse Now
The Birth of a Nation
Bridge on the River Kwai
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Ghandi
The Godfather

Gone With the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Lawrence of Arabia (also Adventure)
Star Wars
The Ten Commandments
Fantasy: Stories which are animated, or whose central struggle plays out in two worlds - the "real" world and an imaginary world.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Alice in Wonderland
Antz
Big
Ghostbusters
Heaven Can Wait
Mary Poppins
The Mask
Peter Pan
Snow White
Toy Story
The Wizard of Oz
Who Killed Roger Rabbit?

Gangster: Stories whose central struggle is between a criminal and society. A cautionary tale, rooted in a main character who commits crimes (This genre is often blended with Film Noir).
Badlands
Bonnie and Clyde
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Dead End
Dead Man Walking
The Godfather (also Epic/Myth)
Goodfellas
La Femme Nikita
M.
Out of Sight (also Love Story)Sling Blade
The Usual Suspects


Horror: Stories whose central struggle focuses on escaping from and eventually defeating a Monster (either human or non-human).
Alien
The Blair Witch Project
Friday the Thirteenth
Halloween
I Know What You Did Last Summer
It's Alive

King Kong
Nightmare on Elm Street
Psycho
Scream
Tremors
Love (Romance): Stories whose central struggle is between two people who each want to win or keep the love of the other.
Annie Hall
As Good As It Gets
Casablanca (also Epic/Myth)Ghost
The Graduate
It Happened One Night
Mickey Blue Eyes
Notting Hill
Pretty Woman
Roman Holiday
The Way We Were
Wuthering Heights

Science Fiction: Stories whose central struggle is generated from the technology and tools of a scientifically imaginable world.
2001 A Space Odyssey
Back to the Future
Blade Runner (also Crime)ET: The Extra Terrestrial
The Fifth Element
Gattaca

The Sixth Sense
Stargate
Star Wars (and all the sequels or prequels)
The Terminator
Twelve Monkeys
Social Drama: Stories whose central struggle is between a Champion and a problem or injustice in society. Usually the Champion has a personal stake in the outcome of the struggle.
A Civil Action
Dead Man Walking
Dr Strangelove
Grapes of Wrath
Kramer Vs Kramer

Network
Philadelphia (also Courtroom Drama)Schindler's List
To Kill a Mockingbird
Thriller: Stories whose central struggle pits an innocent hero against a lethal enemy who is out to kill him or her.
The Net
No Way Out
North by Northwest (also Love Story)Sleeping With the Enemy
Night of the Hunter
Three Days of the Condor
Wait Until Dark
Witness (also Love Story)


Other Types of Movies: There obviously are many other groupings that might be constructed. Discussing genres of movies might just be a way of describing the history of moviemaking - a method of grouping motion pictures for whatever convenient need arises for whatever individual or group. Without trying to define them, I'm listing here a number of other possible types.
The Art Film: Not a preferred Hollywood Type. HOWEVER -- the acceleration of cheaper video-to-film technology makes this an interesting potential genre to look at for the future.
The Black Comedy: A comedy that uses death and morbid doings as the root of its humor. Surfaces regularly. Most recent incarnations, Very Bad Things and Pulp Fiction.
The Buddy Movie: Not a distinctive genre. Really describes a vehicle for two stars of relatively equal importance, although one of them is usually the main character. Redford and Newman are the most well known pairing from the recent past.
When these types of films work, they can be a cash cow for the studios; for example, the "road" films of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, the musicals of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the wacky doings of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Abbot and Costello, etc. In today's market there is probably a pent-up appetite for female pairings, witness the phenomenal success of Thelma and Louise (despite the sour "downer" ending -- somebody took the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid too seriously. They should have checked out The Sting).
The Film Noir: From the standpoint of the way I prefer to define a "genre" -- that is, defining the genre according to the nature of the central struggle -- this type of film is more of a stylistic categorization. Even so, the typical black and light patterns, the dark shadows, the penchant for cynicism and irony, the use of the dark side of human behavior, these elements still have a potent appeal for a large segment of the moviegoing audience.
The Ghost Story: Obvious from its title, needs no definition. This type of story, popular in the past, has been somewhat supplanted by the horror genre. Interesting to us writers for its resurgence with a twist in the Demi Moore thriller Ghost. Testament to the writer's imagination.
The Heist (or Caper): Sort of a "cross-categorization." An intricately planned theft by a group of people. Examples: Ocean's Eleven, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Great Train Robbery, and more recently, one of the genres in The Usual Suspects.
The Picaresque: An episodic string of adventures by a hero who moves from place to place. Stellar example, Tom Jones, and more recently,Forrest Gump.
Other obvious types:
The Historical Drama
The Musical
The Western

So, enough analysis of genre.
Try to settle on a mix of two genres for your story. To start with, that is. Keep the possibility open that you might be able to spice up your story with little bits of a third genre, but -- proceed with caution. As an old Hollywood pro once growled at me, "More than two genres is a mess."


Main Film Genres
Genre Types
(represented by icons)
Genre Descriptions
Select an icon or film genre category below, read about the development and history of the genre, and view chronological lists of selected, representative greatest films for each one (with links to detailed descriptions of individual films).
Action Films
Action films usually include high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases, possibly with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises (floods, explosions, natural disasters, fires, etc.), non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous, often two-dimensional 'good-guy' heroes (or recently, heroines) battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism. Includes the James Bond 'fantasy' spy/espionage series, martial arts films, and so-called 'blaxploitation' films. A major sub-genre is the disaster film. See also Greatest Disaster and Crowd Film Scenes and Greatest Classic Chase Scenes in Films.
Adventure Films
Adventure films are usually exciting stories, with new experiences or exotic locales, very similar to or often paired with the actionfilm genre. They can include traditional swashbucklers, serialized films, and historical spectacles (similar to the epics film genre), searches or expeditions for lost continents, "jungle" and "desert" epics, treasure hunts, disaster films, or searches for the unknown.
Comedy Films
Comedies are light-hearted plots consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter (with one-liners, jokes, etc.) by exaggerating the situation, the language, action, relationships and characters. This section describes various forms of comedy through cinematic history, including slapstick, screwball, spoofs and parodies, romantic comedies, black comedy (dark satirical comedy), and more. See this site's Funniest Film Moments and Scenes collection - illustrated, and also Premiere Magazine's50 Greatest Comedies of All Time.
Crime Films
Crime (gangster) films are developed around the sinister actions of criminals or mobsters, particularly bankrobbers, underworld figures, or ruthless hoodlums who operate outside the law, stealing and murdering their way through life. Criminal and gangster films are often categorized as film noir or detective-mystery films - because of underlying similarities between these cinematic forms. This category includes a description of various 'serial killer' films.
Drama Films
Dramas are serious, plot-driven presentations, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction. Usually, they are not focused on special-effects, comedy, or action, Dramatic films are probably the largest film genre, with many subsets. See also melodramas, epics (historical dramas), or romantic genres. Dramatic biographical films (or "biopics") are a major sub-genre, as are 'adult' films (with mature subject content).
Epics Films
Epics include costume dramas, historical dramas, war films, medieval romps, or 'period pictures' that often cover a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop. Epics often share elements of the elaborate adventure films genre. Epics take an historical or imagined event, mythic, legendary, or heroic figure, and add an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, high production values, and a sweeping musical score. Epics are often a more spectacular, lavish version of a biopic film. Some 'sword and sandal' films (Biblical epics or films occuring during antiquity) qualify as a sub-genre.
Horror Films
Horror films are designed to frighten and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience. Horror films feature a wide range of styles, from the earliest silent Nosferatu classic, to today's CGI monsters and deranged humans. They are often combined with science fiction when the menace or monster is related to a corruption of technology, or when Earth is threatened by aliens. The fantasy and supernatural film genres are not usually synonymous with the horror genre. There are many sub-genres of horror: slasher, teen terror, serial killers, satanic, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. See this site's Scariest Film Moments and Scenes collection - illustrated.
Musicals/Dance Films
Musical/dance films are cinematic forms that emphasize full-scale scores or song and dance routines in a significant way (usually with a musical or dance performance integrated as part of the film narrative), or they are films that are centered on combinations of music, dance, song or choreography. Major subgenres include the musical comedy or the concert film. See this site'sGreatest Musical Song/Dance Movie Moments and Scenes collection - illustrated.
Sci-Fi Films
Sci-fi films are often quasi-scientific, visionary and imaginative - complete with heroes, aliens, distant planets, impossible quests, improbable settings, fantastic places, great dark and shadowy villains, futuristic technology, unknown and unknowable forces, and extraordinary monsters ('things or creatures from space'), either created by mad scientists or by nuclear havoc. They are sometimes an offshoot of fantasy films, or they share some similarities with action/adventure films. Science fiction often expresses the potential of technology to destroy humankind and easily overlaps with horror films, particularly when technology or alien life forms become malevolent, as in the "Atomic Age" of sci-fi films in the 1950s.
War Films
War (and anti-war) films acknowledge the horror and heartbreak of war, letting the actual combat fighting (against nations or humankind) on land, sea, or in the air provide the primary plot or background for the action of the film. War films are often paired with other genres, such as action, adventure, drama, romance, comedy (black), suspense, and even epics and westerns, and they often take a denunciatory approach toward warfare. They may include POW tales, stories of military operations, and training. See this site's Greatest War Movies (in multiple parts).
Westerns Films
Westerns are the major defining genre of the American film industry - a eulogy to the early days of the expansive American frontier. They are one of the oldest, most enduring genres with very recognizable plots, elements, and characters (six-guns, horses, dusty towns and trails, cowboys, Indians, etc.). Over time, westerns have been re-defined, re-invented and expanded, dismissed, re-discovered, and spoofed.
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