It was a Saturday night. The kids were asleep, and I heard my wife whisper, "Come to bed." It was one of those, I'm tired and let's snuggle "come to bed" requests. Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of snuggling, but somehow, I just wasn't in the mood. I felt like watching a movie.
My wife understood. We've been married long enough that "snuggling" is more of a suggestion than an obligation. She asked what kind of movie I was going to watch, and after a few seconds of serious thought, I said, "Something with explosions."
She smiled: "You're such a man." I shrugged, gave her a kiss on the forehead, and ventured out into the living room for a date with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Now I'm a movie junkie – my personal taste leading to character driven stories and indie comedies, but I can appreciate all genres, all films. Sometimes I'm in the mood for horror, thriller, western, comedy... but that night all I cared about was "Explosions!" And trust me, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra did not disappoint. Good movie? Bad? To be honest, it didn't even matter: it had explosions. And for me, that was enough.
I don't mean to minimize the importance of character and story or structure and voice. All that is essential, and it's pretty obvious that a movie with complex characters in an intriguing story written with an original voice that also happens to have explosions is a far better movie than one tent poled solely around dynamite.
But it's important to never lose sight that cinema – first and foremost – is entertainment. And that entertainment is geared to a specific audience. Most anyone can see that there are different viewer expectations watching a gritty crime drama over a popcorn action flick. That isn't to say one movie genre is more deserving over another. And in many regards, a comparison is unwarranted – a screwball comedy and an epic romance might both have been developed from a similar structure, but the rest really is apples and oranges.
The truth is there's a movie for everybody, and that is why understanding your audience is the #1 rule in screenwriting. Shakespeare wrote to an audience and so must you. To do otherwise is - well, just plain stupid. I enjoyed G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - not because it was the most amazing piece of filmmaking I'd ever experienced - I enjoyed it because it gave me exactly what I was hoping for. And that doesn't happen by accident.
Write to an audience. Make your decisions with them in mind. And be smart about it; engage and connect them. Do that, and they will love you for it.
|← Nuts & Bolts: Screenplay Culminations||Rules Are Made to be Broken... Eventually →|
- What Maisie Knew: Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel
- PJ Boudousque: Coldwater, Little Rock Film Fest
- Writer/Director Vincent Grashaw: Little Rock Film Fest
- Top 10 Best Gangster Films
- Top 10 Family Friendly Not-So-Scary Movies
- Frances Ha: Writer / Director Noah Baumbach
- House of Cards: Beau Willimon Show-Runner
Get Free Screenwriting Tips from TSL
Five Plot Point Breakdowns
Write for the The Script Lab
Want to write for The Script Lab reviewing of discussing TV, Film, Books or Software?. Send a writing sample and what you're interested in covering to firstname.lastname@example.org