Film Genres

Wikipedia has an absurd, almost disturbing number of genres. I haven’t counted them, but there must be a hundred, easily. This is not useful to most of us, except by way of staring at the page aghast and wondering what kinds of minds would have put that together.

Genres, however, are extremely useful. A great handful, from the Western to the Romantic Comedy, have certain conceits, certain premises that are usually followed slavishly (the ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’ formula of the Romantic Comedy; the ‘final shootout/showdown’ of the Western). Filmmakers who go their own way often find themselves with a flop on their hands. Why? Don’t people like original stories? Well, yes and no. The truth is, we go to genre movies to get the genre. We want the formula! If you go to see a Jane Austen romance, for example, you don’t want to see a bunch of naked people rolling around. Yes, we want our genre movies to be done well; yes, we want them to be surprising.

But most of all, we want them to be (as any teenager can tell you about hair and clothes) ‘the same but different.’

So get to know your genre. Play with it, but not to excess.

Here are some genres that are useful to our purposes as filmmakers. If your idea falls under one or more of these categories, use the link above to investigate — then find a way to make the ‘formula’ your own! Sometimes

(Question: ‘What if my movie falls under more than one category?’ First, make sure you’re not overcomplicating your storyline. Then, if you find that the categories are compatible — e.g., ‘buddy film’ and ‘action adventure’— that’s just more to play with, more directions you can go without disappointing your core audience!)

Black Comedy
Buddy Movie (usually also falls under Action/Adventure)
Coming of Age
Film Noir
Historical Fiction
Horror Comedy
Legal Drama or Thriller
Magic Realism
Religious Message/Morality Tale
Science Fiction

These tips came from the workshop

Feature Film Workshop 101: Outline and Act 1

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