Genre filmmaking resource
What does 'genre' mean when we are talking about film?
On your own or in pairs, make a list of as many film genres that you can think of.
Now think of one of your favourite films. Can you identify its genre according to your list? (Hint- a film can belong to more than one genre).
Have a look at the movie posters below.
Can you identify the genre of each film? What clues do the images give you?
What might you expect to see in each of these films based on their genre?
Take a look at this clip from the film Jaws . You don't need to analyse it. Just enjoy it and be familiar with it.
The activities are designed to expand on the ideas explored in the virtual lesson and help you prepare for writing and filming your own genre set-piece.
Activities 1 and 2 are shorter, whilst activities 3-5 will help you dig a bit deeper.
Activity 1 - Create a Comedy Film Logline
A 'Logline' is a brief summary of a film, highlighting the main characters and central conflict. A logline can be tricky because you need to condense the essence of the film into a sentence or two.
Here is the logline for comedy film Home Alone:
"An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation."
Now let's break it down:
"An eight-year-old troublemaker (the protagonist or main character) must protect his house from a pair of burglars (central conflict) when he is accidentally left home alone by his family (inciting incident or event that kicks off the central conflict) during Christmas vacation."
Often comedy exists in combination with other genres. Genre tropes and set pieces often become so well known that they get parodied and used for comedic effect in films. When you add comedy to a scene, it’s about reversing what we expect, so that’s why a lot of comedy films use genre to form the basis of the joke. You might remember me using the word ‘reversal’ earlier, to describe a twist or turn in the action to keep things exciting. In comedy, its much the same, but the joke comes from the surprise- in reversing the direction the scene was going in.
Choose a genre from the following list:
Now, add comedy to that genre. Can you brainstorm a quick film premise?
In a sentence or two, create a longline for your film premise. Play around with it until you're happy that the genre is coming through. It can be as wild and wacky as you like.
Activity 2 - Structure a Set Piece
Go back to the scenario you started brainstorming during the lesson. You should also have some ideas for genre set pieces and tropes. If not, you can do your brainstorm now.
Using this information you can start planning your set piece, remembering it should have a beginning, middle and end.
You could also play with adding comedy to your set piece. Comedy does have its own tropes. As much as a dangerous and fast paced car chase belongs to an action film, a physical slapstick sequence belongs to comedy.
Take a look at this slapstick scene from the film Paddington 2. Notice how they have used reversals or twists, and visual jokes.
Bring up the Beat Sheet PDF below. You’ll see the page has been divided into thirds- Beginning, middle and end. Using this sheet, make a list of what happens in order. This list should mark the key moments of your set piece. It is called a ‘beat sheet’ because it is a summary of all the important ‘beats’ or moments in your set piece. This will help you when you start to write it.
Activity 3 - Write a Genre Script
Once you’re happy with your set piece, you can turn it into a script by adding some action and dialogue.
There is a particular way to format a film script. You can find some tips here.
Keep these questions in mind as you write, so you can really captivate your reader:
- Who’s scene is it?
- What do they want? (goal)
- What gets in the way? (conflict)
- Moment of change (character decides to...)
- Rhythm: a chance to pause, slow down, speed up or change
- Show or tell: visuals convey meaning, not just dialogue. Think of using one or the other at a time, but never both.
Once you have a draft, read aloud to your classmates or ask some family and friends to read the scene with you.
Sharing and workshopping is very helpful for a screenwriter. You’ll be able to see what’s working and what needs tweaking.
Activity 4 - Prepare your Script for Filming
Now you have a script for your set piece, it's time to have a think about how you might film it.
A Director will analyse and mark up a script before filming. By ‘marking up’ we simply mean, highlighting the key pieces of information that the script tells us and identifying important elements that you want to visualise. Kind of like the way a detective looks for clues. You might want to write down some ideas for camera shots and angles too.
These are the things you will need to consider:
- Locations- inside/outside? How many?
- Props and costumes- what props are mentioned in your script? What costume elements will enhance the characters’ presence or tell us something about them?
- Clues in the ‘Big print’. The Big print is pretty much everything except dialogue- from character descriptions to what is in the scene- props or significant objects and even the technical direction e.g. fade to black. Everyone who works on a film uses the script to give them the information they need, so you need to include all this for the reader.
Have a look at the marked up script for ‘The New Kid’ below.
Using this as a guide, have a go at marking up your own script.
Activity 5 - Storyboarding
Have a look at the Storyboard for ‘The New Kid’ below.
Notice how it includes a variety of shot types.
Use your marked up script to map out your storyboard. You don't need to draw every frame and you certainly don't need to be the best artist- it's just a guide.
Try and add a shot or two specific to your genre. Think about the genre shot types we talked about in the virtual lesson.
To make your storyboard, you can use our template below, or draw up your own frames. Once you see it in visual form you might change around your shots. Remember to come back to what you want the audience to see and feel.
Now you’ve done all the hard work to prepare your scene, it’s time to find some actors in your classroom or household and film it!
If you would like to delve deeper, visit our ACMI Film It resource. You’ll also find some tips on editing.