I am not an expert by any means.
But this I learned behind the scenes:
There are seven rules
you should muster,
for you to write a tentpole blockbuster.
Rule number one, is a controversial nail. Your hero must be male. It’s because his motivations are primal and plain, we make his journey linear and pained.
Rule number 2, we must like him. Make him funny, or even dim. Put him in trouble, or in despair, and we’ll follow him anywhere.
He must be the best, is rule number three. Jedi, wizard, spy or the best at archaeology. It does beg the following question, why don’t I build from picking a profession?
Rule number four, the hero mustn’t change. At the beginning and end, he remains the same. Skywalker, Jones, Potter or Bond, They are the stoics in their pond.
Of rule number five, I am a big fan. In small movies the world changes the man. But big movies are, the other way around, where hero saves the world from being bound.
Rule number six, is not worth bending. For your movie must have a happy ending. That’s why dour, depressing films are few. Do you want to sell one movie ticket or two?
The seventh and final of these rules, put somewhere in your duals. Do you have a love story that’s believable? Because if not, it’s not at all seeable.
I am not an expert by any means. But from observation, this is what I’ve seen. Master all of these seven rules, and soon you’ll graduate from blockbuster schools.
Stephen J De Jager is Creative Director for Australia’s largest film distributor, Roadshow Entertainment. He is also an enormously prolific unproduced screenwriter that is rapidly gathering ‘heat’.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.
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6 thoughts on “How To Write A BlockBuster”
I’ve been flailing about, trying to fulfill John Truby’s instructions and create a big moral problem in my protagonist. But it hasn’t been working. I want a smaller moral problem for him and a bigger personal one, and the characters around him to have the true moral dilemma. I want him to enter their world, battle, and finally make the different sides unite.
I can’t relate to Bond, Potter, Jones, because they don’t grow, and I’d like the mental nourishment of some growth, that feels organic. So I think it’s possible to have the protagonist stay the same, and yet change within himself in a way the outer journey has forced him to change.
Is the best of both worlds possible? I like to think so, otherwise all films are just as formulaic as we fear they are.
re: Happy Endings
I must have some weird pirate copy of ‘Titanic’, because in my version. the boat sinks and Leo dies
Very perceptive, I like it a lot. But do you really think rule number 4 should be there? After all Jake Sully went from being a Jarhead that saw the Nav’i as a source of income to seeing them as family. Interesting and of topic thought I about rule number 1 is quite on the mark. I remember hearing Del Toro saying in Pan’s Labyrinth because it was a fairy tale it had to be a girl. Because they have to pass from being a girl to a woman e.g Alice in wonderland, Dorothy etc.
That really is interesting. At first I thought number 1 is true, but you are right, there are blockbuster films with female heroes, both fairy tales (though they are not exclusively female hero territory either) and others, like Titanic.
But if it’s true that (in blockbuster movies) the female protagonist’s overall “goal” is to pass from being a girl to a woman (whatever that means, by the way. Has anyone ever heard a definition of that?), than most rules from above don’t apply. They don’t have to be the best in something, they certainly must change and I somehow think even the happy ending doesn’t have to be purely possitive, though I’m sure they wouln’t mind a lovestory ;-) (but like in Titanic, the loss of their love can also be part of their journey and growing …).
Anyway, what it all comes down to is that there do seem to be different rules for male and female heroes in general. Has there been an aricle on that yet?
great suggestions and i agree most of them. only the rule 4 is somehow doubtful. i think the character should change in a way or other, and the movie should be about following his/her journey.
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