I am a firm believer that the most frustrating type of movie is not a bad one, but one just good enough to show you the potential it failed to reach. I’m talking about the movies that WANTED to be hardcore action flicks that wasted a little too much time on emotional drama. I’m talking about the movies that could’ve been ridiculously good horror movies if they hadn’t had one too many comic relief scenes. I’m talking about the movies that were afraid to commit.
I totally get the temptation to try to push the limits and do something no one has ever done before. But there’s also something to be said for knowing what you’re good at, owning it, and embracing what’s going to make your script work. Because for every script that pulls off some weird experimental mix of genres there’s far more that fail simply because they “didn’t know what they wanted to be.”
One of the things that makes screenwriting so fascinating is that for every “rule” of screenwriting there is a movie somewhere that broke that rule and was amazing. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Boondock Saints. Krampus. These are not the kinds of movies that screenwriting textbooks teach you to write, but at the same time they just work. They work because they know what they want to be and they fucking committed to it.
It’s okay to write ridiculous comedy. It’s okay to write badass action flicks with a relatively weak story. Even if such pieces aren’t necessarily my cup of tea I’d rather walk out of a movie thinking “Well, it it did what it was trying to do” than “it was trying to so hard to be so many things that it accomplished none of them.
So figure out what you want your movie to be. Let that purpose dictate all your other writing decisions. Don’t be afraid of commitment.