FILM GENRE AND THE CREATIVE SCREENWRITING PROCESS
Brandon J. Hale, Ted O’Hanlan
(Professor Jim Goodman) School of Communications

In the spring semester of 2005, both students enrolled in JCM 322 (Screenwriting) in hopes of meeting specific guidelines: acquire a basis of understanding regarding the fundamentals of the art and technique/formula of the screenwriting process and with that knowledge, complete fifty pages of a professional screenplay. The idea for the independent study arose from the student’s desire to dive deeper into the axiom behind this literary technique and complete a finished, respectable screenplay. While both screenplays address entirely separate issues and exist in contrasting genres, the essential question remained- How does film genre and other films within that genre relate to the screenwriting process and how does the context of the respective genre relate to the competence and abilities of the screenwriter?
The research methodology was comprised of meeting four essential requirements that would ensure that the final completed screenplay would be ideally acknowledged or accredited by the film industry. First, we wrote an additional 50-70 pages of screenplay that would complete the three acts of the story. After that we conducted a workshop reading of our stories in which we cast our characters and a narrator. Following, we used the criticism to undergo a complete re-write of the screenplays. We ended our research by completing a thesis paper that exhibited our understanding of film genre by analyzing three films released over the past few decades.
Screenplays are structure and structure applies regardless of film genre. The story created within those one hundred pages unfolds in a particular structure within three specific acts. There are certain elements within this structure that hold stories together and move the screen story forward and keep viewer interest.
Film genre relating to each of our particular stories means, the “Coming of Age” story and the “Zombie Horror” story, respectively. The appropriateness of this aspect of the research as relates to SURF is measured by the student’s reflection and discovery of how his own screen story works in its genre and how it may be defined within that genre. Research wise, what are the elements of the genre, what films may demonstrate the best of the genre, or in some cases define the genre, and how does that reflect in the student’s work.
The SURF presentation will consist of an explanation by both presenters that will inform the attendees of the complexities that accompany the screenwriting process and a live read of the each student’s thesis papers (both 5-7 pages in length). This study will be advantageous to the SURF audience in that people will be able to realize as, as we as researchers realized, how each screenplay within a film genre has its own binding “formula” and how meticulous screenwriters must be throughout every step of the writing process to make the “formula” work.

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