Think about what you want to say. Here I’m talking about the theme. At the heart of your story should be a purpose, something you want to say about the world and mankind.
Create great characters worthy of sustaining the audience’s interest. My starting point here are the words of great theatre and film director, Peter Brook: “new truths are found when stereotypes are broken”. This matters to me because audiences don’t want to watch stories about characters that are totally predictable. They want to be surprised and they want to see characters overcome their circumstances.
The World of the Story is the focus of my next tip. Your choice of location matters for a story because it determines many of the elements that the audience will expect to see in the film. It also establishes the stereotypes of your world. So…
TOP GUN, for example, takes place in the world of Navy fighter pilots.
THE CONVERSATION takes place in the world of professional surveillance.
THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE takes place in the arena of country club golf caddies.
NETWORK takes place in the world of network news, as does BROADCAST NEWS.
TSTOSI takes place in the world of no-hoper black thieves and chancers.
Finally, we come to film genre. Genre is an important story element that works in two ways. ONE: your genre should be appropriate to the way your story is told. TWO: Obey the “rules” of the genre. A genre IS a genre because of the rules. You can bend the rules, you might even be able to break a rule, but you should never IGNORE the rules. Audiences that pay money to see a thriller about a reporter racing against time to find the evidence that will prove that a man on death row and is set to be executed in 24 hours is innocent, won’t be happy if you ignore the ticking clock element of the story. They expect a “race against time” thriller to have a race against time. All of those character scenes in True Crime may have been nice, but they aren’t what we paid to see. In fact, they got in the way.