Category Archives: Genre

10 Great Qualities of Film – Part 3

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

Part 1

Part 2

All of this is still true. And still enormously frustrating. In the face of waves of rubbish from English-speaking film, I want to hold firm to the mast of my principles i.e. the things I really love. I won’t be afraid to not like something and I won’t be afraid to fall head over heels in love with something. And I won’t be afraid to have my hopes dashed against the rocks either.

(But, thank God, I freaking loved Star Wars.)

Anyway, here goes with the last two in the series (Part 1 and Part 2 here)

9. Women/POC/under-represented people winning. Stories with these people which are not just about them being under-represented.

I HATE HATE HATE movies which make the conflict in the movie all about someone’s gender/culture/disabilty etc. As if the only story worth telling is how their depressing, awful, lack of privilege is making their lives depressing and awful. And often how they ‘rise above’ their depressing awful lack of privilege to become more acceptable to the privileged, one way or another.

Those things are true. It kinda blows not being a white able-bodied straight dude.

But heck, we have trouble finding parking too. We have days where everything goes wrong. Where our kids or spouse or co-workers or parents drive us crazy. Those conflicts have nothing to do with our identity categories. Couldn’t we also perhaps be caught unwittingly at the center of a zombie apocalypse? Alien invasion? Earthquake? A hostage situation? (To be fair, I can think of a few action movies that have represented women and people of color a little better. Salt springs to mind. And Jack Reacher.). A parental conflict? A black-magic ritual gone hysterically wrong? You know – life?

Romantic comedies make me want to weep (not in a good way). It’s all beautiful white people in sun-kissed environments falling in love. POCs fall in love too. And sometimes – really! – the people they are in love with aren’t too concerned with their background at all.

Now I’m sure this has shut down the brains of a lot of romantic comedy writers out there now. What? An Indian woman could marry a non-Indian man and not have to contend with culture?

There are other obstacles to true love. Drug abuse? Political rivalry? Bad weather? It’s called creativity. It’s worth exercising.

No, really. My kingdom to see a Muslim woman fall in love with someone who really is not intimidated by her faith. And I’m pretty…oh, I don’t know…hardcore I guess, but honestly, I wouldn’t care too much if their relationship was ‘Sharia-compliant’ (my Muslim peeps know what I’m talking about). Just Muslims being humans. The way I know them to be. Not refugees, terrorists or accomplices or victims thereof. Gah.

No, there are no examples of this because there aren’t any that I know of that don’t come from Bollywood, Korea, etc.

10. Dueling philosophies.

These kinds of movies positively cook with tension and are amazing fun to watch.

I’ve yet to see a better example of this than Skyfall. The dueling philosophies in Skyfall are the old (M, Bond and the M15’s ways in general) against the new (Silva and his tech-as-terrorism tactics).

One of my favorite bits of set dressing that reflect this – this bit of dialogue occurs when Q first meets Bond:

Q: It always makes me feel a bit melancholy. Grand old war ship. being ignominiously hauled away to scrap… The inevitability of time, don’t you think? What do you see?
James Bond: A bloody big ship.

Q sees the end of something great. James Bond sees something much more blunt, much less beautiful, still pretty awesome.

And at the end of the movie, when Bond meets the new M – Ralph Fiennes’ character, Gareth Mallory – they have their first conversation in front of a painting of another bloody big ship, this one sailing into the horizon.

In other words – ‘screw the inevitability of time’.

I just loved it.

When every filmic choice made speaks to this one theme, the film coheres in an immensely satisfying way.

For the record, there are very few movies that I would watch over and over again that are NOT comedies. Of the straight-up action movies, there are only 3: World War Z (for reasons mentioned in earlier posts),  Jack Reacher (for a great character) and Skyfall.

It’s been more than a year since I did this blog post. And yet again my thoughts on the matter have changed.

You see, just a couple of months ago, I realized I want to write romantic comedies. Heaven knows why it didn’t occur to me before. I’m a hopeless romantic and I love making people laugh. I guess I was just confused by my affection for fantasy, sci-fi and the perversely funny.

I think this list still holds true generally, but I’m going to work on a different list for romantic comedy. Gives me an excuse to geek out and watch as many rom-coms as humanly possible.

So there’s that. Cheerio, darlings.

5 ways to write a blockbuster movie

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

Assalam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatahu!

So last night, me and the hubsters went to see Captain America: Winter Soldier. It struck me while I was watching it (among the many things that were striking but not hurting Captain America) was there was a formula (who woulda thunk it) to action movies.

  1. Get yourself a superhuman hero. Only nominally human. Impenetrable by any substance, man or alien-made.
  2. Set up a world-ending conspiracy theory. The perpetrators can be any of the Western world’s favorite bogies from the past century, ze Germans, ze Russians or ze Muslims.
  3. Slap on an emotional arc for the character because heck, we do want the audience to ‘identify’ with him.
  4. Sprinkle liberally with the stuff people come to the cinema for (according to the conventional wisdom) – explosions, spectacle, fight scenes, shoot-outs, running fast and getting away. Or not. I got no beef with that. This is after all an action movie.
  5. Bonus points – people of colour, women kicking butt too. But not permitted to steer the ship!

As I was thinking about it, I also realized this formula could be applied to many genre movies and could guide my rewrite process on my upcoming comedy scripts.

Retooling it to be more appropriate to comedy and my humanist sensibilities:

  1. Character arcs are always the first order of business. Refine and define those character arcs. The plot should be a chain of consequence that derives from the character’s actions. Flaw, goals, motivations, internal desire. However I want to slice it.
    1. People outside the mainstream – gosh, this is a tough one. Make my choices specific so that they can’t be man-washed or white-washed. I’m still grappling with this and how not to make it about how awful it is to be not a white straight young man.  As usual, I’ll share what I know when I know it God willing.
    2. Make villains textured. Identify with them. Even love them. Have an I-Thou relationship with them.
  2. Genre elements then must arise organically from character. Make sure the comedy rings true for the characters and not just funny.
  3. Do a pass for set pieces. What are the trailer moments?
  4. Do a pass for reader reactions/expectations. How can I refine the experience of reading this script?
  5. Do a pass of audience expectations. What would my target audience expect coming into one of my movies? This could extend beyond genre expectations. It might be fun to imagine what it would be like to actually already have a signature, much like superhero movies or Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky or Lena Dunham.

Of course, I have had to go over some of these steps more than once. Two comedy passes for example and a few readability passes, depending on where I am in the submission process.

A number of other passes might be added to the list above as well.

This are the passes I intended to do with Whose Wife is It Anyway. Though with the deadline fast approaching, I’ve only managed to do a few of them.

  1. A number of character rewrites.
  2. A number of structure rewrites – which became much easier once I had a firm handle on motivations, goals, unconscious desires, etc and therefore the point of the scene.
  3. One last character pass for each character, from major to minor. This was mostly to polish their voices.
  4. A comedy punch-up (what I’ve just completed now).

Now here follows what I wish I had time to do but might return to in the future:

  1.  A visual pass.
  2. A pass for each important element specific to my story:
    1. The progression of my main character’s illness.
    2. Culture – would it translate with someone who isn’t South East Asian?
    3. The reveals of the mystery threading through the screenplay.
  3. First ten pages
  4. Last ten pages – yeah I know these two are super important.
  5. Theme.
  6. Rhythm and pace.
  7. A sense of place.
  8. An emotional graph.
  9. Audience expectations
  10. A craft pass or final edit.

Hope  this has helped.

I really did like Captain America. The movie, that is. The dude is an insufferable martyr.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah. May God always give you a harbor in the storms of life.

The Happy Muslimah.