There are rules valid for either shorts or feature films and i believe that a strong image is the thing that divides good films from bad films.
Check the feature film business, possibly thousands screenplays are read and evaluated, yet only a few, like 1%, actually get bought. Being filmed is a totally different story. Hollywood has no reason to film bad screenplays, you may expect them to be at least well-rounded. However you still have bad films. Can we blame the screenwriter?
Perhaps. Even a screenplay with all the elements necessary to achieve a decent project might not be all it needs to score the jackpot, and i’m not only talking about selling a screenplay, but regarding the filmmaking of a remarkable picture.
After all, what’s the difference between a remarkable film and a forgettable one? I believe it resides in a strong image.
Viewers need something when they leave the theater, that thing that sticks to the person and knocks his mind before going to bed. Quick! Tell me one scene from Cimino’s The Deer Hunter! Russian roulette scene, right? Sometimes your story needs a single scene and don’t fuck up with the rest, yet, the Oscar-winner is quite a great picture besides the Vietnam War setup.
So don’t get me wrong, a blessed scene won’t make a whole picture, although it is part of the process. Sometimes the ‘remarkable’ aspect is in a character, pick for example the TV series House M.D. and its main character.
The most important and the objective you should strive for starts in the concept. The first stage of your film idea. That’s the place to find your strong image. You have possibly seem L.A. Confidential, written by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland. Here’s the IMDB logline:
As corruption grows in 1950s LA, three policemen – the straight-laced, the brutal, and the sleazy – investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice.
10 years later, Curtis shows up with a new screenplay, with Eric Roth as a partner. Two badass screenwriters. Lucky you. Here the IMDB logline:
A hotshot poker player tries to win a tournament in Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems.
Let’s pretend you haven’t watched both movies. Tell me by the loglines which one is better. Do we all agree that L.A. Confidential has a better concept altogether?
This is like the magic of the film art, i can’t tell you for sure what is the formula for a remarkable movie, you won’t manage to tell yourself, though whenever you face any of those you’ll know. It’s the coffin Django carries along with him. That’s a strong image.
So it is not all about write by the book and input some heart into the story, to be remarkable there’s more in stakes. A good film is the one people talk about after the session. A scene. A character. A twist. A leitmotif. Whatever. Don’t bet on eternity at first, bet in the theater exit.
Forever is a consequence.