‘Tis the season to be spooky! But while we prepare to announce the winner of our Horror Award on Friday, we mustn’t forget that Halloween is for the whole family, not just horror fans. So, here are our tips for writing a family Halloween movie…
- Have a genuinely scary premise. A lot of writers try to soften things for younger audiences, but a lot of better family Halloween movies have pretty terrifying concepts – they just present them in a light-hearted way! Tim Burton productions tend to be very good at this. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Santa Klaus is kidnapped by the King of Halloween Town, who then terrorizes the world’s children with horrifying presents. CORPSE BRIDE: a man ends up married to (surprise, surprise) a literal corpse. These are scary ideas, but the presentation makes them okay for kids.
- Have a strong sense of humor or sense of wonder. You still don’t want to terrify children with your premise no matter how scary it is (well, we assume you don’t…), so you need to counterbalance it. So make things fun! Comedy helps to take the edge off and make things fun instead. Alternatively, if your protagonists aren’t scared themselves – if they’re instead fascinated by the macabre (as THE ADDAMS FAMILY are) – that’s another way of signalling there’s nothing to really be afraid of.
- Give your script a strong visual style. Again, this is another hallmark of Tim Burton’s films that helps to develop a sense of wonder, rather than the hard-edged or gruesome style of horror films. Of course, the specifics of how a film looks will ultimately be controlled the director, the production designer, and other crew members on a film – but a screenwriter can (and definitely should) give an idea of what their world looks like. With a family Halloween film, there’s even more potential to do interesting things than in most other genres!
- Don’t dumb things down too much. A common mistake is to oversimplify things. But kids tend to understand more than many people give them credit for, and besides, your film isn’t just for them – it’s for the whole family. Make sure there’s enough in there to keep mom and dad interested too; the more demographics your script appeals to, the better.
- Unlike most horror movies, give it a happy ending! In a lot of horror movies, things don’t end too well for the main characters. If you’re writing a family Halloween movie though, it’s better to have a happy ending – particularly one that focuses on the value of, well, family. After you’ve taken your audience on a thrill ride through the macabre, make them feel safe again at the end of it all.
So there you have it, our advice for writing a successful Halloween movie. If you want to check out more hints and tips from WriteMovies, take a look at our other Writing Insights articles. Have a happy Halloween!
Still polishing your script for our Fall Contest one-week extension? Need some tips for this and our next contests? From the contest entries we’ve already seen over the last year, here’s what we believe the most writers need to hear right now: crafting character through actions…
We’ve been conducting a joint survey of writers with an international theatre company to establish what support writers need in their Career Development right now, and to help us plan new products and services to meet those needs. Here’s a first sight of what we’ve learned… (more…)
We work with several established directors, such as double Oscar-nominee and double BAFTA-winner Habib Zargarpour, both as producers and as analysts. We get to consider works for them to direct, or for us to produce with them attached as director, or just to recommend they consider. Sometimes we’re sent books or scripts by writers’ agents or publishers, other times we’re considering the submissions to WriteMovies, other times we put a call out for something specific we think we could sell right now. So while assessing recent submissions from publishers, I thought we’d share thoughts about how to select projects for directors, producers or actors as clients… (more…)
Single location movies are a great way for writers to adapt to the current situation in the world. While producers are still looking for scripts, it’s easier to shoot a contained, small-scale movie given the restrictions around the world and the risks from coronavirus. So, here are our tips for writing single location movies…
Last week we celebrated Valentine’s Day with a list of our favorite romance films that all writers should watch – and now, with our Rom-Com Award recently finished, we’re doing the same for comedy!
As with the last list, this isn’t comprehensive and we don’t necessarily think these are the best comedy films. They’re just our favorites, and we think that there’s lots to learn for writers by watching them…
1. MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
A month ago today we lost a comedy legend with the death of Terry Jones. He and the other members of Monty Python may have produced the most outrage with LIFE OF BRIAN, but they produced the most laughs with their tale about King Arthur and his bumbling knights (both directed and co-written by Jones). MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL might not have a traditional structure – instead resembling a series of sketches – but it’s a great lesson in how to spin surreal situations into jokes. And, you know, how to just be really, really silly.
2. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Wes Anderson’s films might not be for everyone, but if there’s one we could recommend, it’s this one. The winner of four Oscars (and nominated for a further five including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay), this madcap story about murder and a missing painting is packed with a zany kind of energy. Funny but also poignant, it walks the difficult line between comedy and drama by offsetting its quirkiness with a big dose of charm.
3. SHAUN OF THE DEAD
Zombie-horror has often had a sense of humor (just take a look at THE EVIL DEAD), but this offering from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost takes it to another level. There are so many smart moments in here that it’s impossible to list them all out, but at the heart of all the comedy is the most fact that the protagonists have the worst possible response to a zombie apocalypse: to head down the local pub and wait for the whole thing to blow over.
First zombies, now ghosts – it turns out that a lot of things that are usually scary can often be funny too! Even 36 years later, GHOSTBUSTERS is still a treat for the eyes with its colorful special effects, and as one of the first films to blend comedy with science-fiction and horror elements, paved the way for other genre-bending films to follow. Plus, who can resist the charm of a film where the final battle is against a giant man made of marshmallow?
Who needs a plot when the jokes are this good? AIRPLANE! doesn’t have much in the way of a story, but for anyone looking to learn how to make people laugh, this is the absolute paragon. With nonstop jokes from start to finish, some of them were bound to land – even if we’re not sure if the plane will do the same. Rarely have words been used so effectively in the pursuit of humor!
SPECIAL MENTION: ANYTHING SO BAD IT’S GOOD
Some films are funny for all the right reasons… and some are funny for all the wrong ones. Here’s a shoutout to all the films that went wrong somewhere and made us laugh without meaning to.
So there you have it – our favorite comedy films that we think every writer should watch. Let us know what you think the best comedy films around are – drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook!
To give a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies and TalentScout International Management, our Director of World Wide Development Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his Hollywood/LA Diary with us at the start of March.
Expect news of meetings at major studios and with Elite producers, screenwriters and other adventures in Hollywood, plus a string of fresh images of iconic Hollywood locations.
In the meantime, we’ve brought together two of our Elite Mentors and a former WriteMovies winner living in LA to share their L.A. industry pitching tips. Here are our Elite Mentor Bobby Lee Darby’s tips about meeting preparations and pitching tips… (more…)