The DuenasFilms Manifesto:
It is the goal of the Duenas Brothers to entertain audiences in a manner that will make them dream anew. The following rules will be adhered to:
1. The movie must introduce a new world mechanic.
2. The stakes must always be high.
3. Core conflict should either be some natural force or a formidable villain.
4. The good guy must be having fun. And he always wins.
5. The protagonist must want everything with a passion.
6. Clearly defined good and bad.
7. Charged characters. Either root for them, or love to hate them.
8. Bring them to tears, then make them cheer.
9. The protagonist shall always be in peril.
10. Scenes should in some way come out of a character’s actions.
11. Good fortune works only if it comes at the worst possible moment.
12. Dialogue is to be worked into action scenes.
13. Do not use JJ Abram’s “what is going on?” technique to drive a movie.
14. Color grading must be natural or brighter and more energetic than natural.
15. There must be quotables, memorable lines, or catch-phrases.
Rules to Making a Fun Movie (or a Blockbuster):
The following elaborates on the notes above with some discussion.
1. The movie must introduce a new world mechanic, that is something that makes you see the world differently. For example, the neuralizer, any conspiracy theory, super powers (like Jedi or flight), or gadgets (like Bond). The idea is to make you see more to the world than is actually there. The world mechanic has more staying power than anything else in the movie.
2. The stakes must always be high. The greater the stakes, the more riveted we will be. In a sense, the protagonist’s livelihood is at the core of all stakes, but saving the world is much more interesting than just getting home. For comedies and smaller movies, the character’s defining need is the stake that is set for the movie (e.g. to win the tournament for grandma or himself). But action and adventure movies usually center on saving the world, and horror movies usually center on survival. On that note, see #9.
3. Core conflict should either be some natural force, to get people working together (Armageddon), or a formidable villain (Bond villains, Speed bomber, The Terminator, Sauron, Alien invaders).
4. The good guy must be having fun. And he always wins. Nothing defines the mood of the movie as much as the mood of the lead. If he’s charming, you’ll be charmed (Bond, Tom Cruise). If he’s moody or emotionless (Russell Crowe, Christian Bale), the movie will be depressing or flat. Casting is therefore very important. Nothing ruins a good movie like the protagonist losing, even if it’s “necessary” to the character’s arc or supposedly funny. With VERY few exceptions (The Killer), if the character is someone who needs to lose, you’re telling the wrong story.
5. The protagonist must want everything with a passion. The protagonist’s attitude propels every scene in the movie. If he wants or needs something badly, the stakes are intrinsically higher and the movie can move forward naturally.
6. Clearly defined good and bad. At any given moment, we can tell who is the good guy and bad guy and why. This establishes a clear conflict in each scene.
7. Charged characters. Either root for them, or love to hate them. Anything in between is poor screen-writing. You actually want actors to vie for screen-time, particularly those playing secondary characters; it makes their characters more interesting.
8. Bring them to tears, then make them cheer. The movie must end in a positive note, with uplifting and energetic music. Tears may not happen in shorts, but it must happen in features (or you should really feel for the character(s) at some point).
9. The protagonist shall always be in peril at any given moment of the script. Think Armageddon or Speed; the moment one peril is resolved, another presents itself.
10. Scenes should in some way come out of a character’s actions. They shouldn’t just happen. Basic screen-writing, but it’s not something I learned or appreciated until recently. A leads to B, lead to C, and so forth. And sometimes, A leads to R, which comes way down the road, and we can forget that A lead to R, but in some way, it did.
11. Good fortune works only if it comes at the worst possible moment. That is, disguise or hide good fortune in the midst of great peril. You can also get away with humor on a case-by-case basis.
12. Dialogue is to be worked into action scenes. That is, audiences will ignore clear exposition scenes if it’s in the middle of action or if you make them laugh hard. Develop characters in the middle of action, not in dry conversations between compelling scenes.
13. Do not use JJ Abram’s “what is going on?” technique to drive a movie. This may keep people interested, but for most, it just makes the experience very uncomfortable. It also renders the movie useless for repeat viewings (Inception, Lost, The Usual Suspects, the entire first half of the Matrix).
14. Do not destroy the colors. In fact, use more color than exists in reality. Kids movies are fun, colorful and bright. Adult movies are dark and colorless. We are making fun, colorful movies.
15. Memorable quotes are inside jokes with millions of other viewers. “Hasta la vista, baby,” conjures a happy memory among the millions of people who recognize it. “I’ll be back,” is an every day phrase that now carries an enjoyable memory with it. Good quotes make people remember the movie in a good light.
Miscellaneous Notes and Guidelines:
Note: Good comedy is over-acting. Good action is over-action. Don’t let actors tell you otherwise. “Faster and with more intensity” is true. Always.
Note: Action scenes require less takes per shot but more shots overall. Even so, they’re faster than dialogue because they depend less on the variable performance of the actors. If it’s in frame, you have it. Remember that when shooting and writing. Dialogue scenes may have less setups, but will take much longer than a series of shots you can get off in one take. The longer the take during dialogue scenes, the more cues there are to hit, the more blocking is required, and the more chance for mistakes.
Note: Regarding spoofs/satire, making fun of something is dangerous and antagonistic. It might be okay at times, but it shouldn’t be the point of the film. Having fun with an idea is more positive and fun. A movie, including YouTube, is to be fun. It’s escapism. The kind of thinking we want our audiences doing is “how can this idea make my dreams cooler?” Not “You’re right, the guys you made fun of are doing something stupid.” Remember that.
Fun with, not Fun of.
Note: Armageddon worked because the main source of conflict came from big egos and different approaches to achieving the same selfless end goal: saving the world.
Last Update: Dec 2012.