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As requested by James.
And in no particular order:
1. Dream Sequence: Commonly found in horrors or thrillers. Usually followed by the protagonist snapping out of sleep and then going about his/her business. Best avoided. It’s meant to establish style and intrigue but more often than not generates confusion and irritation.
2. Drifting through clouds: A lot of coming of age/rites of passage flicks use this gimmick where the camera glides through the clouds to find the protagonist’s humble abode while he introduces us, via voice-over, to the fascinating minutiae of his life: “It was a summer I’d never forget.” If it’s not a voice-over, it’s usually singing or music from the story’s era.
3. The Prologue: A tried and tested way to begin any movie but a cliché nonetheless. The Exorcist has a good one - the best ones are where they establish something interesting but we cut to separate events entirely to begin the real story. Not easy to achieve. Recommended for skilled scribes only.
4. The Embarrassing Moment: Hero undergoes a humiliating experience, usually with the opposite sex (especially if it’s a rom com) or as a child which defines his present-day character as a psycho/nerd/stalker/chief executive/script reader.
5. The Chase: A person being chased through the woods by an unseen and ghastly assailant. Probably a monster of some kind. Bo-ring (see ‘Dream Sequence’). Also any car chase or foot chase through the city streets to establish our ‘never-say-die’ and gutsy hero.
6. The Quick Murder: A really stupid person gets quickly slaughtered as he/she goes around an empty house saying ‘hello?’. However, when the hero comes into play, the murderer takes the full 120 mins running time to make a committed attack only to be thwarted at the last minute. Ok, that’s the end of the script but it only makes the beginning more annoying…
7. Talk to Camera: The protagonist, heck sometimes a whole bunch of characters, ‘break the fourth wall’ and talk directly to the audience. A more polished version of this is when the narrative includes vox-pop style cuts of the characters being interviewed. It was clever once. Now it’s annoying.
8. The Chummy Writer: The writer wants to ingratiate himself on the reader so will try to chat him up while he reads, as in: “FADE IN: It’s dark but not too dark that we can’t find our seats in the cinema and as the credits roll...” Some of this chummy style can be okay if the script is a comedy but stuff like: “I’d write the sex scene but my mother reads my scripts” is best left avoided.
9. The Break In: A cool heist or burglary is done. The thief retires but is called back into duty to do ‘one last job’. Another similarity to this is the ‘false beginning’ where we might see a heist or something criminal taking place which is then revealed to be a training exercise or summink like that. Monsters Inc and James Bond did this well. Spec scripts do not but they do it often.
10. Fall From Grace: The lead character is sacked, demoted or chucked especially if it’s a personal drama, cop thriller or rom com, causing him to start from scratch and reinvent his life, go against orders or find the love of his life.
PS: When’s a cliché not a cliché? When it works.
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