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Film Genre for the Screenwriter


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Film Genre vs. Genre Film 2. Creating the Mental Space 3. Overview of Film Genres 4. The Uber Genres: Comedy and Drama 5. Romance and Romantic Comedy and Buddy 6. Speculative Genres 7. Horror 8. Science Fiction 9. Fantasy 10. Western 11. Thriller 12. Action and Adventure 13. Disaster and War 14. Coming of Age and Fish Out of Water 15. Balancing of Film Genres 16. Film Genre: A Practical Tool in the Screenwriter's Toolbox

About the Author

Jule Selbo, Ph.D. heads up the M.F. A. in Screenwriting Program in the Radio-TV-Film Department at California State University, Fullerton. She is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter with work in theatre, feature film, network and cable television and animated series; produced credits include projects for Disney, Columbia Pictures, Paramount, and Universal.


"The author identifies 30 genres and further subdivides many by character types or setting treatment. Beyond these delineations, she discusses the endless permutations and combinations of genre, each discussion amply accessorized with film titles--from many nations and across the history of the medium--for further information and purposes of demonstration..Actors rate mentions, but the creative personnel of film production are discussed and placed in the context of their genre and within the arc of film history...Summing Up: Recommended."
- D. A. Schmitt, St. Louis Community College at Meramec, in CHOICE

"Want to write a screenplay that will appeal to your audience? You'd better know the genre you're aiming for-and Jule Selbo's Film Genre for the Screenwriter is the best guide out there to all film genres."
- Diane Lake, screenwriter of Frida, Emerson College

"Attention Screenwriters: whether you are writing a horror movie, rom-com, or sci-fi epic, Selbo's book will give you a roadmap of how to embrace the conventions of your genre and give them a fresh twist!"
- Pat Verducci, Writer/Director of True Crime, Co-producer of Somewhere Between, UCLA Extension Screenwriting Instructor

"In Film Genre for the Screenwriter, Jule Selbo insightfully reveals how disparate film genres blend into and enrich each other, bringing a gifted screenwriter's clarity and concision to her task and encapsulating the full spectrum of commercial films without becoming reductive. This book is an invaluable tool for film teachers and for working screenwriters, one that enables them to truly see the big picture."
- Guy Nicolucci, Screenwriting instructor at NYU "As comprehensive in scope as it is exhaustively researched, Jule Selbo's Film Genre for the Screenwriter succeeds in doing what few books of its kind usually can: be as fine a textbook for students as it is a practical instruction manual for working screenwriters. Explicating the ever-elusive aspects of storytelling style and craft with scholarly flair, Selbo has written a book that is every bit as entertaining as it is analytical. Covering every film genre and sub-genre in great detail, she deftly synthesizes the thinking of a great many great minds, all the while adding a good deal of penetrating analysis of her own. The result? A smartly organized, easy-to-read, authoritative manual for understanding exactly what 'genre' is-and what it isn't-and why knowing the difference matters. Which is why it belongs as much in the classroom as it does on the bookshelf of the most accomplished screenwriters."
- Jim Jennewein, screenwriter (The Flintstones, Richie Rich, Major League II), novelist and current Chair of Screenwriting at the Burbank campus of The New York Film Academy

"Jule Selbo's book is a must-read for the working professional or even the newcomer contemplating writing their first screenplay. Her clear and concise understanding of the fundamentals of every film genre will not only help everyone tell more satisfying stories, but also allow them to have fun while doing it-Selbo literally gives the reader the inside scoop on how to play with the conventions of any particular genre, and even turn them on their head. With an industry that is becoming more and more obsessed and defined by genres, I don't see how anyone can pass this up."
- Keir Pearson, screenwriter of Hotel Rwanda and Cesar Chavez "Jule Selbo's text is an unpretentious and practical guide to screenwriting that never loses its sense of history. She successfully draws from her own experience and expertise to make screenwriting relatable and exciting. I highly recommend it."
- Liz Manashil, filmmaker and national film critic for Just Seen It "Jule Selbo's insightful book, Film Genre for the Screenwriter, is a treasure trove of historical and analytical information of the many genres in our medium of motion pictures. As a veteran editor of film, I found this work to be extremely elucidating of the many and varied genres which span the history of the narrative moving picture. . . For a professional, this is a gem to revisit frequently as I tackle new projects."
- Paul Trejo, Film and Television Editor, Black Sails, Unknown, The Virginian

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