Chases and Confrontations
It's amazing how often you see people warning writers against not using voiceover or flashback, because of the difficulty of using them right and because they tend to show up in the scripts of bad writers.
But no one warns about chases and confrontations, which to me are even more of an amateurish sign.
Too often they are just placeholders in a script. A writer has run out of story, needs something to happen, so they will throw in a chase. Or a confrontation. Or, even more generally, a confrontation, which the good guy ultimately flees, and is chased.
Don't get me wrong, I think chases and confrontations can be great, if done right. And they are also commercial; two current hits, the Da Vinci Code and Mission Impossible III, have lots of them.
But if you are going to throw a chase or a confrontation in your script, makes sure it satisfies both of the following conditions:
1) It should be integral to the plot.
2) There should be something fresh or inspired about it.
In regards to the second one, it's amazing how often people just dump in the same tired confrontations into the scripts I read. If I never had to read a random bar-room brawl again, I'd be happy.
But too often, these scenes are there not because they really fit in the movie, but because the writer seems to think they should. A typical script has an ordinary guy who suddenly finds himself pursued by thugs/the authorities/mobsters and is on the run for the whole script. "Enemy of the State" did this right. "The Fugitive" did this right.
But the generic script will have a lot of scenes in which bad guys burst into the good guy's apartment, and the good guy will either be able to flee down the fire escape or out the front door, and then make it to his car. Then there will be a car chase, and he'll lose the bad guys, often by driving down an alley and having a truck conveniently back up between him and the pursuing guys.
Then the main character will go to his girlfriend's apartment, the thugs will burst in again, and it will all start over.
Then there's the type of script (often affiliated) where the guy is fighting for his life; literally, everyone is being killed around him. But for some reason the villains never seem to be trying to harm the main guy in the scenes with him; despite being an ordinary guy (and more likely to be the target of death than half the supporting characters who are killed), he is able to get away too easily.
Chases and confrontations really have to kick ass if you want them to be the script. But your script ultimately needs to be about the story that links all these scenes together anyway; if this structure is solid, then the chases and confrontations won't feel as forced.
So before you drop a chase and a confrontation into your script, ask yourself these questions:
1) What does this scene reveal about my character?
2) How does this scene advance the story?
3) If it doesn't really advance the story, but it is just there because it seems time for a fight or a chase (or both), then can it reveal things about my character and advance the story anyway? And can it be so fresh and original that even if it doesn't, it'll be cool and memorable?
4) Is the car crashing into the fruit stand really necessary?