Holiday Screenplay Cliques to Avoid


This time of year always makes me want to cozy up to a computer with a hot cup of cocoa and write something holiday related


The Group Protagonist

Love Actually is the quintessential holiday-themed group protagonist movie, but more recent films like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve are continuing this tradition. The problem with multiple protagonists is, despite how fun Love Actually is, the myriad of storylines hides the fact that none of these plots are interesting enough to sustain its own movie. Writers, stick to one story with one protagonist and make it a good one.

Sappiness Overload

Yes, the holidays are great, and we all feel happier and sappier this time of year. But there’s only so much viewers can take; every movie can’t be It’s a Wonderful Life or we’ll all go bonkers. Think of some of the holiday films audiences enjoy that balance the sweetness with sour: Elf has some adult, New-York-City-referencing humor, and the pinnacle of holiday movies, A Christmas Story, has kids swearing, beating each other up, and getting shot with BB guns. Some sardonic humor makes the emotional moments all the more affective (I LOVE the reveal that Dad bought Ralphie the BB gun, which sailed completely over my head as a child). It doesn’t have to be Bad Santa (though it can if you want). Spice up a holiday script with edgy humor.

Dysfunctional Families

The holidays and family discord go hand in hand, so it makes sense that many films would use this as fodder for humor. But audiences have seen it so many times, from the well-executed and amusing While You Were Sleeping to the uneven The Family Stone to the hilarious of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s even mined for drama in Pieces of April, which is probably the best combination of the holidays and familial insanity ever. It’s not necessary to avoid talking about families at all though; approaching it from a new direction or making it a secondary storyline to a more original plot will make your screenplay stand out.