I can’t say I totally understand it but this year was definitely the reading season for the Weird, Chatty Dramedy.
I’d estimate that approximately 20% of the scripts I read this year involved an ensemble of types sitting around, chatting about various personal issues that were of absolutely no interest to me.
Many of these scripts involved light banter between love interests or former love interests, and some of them involved men talking about women, and some women talking about men. Some were set in kitchens and some in bars.
None had anything even remotely dramatic happen.
Merriam-Webster defines “drama” as:
1a : a composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or character or to tell a story usually involving conflicts and emotions through action and dialogue and typically designed for theatrical performance
3a : a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces
So, drama is supposed to include conflicts and emotions and interesting or intense conflict of forces.
How does people sitting in a room chit-chatting about nothing fall into either category?
I am wondering if this no-drama dramatic style of writing is the toxic aftermath from a generation of young people raised on “Friends,” where the friends just sat around discussing their collective (and incestuous) love lives and that was interesting for a lot of people.
I have dubbed this particular now-genre of script the Weird, Chatty Dramedies because these scripts are all related on some level: no dramatic stakes, no plotting. No definable story. They’re not funny, or intelligent. They’re not emotionally engaged or engaging. There is no social commentary. Many characters chatting, but who are these characters and what are they chatting about? Hell if I know – or care.
It was almost as though someone had been assigned homework in their theatre class: Write a play wherein a group of people is confined to one room and has to talk about nothing in particular. Now adapt that for the screen. But no one actually told that writer that this material isn’t adaptable for the screen because in a film, stuff is supposed to HAPPEN.
Perhaps people are writing what they think are dramedies because they think they’re commercial.
Be sure you cover the basics! Make sure you have a dramatic premise for your work! Do you have a protagonist and antagonist? What is your protagonist fighting to achieve in the journey of the story? Where is the finish line?
If you have a story idea that is basically light fare, not a lot happens, people talk, there is some type of meandering love interest, make sure you’re not writing a Dramedy – and if you are, that is a big red flag! Avoid the pitfall of becoming a Weird, Chatty Dramedy!
Would you put Before Sunrise in the chatty dramedy category? And its sequel Before Sunset.
To me Before Sunset still had stakes and conflict which were mostly absent in Before Sunrise (apart from the will they / won’t they). And yet I liked them both very much.