The functional relationship between laughter, thrills and suspense in the comedy thriller screenplay: an inquiry into the writing of the comedy thriller

Rendell, A 2013, The functional relationship between laughter, thrills and suspense in the comedy thriller screenplay: an inquiry into the writing of the comedy thriller, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Rendell.pdf Thesis application/pdf 538.71KB
Rendell_Project.pdf Project Daybreak application/pdf 292.57KB
Title The functional relationship between laughter, thrills and suspense in the comedy thriller screenplay: an inquiry into the writing of the comedy thriller
Author(s) Rendell, A
Year 2013
Abstract It is the aim of this study to inform the writing of a feature film screenplay that will blend the two film genres of comedy and thriller. In order to accomplish this, I examine the way both comedy and thriller genres achieve their specific aims. Though theorists have investigated the principles, conventions and techniques employed in the thriller and its many sub-genres, few have examined the blended comedy thriller genre beyond identifying it as a problematic form of the thriller. The lack of specific critical analysis of the comedy thriller genre represents a gap in the literature which I have attempted to fill.

Comedy thriller films are considered by many to be difficult to write. According to John Truby, the comedy thriller is problematic because ‘the comedy element sits uncomfortably with the tone required to generate chills and thrills’ (Truby, 2010).The screenwriter’s problem lies in the attempt to blend two contrasting audience states. Why do audiences laugh at a character’s pain in a comedy and yet flinch from it in a thriller?

In this study I examine the bodies of knowledge fundamental to the writing of a comedy thriller screenplay. These include the discipline areas of screenwriting, genre, psychology and theatre and performance. I also observe psychoanalytic theories that underpin the writer’s attempt to generate audience laughter and suspense thrills.

The outcomes of this study are a set of principles, conventions and techniques which may assist the screenwriter in blending the two genres of comedy and thriller without sacrificing the key emotional mandates of either - laughter and suspense. The insights gained from this study informed the writing of my own comedy thriller screenplay, Project Daybreak. My findings may also be useful to writers of theatre and popular literature who wish to explore the combining of dissimilar audience emotions in their creative works.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) Comedy
thriller
screenwriting
laughter
suspense
Andrew Horton
Neill Hicks
Altan Löker
Hitchcock
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