Despite the trail of blood trickling down the front cover of the Guide to Screenplay Structure, O’Bannon’s rules are meant to apply to all genres of film. He spends a large portion of the book applying his criteria to a dozen films ranging from Casablanca to Lawrence of Arabia and courageously, he admits that when analyzing a film like Dumb and Dumber (which he does) it’s apparent that a comedy with muddled, confused story structure can still be entertaining and successful with audiences if other factors are outstanding – such as the casting of Jim Carrey. Or in the case of Psycho, the most infamous screenwriting rule-breaker of all time, you can potentially sell the radical narrative turn of murdering your leading lady if you have a character as fascinating as Norman Bates and an actor as talented as Anthony Perkins to play him. The point being, such shortcomings or creative gambits need miracles or perfect execution and the vast majority of films have neither. Borrowing great dialogue and direction couldn’t make Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho a worthwhile film. A poorly or bizarrely structured story will only work in the hands of genius, and a professional working screenwriter certainly can’t count on THAT.
Sincerest thanks to Matt R. Lohr and Diane O'Bannon for this interview.