In the past couple of decades, people got obsessed with the disaster films. The Titanic was the true hit back in 1997. But the film that truly started the era of mass killings on the screen came in 1996 with the Independence Day by Dean Devlin. However interesting the films are, we perceive them as the lullabies because disaster films regularly have no age limits or warning scenes. Even though directors kill literally millions of people, the screenings are still filled with families coming to see such mass executions taking large bowls of popcorn and Coke with them. Let's face it: since time immemorial, our species was fascinated with big-ass disasters and public killings. The question you, as a filmmaker, may have is how to make this hard-hitting reality a beautiful and lucrative film.

Production teams usually insist that disaster films cannot just be about the mass killings. The times, when that was the main satisfaction and fascination for our kind, have past. Today people are interested in the self-abnegation, philosophy of solitude, humanity’s failure, and God’s intent in all of that crap happening around. Red Rock Entertainment Ltd as an expert in film production explains that the focus of modern film industry is on heroes, whether surreal ones as Iron Man from the Marvel Universe or the true saviors as Eric Marsh played by Josh Brolin in Joseph Kosinski’s Only the Brave.

There is a number of factors that will turn a truly horrifying disaster, like 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that hit the Indonesian cost and killed almost 230,000 people from 14 countries, into a heartbreaking film The Impossible. This is a true art of making a genuine and heart-warming story out of the ruins and thousands of deaths. Yet, this is what filmmakers do. And if you want to hit the box office with your film then you need to keep in mind the following points.

Note: not every disaster film sticks to all the tricks described below; but the more you can fit, the better story you will create. These points will distract the viewers from the massacre and keep them focused on the main storyline.

1. “Another ordinary day” is the classy way to begin a disaster film. Remember Cloverfield or Poseidon? They all started as a story about another banal day of the human civilization. Even the famous The Walking Dead showed Rick lying in a ward in the first shots of the almost legendary TV series. Going with the story like “what could go wrong” is good for a start.

2. The meeting is something that happens soon after the disaster hits the world. There is a number of strangers that realizes that the world is out of ordinary, that the situation does not bode well for anyone, and that something needs to be done. And just when the problem is being processed by the main characters, someone needs to doubt that whole absurdity: how can the Earth get frozen within a couple of weeks (re The Day After Tomorrow)? And don’t forget that the disaster you choose for the film must be the worst in the whole history of our species. However, don’t get carried away and ensure that you don’t make such stupid and annoying disaster film mistakes in your production to keep the film real.

3. After the meeting should come the first wave/blow/night/burn or whatever it is your disaster film is about. And this event should be huge! Ensure to show people’s faces at close shots to demonstrate their true reaction: they must be terrified and disoriented about it all.

4. To show your viewers that the world can be saved you need to have someone who knows or suspects how everyone can be saved. And the most common mistake here is to make this guy a no-name played by the A-star actor or actress. Never do that, ever. It looks ridiculous when Tom Cruise plays an ordinary guy who saves the world. It never ever can happen in the real world. Forget about it.
What you should do is choose your scenario: either you choose a no-name (or almost no-name) actor for an ordinary guy who doesn’t save the world but only the closes family and people who happened to be around (Cloverfield); or you choose an A-star actor who plays a bad-ass super-agent from the CIA or better and has connections everywhere in the government (World War Z). Whichever scenario you choose, just stick to it from the beginning to the very end.

5. Don't write anybody off, every character matters. While you’re making a disaster-film, you still need to remember that life likes joking at everyone. And for this reason, introducing a character who seems ridiculous from the beginning and then at some point saves the day is a great way to clear the air after the tensions. For instance, check the scenes with Randy Quaid as Russel Casse in the Independence Day or the excellent play of Shelley Winters as Belle Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure.

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