What makes a Genre?

GENRE DEFINITION – a style or category of art, music, or literature.

In class were were given the task to break down, what makes a Genre?

What are the audiences expectations? compositional conventions used, What are the film techniques and sub genres involved?  And the final question is there such a thing as a TRUE GENRE!

Today i’m going focus on one genre: Action.

Audience’s expectation, I typed action film into google image and well basically it depicts everything we expect.

Image result for action filmsImage result for action filmsImage result for action films

Key Points

  1. Fast pace plot
  2. Stunts, car chases, fights
  4. Death
  5. A Hero on an impossible mission

Compositional Conventions

Related image
Source- Click Me

Typically most Action Films adhere to the structure of The Hero’s Journey, which I go into more detail about in another blog but basically the protagonist is suddenly thrown into a world of destruction/chaos and have to save the people they love by overcoming extreme trials to then triumph over evil or die trying.  The best way to portray these conventions is through the clever use of camera work, lighting and sound.

Film Techniques

Camera Angles 

Most common;

Close up 

Used to create more emphasis on object and to help express emotions.

 Image result for close up Gamer the movie gif   Related image

POV (Point of View)

Used to show the character direct perspective, allows the audience to feel as if they were there.

Image result for pov action shot

Hand Held/ Shaky Camera

This technique is popular in army films when a character is running through a battle field providing the audience with the feeling of being amongst the action. Often used with POV. Gives the impression of chaos. 

 Image result for shaky cam running gifRelated image


Long Shot

Often used for explosions or establishing the location.

Image result for action movie explosionImage result for action movie establishing shot


Action films use both Diegetic; come from the world of the movie eg, radio sounds 

and Non Diegetic sounds; comes from outside the movie world eg, narrators, theme music.


Key Light: Main source of light, often aimed at main subject, casts strongest shadows.Image result for key light film

Fill Light: Softer, reveals details in shadow areas, often aimed opposite to the Key light.

Related image

Background Lighting: creates subject depth, sometimes has halo effect.

Image result for transformers actors

High/Low Key Lighting is extremely important when setting the mood for a scene.

Using the correct lighting for Action films is extremely important most commonly used is low key lighting for dark dramatic effect, and High key lighting for long shots and explosions. 

High key is for detail and Low Key is dramatic, here is some examples;


Also known as a Hybrid Genre, the combining of two or more genres to create film diversity. Some examples of Action sub-genre ;

ACTION ADVENTURE – Adventure orientated eg, Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider

ACTION COMEDY –  Tropic Thunder, Hot Fuzz, Rush Hour

SCI-FI ACTION – Matrix, The Terminator, Total Recall

WAR  – Platoon, Band of Brothers, 

MARTIAL ARTS – Ong Bak, Kill Bill, Unleashed


With all the new sub genres today i believe our classification of genre has changed as we now have a greater need to define them. As the volume of movies increased, audience’s crave a more diverse movie that satisfies viewers on multiple layers. With that being said  I still don’t know if there ever was such thing as a pure genre?

All of these key ingredients are vital to the making of an Action Film.  The combination of camera angles and lighting expressively help the audience understand the emotional depth of the genre and help highlight the basic code and conventions of Action films. 









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