When writing a film, some question which is more important: A plot driven film, or a character driven film? This conversation came up after watching a film with a friend last night. We both agreed that the film was good, but something was missing in our opinion. What we discerned was that character development was missing. This was a plot driven film.
What does it mean to be a plot driven film? When a film is driven by its plot, there will not be as much focus on what is going on with the characters. That is not to say that plot driven films have underdeveloped characters or no characterization whatsoever; rather, the plot has some degree of preference over the characters. For example, the film we watched yesterday had tension in nearly every scene. The audience was left wondering: What is going to happen next in the story? The plot is what keeps the story going. We left the film realizing that we didn’t learn much about who the characters were, what was their past, and how they changed from this experience.
In a character driven film, however, the character is what moves the story forward. The audience will wonder: What is the character going to do next? In character driven films, the characters learn something from their experiences. They change. We know who the characters were in the beginning of the film, and who they have become once the credits roll.
There is no right or wrong way to write a film. Like nearly everything, some people prefer one over the other. They are both successful and entertaining methods of writing a story, but they require different elements to be independently successful. Both my friend and I prefer character driven films, which is why we thought something was missing. Ultimately, though, it comes down to preference, because all types of films have an audience and can be successful in their own respect.