Action movies requiring "action beats" on a regular basis? Iron clad rule or director's whim?

I have read a few interviews and heard some commentary from producers and directors that action oriented movies require (assumedly if they are to be entertaining and successful) a regular “action beat” at set intervals where some intense action is taking place. If these “beats” did not happen within the prescribed time periods the assumption was that you would lose the audience.

Is this “action beat” paradigm an iron clad rule for all action directors and producers or just a notion of the directors and producers being interviewed?

What is an action beat?

A car chase, a fist fight, something action oriented going on.

So is the idea that action films can’t go for too long without an action sequence?

More the idea that there is an underlying structure governing how often they should occur and you can never miss those windows or the film will fail to work.

So, according to this idea, if you were to create timelines of action films and where the action sequences are along the timeline, you could compare them and see a lot of overlap?

Is the idea also that directors, screenwriters, etc. will be consciously following a pattern?

If I have the right idea here, I’ve never heard of it, and never heard of “action beat” either.

There are certainly genre films (action, rom-com, etc.) that are made with the idea that they’ll be on commercial TV at some point, and it’s common to segment them into fairly even chunks (about 8 minutes or so) so they can be easily formatted for commercials. Is that what you’re thinking?

Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who were/are producers, believed that an action movie needed a “whammy” every ten minutes or so. A “whammy” being an explosion, gunfight, crash, chase, etc. Their films were often big hits and defined action films in that era, so naturally other studio execs, producers, directors, and writers would imitate their style.

I can’t seem to find cite linking Simpson to “whammies”. All I can find is one linking director Renny Harlin to the concept. Still, I’m sure Simpson and Bruckheimer embraced the same idea.

Most screenwriters work on assignment, at the direction of producers and/or studio execs. Directors and stars also have a great deal of input once they sign on to a project, though it’s usually studios and producers who are paying the writer. Writers who aren’t giving these power players what they want will usually be replaced. It’s not unusual for a script to go through ten different writers, or more, before it finally goes into production. Of course, most scripts that are assigned and purchased never get made.

A writer who wants to work, and keep working, will try to anticipate the demands of the power players, and give them what they want, within reason. So, the writer might put in all the required whammies before hand, or any one of the power players might ask for more, or ask for different ones. Requests for changes in the script, are called “notes” and addressing these notes is a big part of the screenwriter’s job.

Discussed here from a discussion with producer Joel Silver

Interesting. Maybe it was Joel Silver I was thinking of.

All movies need whammies every ten minutes. That’s what went wrong with all of the Jane Austen movies … not enough men in frock coats and women in huge dresses being shot, beaten and blown up.

Mel Brooks was a drummer before he was Mel Brooks, the writer and then director. He said in some interview that he got from being a drummer that there’s a rhythm to a successful film. His rhythm seems to be the climax is the penultimate scene and there’s a final scene with some sort of resolution. Other directors/types of films march to the beat of a different drummer, I guess.

First, there was Joseph Campbell, distilling millennia of myths down to the monomyth.

Then there was Christopher Vogler, distilling Joseph Campbell down to the Hero’s Journey.

Then there was Blake Snyder’s *Save the Cat* and its related “beat sheets” distilling Vogler down even further.

Hollywood doesn’t tell stories any more, it ticks checkboxes.