Conflict is key in Film and TV writing. In fact, it is one of the things that many shows and movies get wrong. The key to good conflict is the villain. The villain is the creator of all conflict. For example if you have a scene where the dragon destroys a village, it adds more conflict to the next scene where the hero must learn how to fight with a sword. This is what I refer to as the “Power Rule”. You can read more about it here…
So other than having a powerful villain that presents danger to the protagonist, what are important traits? Well the second technique for creating a good villain is “Disputable vs Absolute Evil”. A good way of describing the difference is looking at the new film Batman vs. Superman.
In Batman vs. Superman a good example of Absolute Evil is Lex Luther who plots to get rid of Batman and Superman. We learn of some of his motivation behind his evil acts but not before we have grown to dislike the character. In contrast Batman is an example of Disputable Evil. Batman does some evil acts but we understand the acts because we we’re giving the motivation first. This is an important note. The main difference between the two is when we learn about their motivations to be evil; before or after the audience thinks their evil.
A villain that the audience roots for reduces conflict and thus the effectiveness of the film. So the best time to reveal the villains motivations are after the climax or during the resolution. This allows us to care about what happens to the villain without reducing the conflict in the middle of the film. However there is a difference between “rooting for” and liking a villain. We may like Darth Vader because of how cool he is but we don’t root for him to kill Luke and the Alliance.
Zachary Will is an Award-Winning Filmmaker creating short films and content for the Internet as the owner of Riverside Studios. He has a Bachelor's in Film from Full Sail University. He has worked on productions for companies like Webmd, Sears, Home Depot, Six Flags and more!
"the trick is to never give up... I think the secret of success is not how little you get knocked down but how often you get back up." - Gareth Edwards