While a smart back-to-basics approach to filmmaking will often yield a strong product, it is very important to take into account the paths well-travelled in terms of storytelling and plot mechanics. Films have already been doing this consciously or not for some time; this usually manifests as endings with a twist, bait-and-switch tactics, unlikely protagonists or sudden mid-story tempo changes. Caution must be exercised to avoid the kind of gimmickry that has artistically compromised some of the biggest Hollywood directors in the business, but it would be foolish to pretend that nothing has been done in cinema when crafting your story. It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel either but consideration must be given to the now century-long past of film and the kind of storytelling approaches it has explored, if for no other reason than to develop a mature and seasoned voice of your own. A good filmmaker is not necessarily a cinephile, but it can’t hurt to know where the craft has been.
One big hurdle with developing one’s style is the fear of cascading into predictability, that most dreaded scenario that gives filmmakers nightmare visions of audiences rolling their eyes and making faces. This is where storytelling can become the most torturous; what filmmaker, or indeed artist has not experienced the malaise of having a friend or colleague remark on (after you’ve pitched them the premise of your new script) the similarities between your idea and some other well-known film? But to let this fear of treading over worn paths overtake your creative process is a mistake. Do not work from this anxious place in your mind, it will lead you most often toward compromising your vision and, ironically, steer you toward predictability.
The plots we conceive will in one way or another draw inspiration from the experiences, books and films we’ve seen, but what cannot be imitated or replicated is your artistic voice. This is why it is so essential to work hard to develop that perspective; it is literally the only thing that will set you apart from the not-inconsiderable masses. How to develop this perspective is a larger issue but this much is certain, you won’t achieve it by painting-by-numbers or dwelling comfortably in nostalgia.