Codes and Conventions of Coming-Of-Age Films

As part of my pre-production research, I decided to compile a list of codes and conventions of coming-of-age films. This list will be very useful to me when I am producing my script as well as applying elements into my marketing texts, i.e.; my posters and my DVD cover.
This list has been compiled with assistance from primary research such as the recurring patterns from the textual analyses of marketing campaigns and opening sequences of coming-of-age films and from secondary sources (websites and news articles). This list not only contains typical character traits and typical locations that would feature in a coming-of-age film. It also includes a typical coming-of-age film's narrative structure.
  • The plot of a coming-of-age film usually revolves around a relationship between two of the characters. This relationship is usually the influence behind key events of the story.
  • Sub-plots: abuse, sex, bullying, drug use, first love, rebellion, society’s view on virginity, pregnancy, life at home, transition made to become mature, loss of innocence, acculturation (the psychological and emotional effects of society, how people adapt into society), stressing the ability to make wise decisions or judgments, gang culture.
  • Themes include: romance, variety of characters (particularly humorous), the importance of friendship, exploring the party lifestyle, situations that the audience can relate to, drama
  • Typical main characters are young people approaching 16 years old or 18 years old and a child-like trait, which was present at the start of the film, disappears as part of the characters' 'transformation'. Male characters are very stereotypical: they seek for 'one thing' (sex). The characters tend to have strained relationships with their parents.
  • There are distinctive types of character such as; 'the girl next door'/the sweet innocent girl, the rebels/people who rebel against the law, the geek who lacks social skills, misfits, the jocks who intimidate the main, male character/try to liaise with the lead female character, etc.
  • Urban, contemporary music is used for transitions between shots and cuts (particularly hip-hop and rap music when representing gang culture)
  • The target audience for this genre of film is 15-21 year old females. The typical age rating varies from 12 to 18.
  • There is often a moral or hidden message, which influences the conclusion, that encourages the audience to reflect on their past behaviour or their views on certain issues that affect a modern-day society.
  • Typical locations include: school, parties, rough neighbourhoods, areas of outstanding beauty (countryside), a character's bedroom, abandoned areas of the countryside, council estates and apartment blocks.
  • Typical shots that are used are: montage editing, minimal use of transitions (fade ins or cuts), inter-titles, date recapped at end of the film, low key lighting, focus pulls, slow motion, internal monologues/narration, scenes of intense dialogue, over-the-shoulder-shots for conversations and cross-cutting.
INTRODUCTION: Introduce the main characters and the setting to the audience whilst establishing a conflict or a problem and doubts that are underlying factors of that conflict.
ORDEALS/COMPLICATIONS: Insert events that complicate the problem. Ensure the drama gradually increases until the film reaches the climax.
CLIMAX: The most dramatic section of the film.

EPIPHANY/KNOWLEDGE: The protagonist discovers something about themselves that makes them realise that things need to change.

TRANSFORMATION: As a part of the conclusion, a part of the protagonist's life has been changed because of the effects of the climax and of the epiphany. This is usually a positive ending but can be negative depending on the severity of the climax.

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