In his book, "Writing for Emotional Impact", Karl Iglesias points out that there are many screenwriting books that talk about how to fix the structure of your movie but many of them neglect the most important part of making a movie: delivering an emotional experience to the viewer. The phrase "an emotional delivery system" is how Karl describes movies.
Karl illustrates this point in an interesting way; he points out that, when you see an ad or poster for a movie, the quotes that they pick from critics to make the movie sound good never say things like "...this film had a flawless structure!" or "This film had the perfect number of subplots to sustain act two!", instead they always say things like "..an emotional roller-coaster" or "...you'll need ten hankies to get through this one" or "...a nail-biter from beginning to end" which are all statements that speak more to the film maker's ability to manipulate your emotions that to their talent for forging a perfectly structured film.
This is a good point, and one that gets overlooked sometimes in film production. There are so many different books that offer helpful insight into how to fix the structure of your script and, after all, it is very, very important for the structure to work. But ultimately you want the structure to service the overall emotional experience of the film - the whole point of the structure is to make the emotional "punch" of the film work as effectively as possible.
But since it's so much easier to talk about the structure - after all, screenwriting books have provided us with a language to deal with and discuss structure (terms like inciting incident, the act two midpoint, etc.) as well as countless numbers of pages devoted to how to fix the structure of any movie, reams and reams devoted to the rules, principles and tools that can be applied to fix any ailing storyline. That makes talking about the structure so much easier to do than discussing the emotional component of the movie, because there aren't nearly as many books written that really talk about how to make sure the emotional aspect of your movie is working, and we don't have a short-hand vocabulary for talking about emotional structure like we do for discussing plot structure. And making the emotional side work is so much more subjective...I think a lot of it comes from who we are and what we've been through, because the films that seem to resonate with people seem to be those that speak to things that mean something to them and what they've experienced, and the same films don't always elicit the same emotions in everybody.
I felt that for years we fell into the trap at Disney of thinking that as long as we analyzed and scrutinized the structure to death we would ensure that the movie would succeed. You can see how this might happen at a studio - studios are always trying to make a "bulletproof" movie that will appeal to everyone and be "guaranteed" to be a critical and financial success. It's not hard to see that nervous executives and film makers would comfort themselves with the "crutch" of thinking that as long as the structure is executed perfectly, the film will resonate with the public and be a hit.
I always felt (and I've said this many a time in the past, usually to the kind of awkward silence that most of my pronouncements inspire in listeners) that this is like putting together a watch and making all of the gears work perfectly. It may "work" and it may even be fascinating to watch for a short time, but it doesn't inspire any kind of emotional response in the viewer.
Anyway I haven't read much of the book yet (another Christmas gift) so I can't share any of Mr. Iglesias's specific techniques for improving stories, but as I get further along I will share some more of his thoughts with you, if they seem worthwhile.