Before the second act or soon after its commencement separate every member of the family and alienate from one another. It is not a bad idea to let death almost grabs one or two of them but remember not to kill them. All that is done to them is just to pump up narrative tension among the audience.
So let the disasters lick their butts but never let it eat them.
But never worry, you always have the close friend’s family at your disposal to toy with. Also remember not to kill all of them coz you need them at least to witness the tear jerking moment of reunion of the protagonist’s family post climax. So reserve at least one of them for it to stand (out-of -focus of course) besides the hero’s family, empathetically looking at the hugging family members.
Over acting and over reacting is a signature flavor in such films. So let everyone, especially extras and supporting cast act more for their bucks paid.
Always remember the Calm-before-the –storm rule. Create dead silence with all the lead characters along with the extras- pets included- to look around in realization of something unusual happening around them. Decide the direction from which the disaster hits the frame so that you might place the ‘lead family’ (!) at safer distance enabling their escape initially.
Amid the disaster ravaging everything mercilessly, with all the family members scattered, take a moment of stand still. Show the hero’s face (most preferably) at tight close-up, with rumbling percussion sprinkled with Cellos at heavy bass, slowly zoom out and switch to a wide angle establishing shot to show the magnitude of destruction (the producer will have to burn his fingers for sure to this shot alone).
Again switch to hero’s face, either pale or stone faced by now. This moment is one of the crucial philosophical moments in an disaster film that provides, ‘Human- intelligence- can- never- surpass- nature’s- force’ moment. So at any cost don’t miss this moment.
During another crucial moment of saving the family, the heroine understands the real love and commitment towards the family and as a token of realization let them kiss amid all the chaos around. Never mind with some brainers (antonym to no brainers) raising, ‘Will any idiot kiss at this moment? type questions. Let them kiss but remember the audience are here to see a disaster flick and not French kisses.
And in case if you design your film without family sentiments, let the hero be braver than the Greek gods and slips into the Savior of the World shoes at the right moment leaving behind the entire team of experts to stay back in labs or control rooms. They might nervously stand staring at the screens where the hero taking care of all the essential adventures and all they have to do is to punch in the air and hug each other with tear clogged eyes when everything gets done perfectly by our hero. They might also be very useful for wide eyed and open mouthed close-ups while the protagonist’s butt is being licked by the disaster.
In either case, always ensure calm-after-the-storm moment also. That is another crucial philosophical moment providing the ‘We will endure’ moment. Let the viewers leave the cinema halls with revival of hope.
Never forget that you’re making this film for money and the preachy business is only a part of the package. So don’t let the disaster die and have some smokes around so it’s easy to resurrect it in case if this initial offering rings bells at the box office. Always have a lead to continue, because none could perfectly predict which duck would turn the golden duck.
So, Dear makers, Love Disaster! Keep Hoping!