STAGE I: The Setup
TURNING POINT #1: The Opportunity (10%)
STAGE 2: The New Situation
TURNING POINT #2: The Change of Plans (25%)
STAGE III: Progress
TURNING POINT #3: The Point of No Return (50%)
STAGE IV: Complications and Higher Stakes
TURNING POINT #4: The Major Setback (75%)
STAGE V: The Final Push
TURNING POINT #5: The Climax (90-99%)
STAGE VI: The Aftermath
- Have an idea for a film/narrative that you want to write
- Films are ‘Show don’t tell’
- Concentrate on the visuals which will tell a story
- The dialogue has to be character specific
- Standard format, courier 12pt typeface
- Use screen writing software (Celtx etc)
- First draft will be 30% too long
- Revise script constantly and cut, as you refine and improve and sharpen
- Movies are good at telling stories but not good at telling very complicated stories
The Three Act Structure
The first act is usually used for exposition, to establish the main characters, their relationships and the world they live in. Later in the first act, a dynamic, on-screen incident occurs that confronts the main character (the protagonist), whose attempts to deal with this incident lead to a second and more dramatic situation, known as the first turning point, which (a) signals the end of the first act, (b) ensures life will never be the same again for the protagonist and (c) raises a dramatic question that will be answered in the climax of the film. The dramatic question should be framed in terms of the protagonist’s call to action, (Will X recover the diamond? Will Y get the girl? Will Z capture the killer?). This is known as the inciting incident, or catalyst. As an example, the inciting incident in the 1972 film The Godfather is when Vito Corleone is attacked, which occurs approximately 40 minutes into the film.
The second act, also referred to as “rising action”, typically depicts the protagonist’s attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find him- or herself in ever worsening situations. Part of the reason protagonists seem unable to resolve their problems is because they do not yet have the skills to deal with the forces of antagonism that confront them. They must not only learn new skills but arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who they are and what they are capable of, in order to deal with their predicament, which in turn changes who they are. This is referred to as character development or a character arc. This cannot be achieved alone and they are usually aided and abetted by mentors and co-protagonists.
The third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.