Friday, October 10, 2014

Three Act Structure : Screenplay Structure

Screenplay Structure - Three Act Structure

By John Halas

Proper screenplay structure is understood by few would-be screenwriters. Three act structure is integral to your screenwriting success. Virtually every successful movie uses the three act structure. If you are interested in writing a three act screenplay there is an easy formula to make that happen and there is still an infinite range of possibilities within the three act structure.


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You are probably familiar with what a one act play looks like and if we expand that to a five act play like they do in the TV show Law & Order you will have some idea how to meet in the middle of the two. Most plays are one act, Law & Order is five. In order to write a three act play, it's not the mythical being you are afraid of. It can be done. The good thing to remember is that most every movie you have every watched is done in three acts, does that make it easier to imagine?

So what makes an act? Here are a few ideas to make the process a little easier for you.

Act One: Screenplay Structure

The first act in any screenplay is usually between 25-40 pages long. That will give you some idea of what you are working with. Every movie starts off "normal" before all hell breaks loose, normal should last for the first 10 minutes of the screenplay. The end of act two has to force the character to go into act two, this is called the "point of no return" something changes in the character during act one and he will never be the same and has to continue forward.

Act Two: Screenplay Structure

Welcome character into act two. Act two is made up of about 45 pages. The character now has to react to everything that has happened and the changes made into his world. The worst fears of the character are about to come true and then the character realizes "hey this isn't so bad" and moves forward again. "Reacting" changes into regaining control of the situation that the character is in. The end of act two is supposed to push the character to a mini climax in the story. This should be a high point for your character before act three throws the character into a tailspin.

Act Three: Screenplay Structure

Reality comes crushing down on the character as you hit the character with a huge setback. Is all lost? At this point in the story your character seems to be doomed but suddenly new information is provided that could change everything for the character. The character now races to the resolution in his journey. There is no right way to finish a screenplay, though it is usually nice to end things with a twist. Pull the rug out from under people. They love that stuff.

How would your screenplay benefit from flawless structure and vibrant characters?

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