Okay, so we have Act 1, Act 2, Act 3. This is your basic story formula. So what happens in Act 1 that makes it different from 2 and 3? Here’s how it works. You have a formula, let’s say it is a boy meets a girl.
And in Act 1 that’s what we’re going to describe. The meeting, what happens to them, who they are and that information. In Act 2 you’re going to have boy loses girl. And here in Act 2 you are going to describe all the problems that they are having in their relationship and he loses her. He’s found her and he’s lost her. In Act 3 boy gets girl back.
How do you write a screenplay outline? The 3 Act Structure
That is the basis of your story. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Okay, I can hear you, what you’re saying. You’re saying to yourself well my story’s not a love story. I don’t have any boy meeting girl.
It doesn’t matter and you’ll see how the same format it used for any situation. Let’s say you’re going to write a Western instead. Okay, so you might say – the farmer buys a farm. And, following our formula as we did before.
The farmer, what happens here, he’s going to lose the farm, right? And what’s going to happen in Act 3? I can hear you saying it before I do. The farmer gets the farm back. So you see, it doesn’t matter what your story is. The idea is the same. The format, this is how it follows.
How do you write a screenplay? Creating Great Characters
Okay, so using our formula we’ll now discuss what happens next in Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3. Under Act 1 here’s what I want you to write. The next thing you are going to do once you decide what your concept is going to be, is I want you to introduce your main characters.
This is all what is happening in Act 1. In Act 2, I want you to develop these people and tell us more about them, show us some of the challenges they’re going to face. And, basically build them up. And, in Act 3 I want you to resolve the character’s problems that happened in Act 1 and Act 2.
I want you to resolve them, to bring them to a completion as people and as living beings. You don’t want to make them one dimensional, you want to make them have a life. Challenges they have to face so that the person in Act 1 hopefully will not be the exact same person in Act 2.
They learned their life lesson or they developed some skill or whatever it is you are trying to accomplish with your character. The other thing is, you never want to have more than 6 characters as your main characters.
You want to have 6 to 4, 4 being the best. Why? Because you have to introduce them all. You have to develop problems that they resolve for them all later in Act 3. So, the more main characters you have the more difficult that becomes.
You want to really define these people here in Act 2, their strengths, their weaknesses, what their conflicts are, how they do handle them or how they don’t handle them. And in Act 3, as I said, you’re going to find a way to resolve whatever problems your characters faced. So you see why writing too many characters could become a nightmare.
How do you write a script & what is the right length?
So, we talked about introducing characters in Act 1 and further to that in Act 1 you’re going to introduce your main characters, of course. And then you are going to introduce any other characters that you want to have, all others.
You really don’t want to continue adding new characters all the way through the movie if they have an important part in the film. So that all the characters introduced in Act 1 are all developed and all resolved in part 3. So, you know, take care not to write in too many, too many, too many, extra, extra people.
Especially if you are trying to make a low budget film. You want to concentrate on the important people in the story. How much do you write?, and how does that work? Well, Act 1 is about one quarter of the story. Act 2 is about one half and Act 3 is about a quarter of the story. So Act 2 is the most information there.
Which is why worldwide writers and films and books and stories always have problems with Act 2 because it’s the longest section. Sometimes it gets the weakest response because there’s so much information to give, it’s sometimes not as exciting and some scripts fall down in Act 2. So you want to keep it really alive in Act 2.
Now, what is one quarter mean? It’s actually probably about 25 pages. This is about 40 pages and this is about 25 pages. OK, so an average script, feature film, is about 90 pages, 90 to 120. Your first time out I would stick with 90.
It also means that writing a script is basically like this, one page of words or dialogue equals one minutes of screen time. One page of dialogue equals approximately 1 page of screen time. Now if you have a lot of action in your narrative, which I will explain in a moment what a narrative is.
If you have a lot of action in there, you have helicopters blowing up, you got love scenes, you got a storm, you got an earthquake. It’s going to be a lot more than the one minute. I’m speaking of just people talking when I say one page a minute. And that’s it, we’ll move on.
What do you need to write a movie script
Film Courage: What advice do you have for a screenwriter when they sit down to start writing a screenplay? What are some things they should have already done before before they type that first page?
Whether it’s outlining, etc.? CSUN’s Eric Edson: They should have beside them a list of the 100 most-recent screenplays that they have read. The published ones, the successful ones…Okay!…I’ll give you a break…make it 50.
You are not ready to write until you are very well-read and well-versed in the literature you are proposing to create. And in this case, it’s screenwriting. I would say systematize your organization. The first thing you have to do…see a really bad habit that most screenwriters have is that they’ve got a great idea and they’re cooking and they just start writing a screenplay “I’m writing screenplay pages. Oh boy!”
And it’s fun but it’s going nowhere ultimately without a plan and a very well thought out one. The hard work is in the outline and it has to be a very complete outline and you have to have confidence that all story problems have been addressed. So the first thing you have to do is the dirty work, the outline.
Write yourself…I would say hero-goal sequences because I happen to think and I happen to know that it works. But however you know, beat sheet, (however they do it), have a very complete outline. And then good bloody luck.
It’s a lot of work and then I would also say…yeah, you can write it on a little piece of paper and tape it above your desk, “Write Badly With Pride.” No writer’s block. None. Just write badly with pride. Write a piece of junk. You know, if you haven’t, just sitting there staring at the wall for an hour, okay.
What would you write if you were just really writing trash, really writing garbage? Go for it. Because you’ll never know when the real idea is the depth of what you are doing will be sparked. You just don’t know. You don’t know and there’s so many things you have, the tone. I’m working on and beginning to have some fun at this stage of things.
I have some original screenplays (of course) as it turns out, that never sold. And frequently what happens is the stuff you like the most, that’s the stuff that doesn’t sell. And there are three or four of them that I want to turn into novels before my clock and race have been run. And I started on one some months back.
And I’ve been working a month and a half now on the first five pages. Every day I do…I kind of fell into it, but it’s what Ernest Hemingway did. Everyday he started at page one and that’s what I have to do by instruction of being instructed by him but also by a nature, every day I start at page one.
You can do that for the first 40 or 50 pages you reach a point, you know it doesn’t work anymore but what you do by that, what you gain by that is do not be in a hurry to zoom onward. Because those first five to ten pages are the most important pages in the whole thing, in a novel, in a screenplay.
You either convince your audience it’s worth to come along (or reader), it’s worth their time to come along for this journey with you or not. Either they trust you by then or they don’t. So in the search for the tone, rhythm, the use of language and character, it’s amazing spending five pages with your central character in this case.
What you can learn about that character and doing the same five pages over and over and over and over. You’ll learn a heck of a lot about your hero. This is invaluable as you move forward. So I would say also, don’t rush.