Having all of the sudden random feels about screenwriting structure.
Talk to us about screenwriting structure? :) :) :) (Unless you’re busy or writing, in which case CARRY ON!)
I was just thinking of all the different ways you can structure a screenplay, and yet they all functionally end up in the same general form, and the form makes sense. It makes beautiful sense.
Like, okay. I was first taught on the number method. The 17-30-45-60-75-90 method. The core behind this idea is that things happen at that those page numbers in every movie. At page 17, you generally get a single line that describes the core of the movie (easiest example: “Serenity” we get the line “Lets be bad guys” and then they go on and cause major disruption.) at 30, you get the main character leaving their comfort zone, or starting their journey. At 45, they encounter their first difficulty or minor setback. At 60 the main character turns active. At 75 it’s the descent into darkness. At 90 it’s the dark point, where you feel that there is no redemption.
So yeah. Formulaic, but simple. Covers a large portion of the films out there. Is amazing because there’s room for innocence, there’s room for despair, there’s room for trying to find the right way to do things. There’s room, there are places for the character to grow. Is also amazing cause it’s mostly a non-genre restrictive way of outline. It provides a way for audiences to follow the structure without thinking of it, so they just get the story.
And it follows the hero’s journey. Whoops.
And then I got into grad school and there’s the sequence method. Where a film is roughly divided into 8 sequences, and prescribed things happen in those sequences. Like how the first sequence is setting up the world, the second is things start to go wrong, the third is they set out and have to make up a “map” or plan, the fourth is their first attempt, the fifth is the main attempt and the getting to know you, the sixth is further on the main attempt, the seventh is the descent into darkness, and the eighth is the false ending to the end.
Its fantastic because it says what people should be doing between the big plot events. They’re planning a way to go about their quest. They’re getting to know each other. They’re making an effort. It’s fantastic.
And whoops, it fits up with the number method. It’s a different way at looking at it, but it fits the method.
And the hero’s journey.
And then you get into other stuff, like plot point outlining, where the idea that your film has two main plot points that change the course of the script, with a middle point directly in between those.
Lo and behold, the two main plot points hit at roughly 30 and 90. Which is when the characters leave what they are familiar with and when all hope is lost. And the middle point is at 60 where…characters go active.
And just all these different ways, all these different methods, just all hark back to having your character go on a journey, and how modern audiences perceive that. And I dunno, I might be a geek, but I find it all sorts of wonderful. It gives us an emotional shorthand to how we watch our movies, and how we understand them.
And then when you break this structure, it’s also not a bad thing! It’s putting giant neon letters saying “LOOK AT THIS! LOOK AT HOW IT’S DIFFERENT!” and our brains just pay attention, because its now outside of the given structure we are used to when it comes to stories. (Best example for this, Lorenzo’s Oil. Also, most depressing example to ever bring up.) (Seriously we had to watch it to pick out the structure and trying to find the dark point in that movie is impossible.) (Hint it’s not when the father falls down the stairs crying in grief.) (OR IS IT)
Or when they break the structure it’s doing something different. Like South by Southwest, with it’s extra freaking sequence.
Or the grand epics, which are structured around simply a BEFORE and an AFTER. Like the 10 Commandments. Or Ben Hur.
Basically, for a TL;DR, screenwriting structure has given our brains an emotional shorthand for comprehending stories AND I THINK THAT’S BEAUTIFUL.
No. It is YOU who are beautiful. (For writing all that.)