Congratulations, free screenwriting seminar reader. We’ve been going seven weeks strong, and you’re about to get the hell out of Act II.
Sure, there have been trials and tribulations for our characters, as well as our writers, but now it’s time to leave Act II and push into Act III.
Need a refresher? Check out our story structure post.
We’re going to release one of these every Friday, so if you’re joining late, you can find all the other weeks in our free online screenwriting course here.
Alright, let's dive in.
The Free Screenwriting Seminar Mission Statement
Most people access No Film School because they want to get information about cameras, gear, and storytelling. We’re aware that the luxury of attending film school is not available to most of the world, so we do our best to keep you all up to date on what’s out there and how you can shoot and create to your utmost potential.
What’s at the root of all filmmaking? Storytelling.
Over the next ten weeks, I’m going to give a free online screenwriting course. I’m going to teach you the fundamentals of screenwriting, coach you through 10-page sprints, and answer your questions about how your story can move forward in the comments section below each week.
If we’re going to finish this screenplay, we should get started right away. If you have some other stuff to do and only want to find out what to do this week, scroll down to the TL;DR portion.
Now, to the fun part!
Free Screenwriting Seminar Week Seven: Pages 60-70
So you survived the midpoint, and you're ready to round out Act II. Congratulations. But don't start slapping yourself on the back yet.
Act II is pretty complicated. We already went over some of the Story Map for it, but let's focus on where you've been and where you need to head.
Last week, at the midpoint, we learned our character had to reassess their problems.
In these pages, our characters need to try and fail.
Think about Indiana Jones. Once the Nazis have the ark, he chases after it.
We should feel like our heroes are getting ahead, but they should still be asking questions. These pages need to lead us to the fall, so get their spirits high.
Reassess the Problem - You’re at the middle. Is there another way to get it done?
Try and Fail - Things begin to fall apart, can they handle it?
The Fall - The worst thing happens, something so bad you don’t think you can get up.
These pages are crucial, because they're going to take your character right up to the brink, and then dash them against the rocks.
After all the trying, failing, learning, and succeeding, things might be looking up for your heroes. But they'll still have doubts.
I can't think of a better example than when Greg brings home the fake cat in Meet The Parents.
Greg has a problem; he needs Jack's blessing to get married. He thinks he can fix this situation by finding Jinx the cat.
The cat is gone, and in a desperation move, Greg uses one he finds at the pound to trick Jack. In pages 60-70 in the script, we see Greg reap the benefits of being the cat's savior. He enters the circle of trust, he's definitely in a good position to ask for Jack's daughter's hand, and it's all going well...
...until he hears the real Jinx has been found and has to race home.
Let's look at a few more examples to play around in pages 60-70 in your screenplay!
Pages 60-70 Screenplay Examples
I cannot believe it's been 25 years since You've Got Mail was released. It's impossible not to love a Nora Ephron movie, and I think the best parts of them are how tight and cumulative her second acts feel. They're all about building up ammo to crush you when the characters don't get together.
You've Got Mail does that especially well.
I love the way we transition from the characters flirting, to know who one another is, to the rival businesses, to maybe liking each other.
The movie sets them up to fail, but we have to see them winning too.
That means getting protestors outside Fox books, pushing her Mom & Pop shop forward, and getting us right on the brink of believing everything is okay...
Before we realize it's not.
But what about the culmination of a second act that has a little more pizzazz?
I'm talking about the original Mission: Impossible.
I think I watched this movie 50 times as a kid, and it still makes me cheer as an adult.
We went through Ethan hunt's trying and failing. We found Job. We learned where the list was held, and in the culmination of the second act, we're robbing the CIA.
This is an incredible was to thrust us toward Act III. We think our team is going to pull it off, but nothing is more fun than getting the audience's adrenaline going, and being ready to pull the rug out next.
And it's not just about action or comedy.
It can work in dramedies as well, like in The Birdcage.
Structurally, The Birdcage is incredibly unique. Most of the second act takes place at a dinner planned between the Senator and our gay couple, who are hiding their identities.
What's fun is, the dinner starts going well right off the bat, and keeps getting better. Sure, there are some close calls, but as the evening wanes, we need to build suspense in the audience's eyes.
You know something has to go wrong, so their second act is about nervous anticipation.
Summing Up Free Screenwriting Seminar Week Seven
So what did we learn?
Push your characters toward the brink and never let up.
Create a false sense of winning, so you can crush the audience.
And always try to end the second act by pushing the gas pedal toward the finish. You want to see the vulnerability of the people. It will keep the stakes real and keep us interested.
By now you should have all your characters named, but if not, check out our post on how to come up with some winning character names.
Keep writing, and post your questions in the comments section.
Next week, let's crush some characters' dreams.
TL;DR of this Free Screenwriting Seminar: Wk. 6
Week Seven Screenwriting Goals:
- Push your characters to the brink. They're about to break.
- Set everything up to fall apart.
- Pages 60-70.
Week Seven Music Listen to While Screenwriting: