Welcome to Act III, scribes!
I hope it's doing the same for you.
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.
Today we venture into Act III. As we get to the end of Story Structure, it's fun to examine where we came from and to start wreaking havoc in the lives of the characters we have come to know and love.
We're finally at the section of the script where we completely ruin the lives of the characters in your story.
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 Eight: Pages 70-80
We're entering Act III. Our characters have been through the wringer, and now it's time to break them.
We go to the movies for many reasons; to laugh, cry, cheer, and feel love. But to get the audience to feel these emotions, we have to show them a world without these feelings. That means pulling the rug out from under the people we love the most and seeing them at their lowest lows.
I know you've heard this before, but no one wants to watch a movie about the village of the happy people. They barely want to read about a screenwriter's quest to be happy.
So we can't pull punches on these pages.
You have to be mean, even when it's so hard.
Think about a movie like Bridesmaids. That movie is mostly about friendship. The worst thing you can do to the characters is to completely rip the central friendship apart.
Once that friendship is burnt down, you can use the next few pages to show the aftermath. It's not only time to rest, but time to explain the audience how badly the first fall hurts.
Even in different genres, we need to see a dramatic fall. Sometimes quite literally.
In Arrival, the theme of the movie is communication and non-violence. So when things fall apart, they blow apart. A bomb is sent into the alien craft. While we need things to fall apart, it's smart to also show how the fear of another culture and communication can completely blow away the audience.
We also benefit from the theme of the movie being reinforced, so the audience has a reminder as the pages wind down.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk9uALwZx0U
Let's look at a few more examples to play around in pages 70-80 in your screenplay!
Pages 70-80 Screenplay Examples
Frequently, I see a lot of first-time writers being way too easy on their characters. I was like that when I started too. I thought I went too far lots of times, but it was a rude awakening when I started reading the pros and seeing how awful they made things for their leads.
And how much better those scripts read than mine.
Case in point, the Alexander Payne movie, The Descendents. The movie is already bleak, but it takes everything to 11 when Clooney has to face his comatose wife.
Not only is this hard, but it's excruciating for him. He has to confront his failings—the things that drove his wife to cheat. It's powerful, intimate, and heartbreaking.
There are times when you think you can get away with making a character not have to face the music. Or the singing bad guy.
I think a lot about The Lion King. Not only because they're remaking it, but also because it probably could get away with Simba not having to face his worst moments.
The movie already has him see his father die, be exiled, and to lose a possible love.
But that's not enough.
Even in a kids' movie, you have to crush the hearts.
Simba still has to be faced with his part in all the bad things that have happened...so he can rise and take his place among the mature adults.
Even if that means looking within to move forward.
Sometimes characters look within, and it zaps all the air out of the room.
When Boromir tries to steal the ring from Frodo, it ruins the heart of the quest. We always knew Orcs would come for it and that there would be a battle. But it hurts the most to see the Fellowship crumble from within.
This harkens back to my advice on the movie's theme.
If you can make this moment echo the theme, it puts you in a stronger position for the rest of Act III.
The Fellowship was built on friendship and trust. The rest of the movies will be about alliances that fracture.
This is just a precursor or hardships and an excellent moment.
Summing Up the Free Screenwriting Seminar: Week Eight
So what did we learn?
Write your scenes and make sure you show no mercy on your characters. If you're having trouble picking a moment to crush everyone, go back to the theme of your movie.
Let those themes inspire you and make the opposite happen.
If you have trouble outlining what's happening, check out our Story Map.
TL;DR of this Free Screenwriting Seminar: Wk. 8
Week Eight Screenwriting Goals:
- Ruin your characters' lives and show us how they get by afterward.
- Reinforce the themes of the story
- Pages 70-80.
Week Eight Music Listen to While Screenwriting:
Get ready for 2019!