To prepare for tonight’s class, I’ve been reviewing the list of resources I recommend to my students. One of my favorites is Shurtleff’s Audition. One of my favorite pieces of advice in the book, intended for actors but easily adaptable to screenwriting, is “A Long Speech Is Just Several Short Speeches.” In the book, Shutleff writes:
“Actors panic at the sight of a long speech. But you can easily handle it by pretending it is several short speeches…”
This passage is just as important for writers and is one of the key points I focus on in my new book The Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting. Not only is 120 pages too much for a writer to tackle but so is the idea of a sixty page Act II.
Instead, I encourage all of you to approach a feature-length, 120-page script as four short questions that need to be answered. By using this approach, you will find that your Act I, Act II part 1 and Act III are almost immediately taken care of, leaving you with just a 30-page Act II part 2 to deal with.
And who wouldn’t rather worry about 30 pages instead of 120?