In an earlier post, I touched on the three-act structure, but many of you have asked that I go into more detail on the subject.
The whole discussion of plotting a screenplay will be discussed in depth in an upcoming entry, but for now let’s look briefly at the way many screenplays are structured.
Aristotle, a Greek Philosopher, wrote a book called The Poetics. The book is actually a series of written fragments, but it is considered the bible for dramatists. According to Aristotle, a good story should have a beginning, middle, and an end.
Three-act structure, based on Aristotle’s principles, was adapted by playwrights and, later, by Hollywood. The three-act structure breaks a dramatic story into three sections called ‘acts.’
Act One is called the Set-Up. The basic conflict and the characters are introduced and fleshed out.
In Act Two, called the Conflict, the action escalates until it reaches a crisis.
In Act Three, the conflict reaches one more crisis, which leads to a resolution and conclusion.
The recipe for success is 1:2:1. In other words, Act Two is twice as long as Acts One and Three.
As a rule of thumb, if you use a two-hour film or a 120-page script as your model, Act One will run about 30 pages; Act Two, 50-60 pages; Act Three, 20-30 pages. And one page of a screenplay in correct format is equal to approximately one minute of screen time.
Classic examples of three-act structure:
The Wizard of Oz