3 ACTS

 

3-Act structure theory originated with Aristotle's Poetics and was popularized for modern screenplays by Syd Field in his book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. At its core, 3 Acts boils down to: Beginning, Middle, and End (hence, its timelessness). Even the individual acts can be sub-divided into Beginning, Middle, and End.

 

The default target length for this template is set to 120 pages, but it can be changed to suit a project's needs by going to Document > Change Target Script Length.

 

Act 1: Beginning

Establish setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Act 2: Middle

Escalate setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Act 3: End

Resolve setting, characters, and conflict.

 

4 Acts

 

4-Act structure takes the three acts originally described in Aristotle's Poetics and popularized for modern screenplays by Syd Field in his book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting and splits the second act into two halves. The halves are often separated by a strong midpoint.

 

The default target length for this template is set to 120 pages, but it can be changed to suit a project's needs by going to Document > Change Target Script Length.

 

Act 1: Beginning

Establish setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Act 2A:  First Half of Middle

Escalate setting, characters, and conflict building to a strong midpoint.

 

Act 2B: Second Half of Middle

Escalate setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Act 3: End

Resolve setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Acts & Sequences

 

3-Act structure theory originated with Aristotle's Poetics and was repopularized for screenplays by Syd Field in Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. Sequence structure evolved from the necessity of dividing early films into reels. It was first taught by Frank Daniel, the former dean of USC School of Cinema-Television, and later by Paul Joseph Gulino in his book Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach.

 

The default target length for this template is set to 120 pages, but it can be changed to suit a project's needs by going to Document > Change Target Script Length.

 

Act 1: Beginning (Set Up)

Establish setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Sequence A

Status quo

 

Sequence B

The external want made explicit

 

Act 2: Middle (Confrontation)

Escalate setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Sequence C

Exploring the new world

 

Sequence D

1st big test overcome

 

Sequence E

Forces gathering

Sequence F

Hitting the wall

 

Act 3: End (Resolution)

Resolve setting, characters, and conflict.

 

Sequence G

Desperate action

 

Sequence H

Success and aftermath

 

ANDY GUERDAT ON “THE Z”

What I’ve learned about structure after telling, and selling, hundreds of produced TV and movie stories is this: the secret of success isn’t found by ADDING some magical formula to your script but rather by REDUCING storytelling to its essence.

 

The job: you’re trying to engage an audience (whether in a theater or on a sofa or behind a development executive’s desk) by exciting their emotions.

 

Therefore, when structuring a movie, your first and only goal should be to NOT bore your audience, and the quickest way to bore them is to let them get ahead of your story. That’s why so many “well-structured” movies actually aren’t, because their writers dutifully followed some pre-conceived storytelling formula that allowed the audience to predict the next story move, and they forgot to ask WHY such formulas ever took root to begin with. There’s a reason why the Three- Act Structure developed over time and it’s not because Aristotle or Syd Field or I or anyone else told you to; it’s because shifting the ground under your protagonist’s feet (and thus, your audience’s) about 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through your story is usually the best way to keep them from getting bored and walking out on your 90 minutes of genius.

 

Think of the storytelling process as the route of a broken-field runner on a football field: constantly juking, deking and eluding the opponent (in our case, boredom). You should be doing this in every one of your story beats, scenes and lines of dialogue, of course, but the fundamental shifts that will keep the audience in a constant state of delighted catch-up are those three acts.

 

So try thinking of your “turn into two” (and three) as a Pivot Point: something major happens in your story that spins your protagonist so that he or she has a new relationship to the central conflict (or if you prefer, logline or story spine) and thus has a new set of conflicts to face. You’re not creating a new central story conflict but rather a new goal for your protagonist in relation to that overarching conflict. (Maybe that’s why they call it spinning a tale. Hmm.)

When done well, the audience FEELS the story shift gears and rev its engine. Like when Gene Hackman in “The Conversation” deciphers the lovers’ conversation he recorded and realizes the husband who hired him is going to kill the two lovers if he gets his hands on that recording. No way the audience was leaving the theater. At least not for another thirty minutes, when Coppola spun their heads around again with his next dazzling Pivot Point.

 

That’s why I teach screenwriting using a Z-shaped structure. It forces me and my students to “see” the shape of the movie the way it ought to look -- or, more accurately, feel. The hallways and hard drives of Hollywood are littered with “well-structured” screenplays that will never sell or get produced because their writers lost track of why people watch movies in the first place. Your only goal is to create emotion in an audience and keep them engaged with your story’s lively unpredictability -- all moving along that story spine to the final unpredictable-but-gratifying emotional catharsis at the climax. The “rules” of screenwriting, starting with the Three-Act Structure, are merely a means to that end.

 

Z-SHAPED STRUCTURE:

 

Start

Act I: Initial Goal

 

Pivot Point

Leads into Act II: New Goal

 

Pivot Point

Leads into Act III: Final Goal

 

Climax

Emotional catharsis.

 

CHRIS VOGLER'S THE WRITERS JOURNEY: MYTHIC STRUCTURE FOR WRITERS, 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION TEMPLATE

 

This template is the perfect accompaniment to the book it was based on, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition, written by Chris Vogler,  published by Michael Wiese Productions. *Percentage Goals in the Outline Editor are rough estimates for demonstration purposes. Your final page counts may vary.

Purchase your copy direct: shop.mwp.com/products/the-writers-journey

 

Archetypes:

HERO -- the main character, the primary carrier of the action, the one who has the most to learn and the greatest distance to travel. Often the most sympathetic person in the story, the most like "us".In the hero's journey pattern, the hero is usually changed by a brush with death or failure and transformed into a more complete and fully realized human being.(Having two heroes is a possibility, called a "two-hander", like THELMA AND LOUISE or HOUSE OF CARDS. Also multiple heroes or ensemble casts like LORD OF THE RINGS, GAME OF THRONES or THE OFFICE.)

 

HERALD -- character who brings warnings or the Call to Adventure. May be a job performed by some other character archetype, such as Mentor, Shapeshifter, Ally or Shadow, or the job may be assigned to a specific character who only has this one job to do. Could also be an impersonal force announcing the coming of great change, such as an impending storm, a rumor of war, or some other kind of crisis. The Greek god Hermes (the Romans' Mercury) is this kind of messenger.

 

MENTOR -- an experienced character who encounters the hero at a moment of doubt, offering gifts of reassurance, training, or magical equipment. The essence of this archetype is wisdom and the act of giving. The Mentor helps move the story along and provides a role model that the Hero can internalize, to access later in the story in some moment of crisis. (Having a Mentor is optional; very good stories have been made where there is no Mentor, leaving the hero to face fears alone, or where there is no Mentor visible to be portrayed by an actor, but the Mentor energy is still present as the hero's internalized code of ethics.)

 

SHAPESHIFTER -- someone the hero meets whose nature seems to keep changing, such as a potential lover, a possible traitor, or an ally whose loyalty is doubtful. Can be the loved one in a romance or romantic comedy, or a friend or colleague whose identity keeps shifting, leading the hero to be temporarily confused. May represent a mirror image of the hero -- possessing all the qualities the hero lacks, or reflecting back the hero's own identity issues.

 

SHADOW -- the dark side of the hero, his or her dark reflection. Sometimes this is simply expressed as the villain or the hero's rival, opponent, or competitor. But it can also be expressed as almost anything that the hero denies, is afraid of, ashamed of, or unconscious about.

 

TRICKSTER -- the necessary comic relief in any story. Someone whose job is to play little tricks that reveal the pretensions of other characters, the hero, or society at large. A Hero may also be a Trickster by nature, but often the Trickster is the hero's wise-cracking friend or companion on the adventure, like Donkey in the Shrek movies.

 

THRESHOLD GUARDIAN -- a character or a force that guards the border between different lands. These figures may seem threatening to the hero, appearing to block the way, but the wise hero learns to win them over or outwit them, neutralizing their blocking energy or even absorbing it, turning a potential enemy into an ally. They may work for the Shadow or villain, but may also just be a natural part of the landscape.

 

ALLY -- the hero sometimes needs a friend or companion to share the adventure. These characters amplify the hero, complementing his or her qualities, expressing humor, doubt or grief that the hero can't afford to show. Sometimes they inspire and motivate the hero, and they can form wonderful character relationships, like the partnerships of Don Quixote and his peasant squire Sancho Panza, or Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson. We can find this story of deep friendship in the earliest recorded story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, about the relationship of Gilgamesh the king with his buddy, wild man of the forest Enkidu.

 

OTHER POSSIBILITIES -- You can think of other categories of character that come up often, such as FATHER or MOTHER FIGURE, TRAVELING ANGEL (someone who drifts through stories, changing other people without being changed much himself) aka CATALYST CHARACTER, DISRUPTER, TRUTH-TELLER, FAMILY ENABLER, etc. It's a good idea to start a notebook of character types that occur frequently.

THE HERO'S JOURNEY STRUCTURE

 

ORDINARY WORLD:

The hero's origin and home base, a world the hero knows very well, though he or she may not feel comfortable there. The hero is tugged at by different desires and demands, but learns that ultimately this world must be escaped.

 

THE ORDINARY WORLD

Introduce the hero in his/her normal setting, or suggest the hero's background. Show how the hero is struggling to adapt to a challenging world. Contradictions and tensions are building up pressure for change. Maybe everything seems okay, but the seeds of discontent are visible.

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE

Something happens that triggers the hero's awareness of a strong desire, powerful need or a problem that must be faced. The methods that allowed the hero to maintain a position in the Ordinary World are no longer working.

 

REFUSAL OF THE CALL

The hero experiences doubt and fear, and may try to avoid the adventure altogether. Or, if the hero is eager and willing, somebody else expresses doubt, warning of danger ahead.

 

MEETING THE MENTOR

The hero needs a source of inspiration and information about the road ahead, and finds it, often in the form of someone older and wiser in the ways of adventure who gives guidance or magical equipment. The hero is tested and trained at the hands of a master, or, if there is no master around, the hero finds re-assurance in some internal code of ethics or instinct. The audience begins to suspect the hero is driven by something that he/she desperately wants, but that there is something deeper in the emotional realm that the hero desperately needs, such as self-esteem, respect for others, or a higher purpose in life.

SPECIAL WORLD:

An unfamiliar place or condition that challenges the hero's assumptions and habits. There is great danger here of failure, death or disappointment, but also a source of great power that is the hero's birthright. Everything is different here, in stark contrast to the Ordinary World. The hero will probably be changed by confronting the challenges of this new land.

 

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD

The hero takes the plunge into the adventure, crossing the boundary that separates the Ordinary from the Special World. It can be a quick transition, or an extended sequence of traveling to a far distant country. The audience sees a big contrast between the environments of the Ordinary and Special Worlds.

 

TEST, ALLIES ENEMIES

The hero begins to learn the ropes of the Special World, and discovers what's different and special about it. The hero is tested in some theater of conflict, learning his/her strengths and weaknesses and the opposing sides that are inevitably competing in this world. The hero makes some allies in the new world, but also clashes with potential enemies. The lines of struggle are drawn and the hero must choose sides.

 

APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE

Having learned some rules of the Special World, the hero turns to go deeper into the Special World, aiming to reach some central target or goal. Relationships and intrigues deepen on the road. First impressions about others and old ideas about himself/herself are challenged, and the hero reaches more profound levels of understanding.

 

THE ORDEAL

The hero faces his or her greatest fear. Often in a lonely place, the hero confronts a monster, a powerful enemy, or his/her own inner demons. There is a sense of facing death; either the hero appears to die or has to experience death in some form, death of others, death of ambition or dreams, temporary death of hope. But after a dark moment of death, there is a rebirth in some form.

 

REWARD

The hero celebrates the victory over death and fear, and takes possession of some treasure or reward. Heroes become more attractive, more god-like, and may gain almost supernatural powers (like detectives who get a flash of insight after a brush with death). There may be opportunities for romance or for self-reflection, leading to a commitment to continue on the journey in a new configuration, with a renewed sense of purpose.

 

ORDINARY WORLD

The hero's origin and home base, a world the hero knows very well, though he or she may not feel comfortable there.

 

THE ROAD BACK

The hero faces some setback just as he/she is about to leave the Special World and return to normal life. The treasure is lost or stolen, the hero is injured or betrayed, or a beloved member of the team is kidnapped by enemies, creating a sense of urgency. There is often a vigorous chase, providing a shot of energy to revive audience interest.

 

THE RESURRECTION

Almost on the doorstep of home, the hero faces one more major test, or perhaps a series of tests. This is the hero's final exam, repeating the death-and-rebirth scenario of Stage Eight, the Ordeal, but testing the hero on every level of being, physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual. It should be the climax of the movie, the highest point of tension in the whole design. Again the hero may appear to die, creating suspense for the audience in what is called a "dark moment", but usually the hero recovers and is reborn, fully in control of his/her powers. (In a tragedy there may be a corresponding "light moment" in which the hero appears to be getting away with his/her mistakes, only to be brought to ultimate justice and destruction.)

 

RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR

The hero returns home or continues on the journey, carrying something that has been gained on the adventure and sharing it willingly with everyone else. The conflicts are resolved, the goals are achieved, and the hero comes to some new understanding of his/her place in the world.

 

Dan Harmon's Story Circle

 

Writer/Producer Dan Harmon demystified story theory (including Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces) in a now legendary series of blog posts. Harmon's approach looks like a circle, moving clockwise through eight stages of a story focused on a journey with a return and a change.

 

To Read the Blog

Go to https://channel101.fandom.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

 

1. YOU

A character is in a comfort zone.

 

2. NEED

But they want something.

 

3. GO!

They enter an unfamiliar situation.

 

4. SEARCH

Adapt to it.

 

5. FIND

Get what they wanted.

 

6. TAKE

Pay a heavy price for it.

 

7. RETURN

They return to their familiar situation.

 

8. CHANGE

Having changed.

 
 

DMA/Donna Michelle Anderson's 1-3-5 StoryStructure

 

Veteran TV showrunner and executive and patented tech entrepreneur, DMA (Donna Michelle Anderson) first developed her 1-3-5 Story Structure Made Simple System as a story analyst at a major Hollywood production company. She was soon teaching the 1-3-5 at film festivals, industry conferences, and the prestigious UCLA Extension Writing Program. The 1-3-5 was the first story system integrated into Final Draft.

THE SET-UP

First, establish the normal existence and expectations of your Main Character - but only enough to give context and meaning to the Unexpected Change that is about to occur.

 

THE UNEXPECTED CHANGE

Next, a single event must occur that upsets your Main Character's expectations and experience of normal life and launches his or her journey.

 

THE REJECTION - "I DON'T WANT"

No one likes or accepts change in the instant it happens! Your Main Character now must exert the least possible effort to restore life to exactly the way it was before. (Ideally occurs in first 10% of total page count.)

 

THE COMMITMENT

Your main character eventually accepts that the Unexpected Change is not going to go away and commits to reluctantly struggling through this new life. (Ideally occurs in first 20% of total page count.)

THE REVERSAL

Halfway through your script, your Main Character must fully embrace the Unexpected Change for purely self-serving reasons. (Ideally occurs within 5 pages before or after 50% of total page count.)

THE EMBRACE - "I DO WANT"

The Embrace is best seen, not heard. In a comedy, it is typically a montage to a hot track. In romance, it is typically a love scene. In action, it is typically a high-energy action sequence with the Main Character in full control and engagement. Keep dialogue to a minimum!

 

THE RETURN OF THE MAIN OPPONENT

Now that your Main Character embraces his or her new life, it is time to surprise him or her with a significant obstacle - which is always the Main Opponent with newly heightened powers.

 

THE ESCALATION

The entire second half of your script will feature an increasingly focused and escalating duel between your Main Character and the Main Opponent.

 

THE FINAL BATTLE

Ultimately, your Main Character must physically face off against the Main Opponent and fight on behalf of self and a greater cause.

 

THE TWIST

To heighten jeopardy for your Main Character, you may want to add a surprise "reveal" (built on earlier hints) that further challenges, limits or weakens your Main Character during the Final Battle.

 

ROCK BOTTOM

At the end of the Final Battle, your Main Character must be at his or her greatest point of weakness, with no support and seemingly no way out, while your Main Opponent is at his/her/its greatest point of power.

 

THE FINAL CHOICE

In the last moment of the Final Battle, give your Main Character precisely the choice he or she had to make after the Unexpected Change, now with far greater consequences.

 

THE SACRIFICE - "I RELUCTANTLY GIVE UP"

Your Main Character should choose to reluctantly give up what he or she wants to become a better person and make the world a better place.

 

THE REWARD

Your Main Character ultimately must be rewarded for his or her Sacrifice. (Ideally occurs within the last 5% of total page count.)

MICHAEL HAUGE'S 6-STAGE STRUCTURE TEMPLATE

 

Hollywood script consultant and story expert Michael Hauge's approach to plot structure identifies six essential stages to any properly structured story (feature film, TV episode, or novel). These stages are defined by five key turning points, which occur at essentially the same moment in every great story, particularly in successful Hollywood movies.

 

FREE COMPANION STRUCTURE CHART

To make the best of this template, download a FREE CHART of Michael Hauge's 6-Stage Structure for both the Inner and Outer Journeys: www.StoryMastery.com/chart. Then surf around his website to see lots more free articles and videos.

 

ABOUT THIS TEMPLATE

This template will guide you through those six stages as you write your screenplay, identify where the five turning points should occur, and reveal the elements you should consider at appropriate moments in your script to elicit maximum emotion in readers and audiences.

Michael's approach applies to what he terms the Hero's OUTER JOURNEY of accomplishment - the Hero's pursuit of a clearly defined, visible goal or finish line - and the Hero's INNER JOURNEY of transformation, as the Hero completes his or her arc from living in fear to living courageously.

Michael's terms and recommendations will be defined and explained throughout this template. For more detailed explanations of the principles and methods behind his entire approach to structure and character arc, watch the DVD or streaming video versions of his lecture with Christopher Vogler, THE HERO'S TWO JOURNEYS (StoryMastery.com/H2J) and read his book WRITING SCREENPLAYS THAT SELL (StoryMastery.com/WSTS).

 

COLOR-CODING

We use color-coding and superscript symbols to indicate and explain the various story and structure principles used throughout the template.

Terms marked with *** are defined and explained in the purple boxes to the right of the Beat Board.

 

COLOR CODES:

GREEN: Outer Journey Stages

YELLOW: Inner Journey Stages

BLUE: Key Turning Points

PURPLE: Terms, Definitions and Explanations

RED: Love Story Principles

 

OUTER JOURNEY STAGE I: SETUP

During the first 10% of your screenplay you must:

1. Use a few succinct, vivid details to draw us into the initial setting of the story;

2. Make certain the setting is somehow reflective of your HERO***, and conveys the mood and tone of the script;

3. Introduce the Hero;

4. If you're writing a movie with two or more equal Heroes, introduce them separately,

before the 10% OPPORTUNITY;

5. Show the Hero living his or her everyday life, before any extraordinary event that will begin moving the story forward;

6. Create EMPATHY*** for your Hero.

 

INNER JOURNEY STAGE I: SETUP

During the first 10% of your screenplay you must:

1. Show your Hero living fully in his or her IDENTITY ***;

 

2. Show the Hero as stuck in a state of inertia, settling for, or tolerating, a life that is not fulfilling;

 

3. State through dialogue what the Hero needs - what quality the Hero will be forced to acquire through the course of the screenplay.

 

TURNING POINT #1: THE OPPORTUNITY (10 %)

At the 10% mark of your screenplay something must happen to your Hero that has never happened before. This surprising event - which could be seen as either a blessing or a curse - will create some kind of problem for your Hero that will yank her out of her state of inertia, and force her to take some kind of action.

 

OUTER JOURNEY STAGE II: NEW SITUATION

For the next 15% of your screenplay, your Hero must:

1. Leave his ordinary world - sometimes traveling to a new location;

2. Try to figure out what the rules of this new situation are, how he fits in, and what course of action is best;

3. Define a specific OUTER MOTIVATION***;

4. Encounter the other PRIMARY CHARACTERS of the story (unless they were introduced in STAGE I): REFLECTION***, NEMESIS*** and ROMANCE***.

 

INNER JOURNEY STAGE II: NEW SITUATION

For the next 15% of your screenplay, your Hero must:

1. Remain fully in his or her Identity;

2. Get a glimpse of what living in her ESSENCE*** would be like;

3. If this is a love story, begin recognizing the Romance character's Essence.

And when the Hero defines and declares her Outer Motivation, it is always a goal she believes will allow her to stay in her Identity.

 

TURNING POINT #2: THE CHANGE OF PLANS (25%)

At the 25% mark of your screenplay (the beginning of Act 2) your Hero must declare the Outer Motivation and begin pursuing it. Though he may have formulated or even declared his objective in Stage II, it is not until the CHANGE OF PLANS that he takes action to achieve it.

 

LOVE STORIES

Hollywood love stories almost always involve a Hero who is pursuing TWO different Outer Motivations - only one of which is to win the love of the Romance character. The other visible goal will determine whether the film is a Romantic Comedy, Romantic Adventure, Romantic Thriller or Romantic Fantasy.

 

OUTER JOURNEY STAGE III: PROGRESS

For the next 25% of your screenplay, your Hero must formulate a plan for achieving the Outer Motivation, and begin executing it. The OUTER CONFLICT*** will consist primarily of obstacles inherent in pursuing this goal, and the Hero will be able to avoid or overcome those challenges and make steady progress toward the finish line.

 

INNER JOURNEY STAGE III: PROGRESS

For the next 25% of your screenplay, your Hero will vacillate between living in his Essence (moving forward but emotionally vulnerable) and his Identity (emotionally safe but hesitant, stuck and unfulfilled). In this stage the Hero will retain the option of returning to his Identity and the life he was living during the Setup.

 

LOVE STORIES

As your Hero and Romance grow closer, be certain that the reason they are falling in love involves more than just physical attraction. They must each recognize the other's Essence, and they should connect at that level.

 

LOVE STORIES

Even though the Outer Motivation may include winning the love of another character, Heroes and Romance characters are often reluctant or unwilling to acknowledge - even to themselves - their growing love and attraction for each other. But if they are moving closer to each other in some way by the CHANGE OF PLANS turning point, and if the audience is rooting for them to be together, that qualifies as "pursuit" - even if the characters won't admit it.

 

TURNING POINT #3: THE POINT OF NO RETURN (50%)

At the midpoint of your screenplay your Hero must fully commit to the goal - usually with a verbal declaration and/or some decisive action. Once the Hero crosses this threshold, the possibility of returning to the setup and living her former life (at least without suffering great loss) disappears.

 

LOVE STORIES

In love stories and romantic comedies, the POINT OF NO RETURN is almost invariably the moment when the Hero makes love with the Romance character for the first time, kisses her for the first time, asks her out on their first "official" date, or says "I love you" for the first time - all forms of declaring his feelings and bringing them into the open.

 

OUTER JOURNEY STAGE IV: COMPLICATIONS & HIGHER STAKES

Once your Hero has crossed the POINT OF NO RETURN, several things happen:

1. The outside world starts closing in on the Hero;

 

2. The Nemesis will confront the Hero more directly;

 

3. The Outer Conflict increases, as the obstacles become bigger and more difficult to overcome;

 

4. The pace of the story accelerates, as the obstacles occur with increasing frequency;

 

5. Achieving the Outer Motivation becomes much more difficult;

 

6. The stakes are higher - the Hero has a lot more to lose if he fails.

 

INNER JOURNEY STAGE IV: COMPLICATIONS & HIGHER STAKES

After making a greater commitment to her Outer Motivation, the Hero will now move steadily towards living in her Essence, making her increasingly vulnerable, both physically AND emotionally.

 

TURNING POINT #4: THE MAJOR SETBACK (75%)

At the 75% mark of your screenplay your Hero must suffer a colossal setback that makes it seem to your readers and audience that all is lost.

 

LOVE STORIES

The Hero and Romance character MUST break up - or be split apart - at the MAJOR SETBACK. No exceptions!

 

OUTER JOURNEY STAGE V: RETREAT AND FINAL PUSH

After suffering the Major Setback, your Hero will abandon his pursuit of the Outer Motivation, and will attempt to return to the life he was living in the SETUP. (Often this will mean physically returning to the place where he was living at the beginning of the screenplay.)

 

But then, often with encouragement from the Reflection, the Hero will experience some new insight, then put everything on the line, return to his quest, and make one, final, all-or-nothing attempt to achieve his Outer Motivation.

 

INNER JOURNEY STAGE V: RETREAT AND FINAL PUSH

For the next 15-24% of your screenplay, your Hero must:

1. Retreat back into his Identity;

 

2. Recognize that this protective persona doesn't work any more - that the price of feeling safe is too great, because it keeps him from what he truly wants and needs;

 

3. Accept his fear, and pursue his Outer Motivation - and his destiny - anyway;

 

4. Move fully into his Essence (unless this is a tragedy, in which he will ultimately give up on his Outer Motivation and remain in his Identity - unfulfilled).

 

TURNING POINT #5: THE CLIMAX (90-99%)

At the CLIMAX of your screenplay, you must resolve your Hero's Outer Motivation clearly and definitively. The Hero will face the greatest obstacle of her journey (which usually involves a final confrontation with the Nemesis) - and then achieve the goal, lose the goal, or abandon the goal in pursuit of some nobler objective.

 

LOVE STORIES

In all romance novels and almost all Hollywood romantic comedies, the Hero and Romance are united in a committed relationship at the climax. In other love story genres (romantic adventure, romantic thriller, etc.) this may or may not happen. These can have a sad ending, where the Hero loses the Romance due to death (TITANIC) or the need to pursue some higher calling (CASABLANCA). But the ending is only tragic if the Hero loses the Romance because his fear keeps him in his Identity (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN).

 

OUTER & INNER JOURNEYS STAGE VI: THE AFTERMATH

The AFTERMATH will sometimes be an extended sequence of up to 10 pages, and sometimes give just the briefest glimpse of the Hero's new life, or the lives of the other characters. The length of the AFTERMATH will determine the position of the CLIMAX that precedes it - thus the range of percentages for the CLIMAX.

 

For the final stage of your screenplay, you must:

1. Show your Hero living her new life - reaping the rewards or consequences of having found the courage to complete her arc and achieve her Outer Motivation, or of failing to exhibit the necessary courage and losing everything of real importance;

 

2. Reveal how other characters and the outside world have changed as result of your Hero's actions.

 

ABOUT THIS FINAL DRAFT SERIES BIBLE TEMPLATE

 

There are two kinds of series bibles: 

A writers guide: an evolving document revised and amended as a series advances used by the writing staff and freelancers. And a series proposal: a sales document to show network executives you have a vision of where the series will go.

 

You can customize this template to serve either purpose by adding or removing sections as needed. This template will suggest the format and section lengths using actual section names and generic text. Replace generic text with your own.

 

OVERVIEW

Following the title page, the Overview will be the first section of your bible. This contains a broad synopsis of the story, genre, characters, plots, world, themes and tone of the series. It should also include who the hero is, their wants and needs and what is at stake if they do not achieve their goals. Aim to clarify what makes this idea a possible series or franchise: traditionally called the “legs” -- the potential for many episodes, historically 100 or more. Do this by establishing a clear Series Engine:

A central conflict that serves as a springboard for stories. While it might evolve, the central conflict shouldn’t be resolved until the very end of the series -- possibly not even then. Overview should be about a half page long.

 

WHY THIS, WHY NOW?

This should cover about 1/4 or 1/3 of a page and should describe the relevance and urgency of producing this series now. This is where to make the hard sales pitch on your series. What is unique about this story? What are the themes? What current societal issues are explored through the series, regardless of its time period and setting?

 

THE WORLD

This is where you describe the time(s) and place(s) in which your series occurs. Tell about the world's mythology, rules and history. This can be 1/4 to 1/2 page long.

 

TONE & TOPICS

This where you can dive into more detail about the range and types of subject matter and themes the series will cover. How will the show's visual style reflect the emotional resonance? This should cover about 1/4 or 1/3 a page.

 

SERIES BACKSTORY

This is where to set up your characters and settings' backstories. What are your characters' traits and arcs? Their past will affect future choices. This should be about 1/2 a page long. It doesn’t need to be front-loaded; ideally, we’ll discover it as we go.

 

WHERE WE BEGIN

Describe what happened before your pilot episode. Is there any catalyst not shown in the pilot? Think of this as the unseen teaser. This section can be 1/4 to 1/3 a page long.

 

CHARACTERS

This is where to describe the key recurring characters in your series. This section should be 1 to 3 pages long. Always begin with your protagonist and work your way down from key to minor characters. Who are they? What do they want? What’s their paradox? What’s their dilemma? What are their emotional stakes? Why? What action do they take in pursuit of their objective? Consider your web of characters a family, even if they’re not biologically related. What keeps them together? What conflict can they never fully resolve? Focus on sustainable character dynamics that create conflict. How do your ensemble challenge your protagonist and each other? What emotions and desires drive them? How do they feed the conflict? How do they serve your premise?

 

PROTAGONIST:

Protagonist description.

 

CHARACTER 2:

Character description.

 

CHARACTER 3:

Character description.

 

CHARACTER 4:

Character description.

 

CHARACTER 5:

Character description.

 

CHARACTER 6:

Character description.

 

PILOT

This is a detailed 1 page synopsis of your pilot episode. It can be for a “Premise” pilot that sets up your story, or a “Prototype” pilot that could be any episode -- the 3rd, the 6th, the 9th. But it must be engaging, or your reader will stop reading. By the end of the pilot, the audience must know the hero’s emotional and external wants, needs, paradoxes, dilemmas and conflicts -- enough to begin rooting for the outcome. The series’ world, tone and genre should also be clear.

 

Remember: Conflicts are usually internal and external, tied to theme. Stories are often strongest when the conflict is simple and based on a dilemma.

 

The storytelling goal is to consistently put the protagonist (and others) in situations where the choices they make will further reveal their character.

 

There should also be a sense of whether your series will consist of standalone episodes, serialized episodes, or a hybrid of the two. And a sense of narrative drive -- that each scene will move the story forward.

 

Each episode in a dramatic series will be approximately 53-60 pages long, with an approximate runtime of 42 minutes (although that now varies with the rise of streaming). Each episode in a dramatic series will traditionally have 4, 5 or 6 acts.

 

In comedic (single-cam) series episodes will be approximately 28-35 pages, with an approximate runtime of 22 minutes (although that also now varies). In a comedic (multi-cam) series episodes will be approximately 40-47 pages, with an approximate runtime of 22 minutes. Episodes in a comedic series will traditionally have 2 or 3 acts.

 

This particular series is designed with a 13 episode season in mind, including the Pilot. This bible will outline 5 seasons worth of episodes. Think of all the seasons and episodes as parts of one big story with a beginning, middle and end.

 

SEASON 1 EPISODES

This section is formatted on a new page and starts with episode 2 since the Pilot has already been synopsized.

 

EP.2-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.3-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.4-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.5-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.6-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.7-S.1 - MID-SEASON: Brief episode description.

 

EP.8-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.9-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.10-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.11-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.12-S.1: Brief episode description.

 

EP.13-S.1 - SEASON FINALE: Brief episode description.

 

SEASON 2 EPISODES

For Season 2 and beyond, a brief synopsis of the emotional arcs and conflicts may suffice. But for a more detailed bible, each of the 13 episodes could have its own brief paragraph description. The format duplicates that of the Season 1 episodes.

EP.1-S.2 and so on till SEASON FINALE

 

SEASON 3 EPISODES

Starts on a new page.

EP.1-S.3 and so on till SEASON FINALE

 

SEASON 4 EPISODES

Starts on a new page.

EP.1-S.4 and so on till SEASON FINALE

 

SEASON 5 EPISODES

Starts on a new page.

EP.1-S.5 and so on till SEASON FINALE

 

OTHER ANCILLARY MARKETS

This should start a new page. Depending how many mediums you choose to discuss, this can be a 1/4 page to several pages. Each medium should be its own paragraph.

 

VIDEO GAMES

Other ancillary markets description.

 

MOBILE APPS

Other ancillary markets description.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Other ancillary markets description.

 

WEB SERIES SPIN-OFFS

Other ancillary markets description.

 

FEATURE FILM

Other ancillary markets description.

 

BOOKS

Other ancillary markets description.

 

GRAPHIC NOVELS/COMICS

Other ancillary markets description.

 

VR/AR

Other ancillary markets description.

 

AMUSEMENT PARKS

Other ancillary markets description.

 

ABOUT BLAKE SNYDER’S SAVE THE CAT!®

 

This template was based upon ideas from the Save the Cat!® books published by Michael Wiese Productions (www.mwp.com) and Save the Cat! Press. If you are not familiar with Save the Cat!, visit www.savethecat.com for free screenwriting articles and beat sheets. Save the Cat! also makes the popular Save the Cat! software and iPhone and iPad app that imports and exports Final Draft (.fdx) files. Save the Cat! software has many additional and advanced features you won't find in this template.

 

ABOUT SAVE THE CAT! GENRES

In his book, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, Blake Snyder organizes scripts into ten basic genres. These genres are listed below.

 

Monster in the House

3 primary components: Monster, House, Sin

A culpable hero is forced to save a trapped group of people from being killed by a monster he/she inadvertently unleashed.

 

Golden Fleece

3 primary components: Road, Team, Prize

A driven hero must lead a group of allies to retrieve a prized possession through a perilous journey that wasn't what the hero expected.

 

Out of the Bottle

3 primary components: Wish, Spell, Lesson

A covetous hero must learn to undo a spell he/she wished for before it turns into a curse he/she can't undo.

 

Dude with a Problem

3 primary components: Innocent Hero, Sudden Event, Life or Death

An unwitting hero must survive at all costs when he/she is dragged into a life or death situation he/she never saw coming and cannot escape.

 

Rites of Passage

3 primary components: Life Problem, Wrong Way, Acceptance A troubled hero's only way to overcome a spiraling life crisis is to defeat his/her worst enemy - himself/herself.

 

Buddy Love

3 primary components: Incomplete Hero, Counterpart, Complication

An inadequate hero must rise above an extremely difficult situation to be with a uniquely unlikely partner who is the only one capable of bringing him/her peace.

 

Whydunit

3 primary components: Detective, Secret, Dark Turn

A single-minded hero must find the truth to a mystery so intriguing before he/she is swallowed by the darkness he/she desperately seeks to expose.

 

Fool Triumphant

3 primary components: Fool, Establishment, Transmutation

An innocent hero's only way to defeat the prejudices of a group is to change himself/herself without losing what made him/her the group's target of disdain in the first place - his/her uniqueness.

 

Institutionalized

3 primary components: Group, Choice, Sacrifice

An outsider's only way to save his/her individuality is by going against the many who wish to integrate him/her into their fold.

 

Superhero

3 primary components: Special Power, Nemesis, Curse

A uniquely special hero must defeat an opponent with stronger capabilities by using the same powers that disconnect him/her from the people he/she hopes to save.

 

 

ABOUT BEATS

Within each Save the Cat! genre are fifteen beats. These beats are important scenes or sequences that typically occur near the same place in every script or movie. The page number where a beat typically occurs is indicated below in parentheses. This page number is based on a 110-page script. If your script is longer or shorter than 110 pages, the location of your beats may vary.

 

It's also good to note that, as can be seen in a few of the examples, while the beats usually follow a specific pattern and occur at certain moments in a script, it is not always the case - the order of beats can sometimes vary. There are times the beats can be considered ”movable parts” that work together to tell a story - and the transformation of your hero - in the best possible way.

 

This allows screenwriters to maintain their own unique creative voices while still providing their audience with a familiar form of storytelling that will resonate.

 

 

SAVE THE CAT! BEATS

 

Opening Image (page 1) - The scene in the movie that sets up the tone, type, and initial salvo of a film, a ”before” snapshot -- and the opposite of the Final Image.

 

Theme Stated (page 5) - Usually spoken to the main character, often without knowing what is said will be vital to his/her surviving this tale. It's what your movie is ”about.”

 

Setup (pages 1-10) - The first 10 pages of a script must not only grab our interest and a studio reader's but introduce or hint at introducing every character in the A Story.

 

Catalyst (page 12) - The telegram, the knock at the door, the act of catching a spouse in bed with another -- something that is done to the hero to shake him/her.

 

Debate (pages 12-25) - The section of the script, be it a scene or a series of scenes, when the hero doubts the journey he/she must take.

 

Break into Two (page 25) - Act Two, that is; it is where we leave the ”Thesis” world behind and enter the upside-down ”Anti- thesis” world of Act Two. The hero makes a choice -- and his/her journey begins.

 

B Story (page 30) - The ”love” story, traditionally, but actually where the discussion about the theme of a good movie is found.

 

Fun and Games (pages 30-55) - Here we forget plot and enjoy ”set pieces” and ”trailer moments” and revel in the ”promise of the premise.”

 

Midpoint (page 55) - The dividing line between the two halves of a movie; it's back to the story as ”stakes are raised,” ”time clocks” appear, and we start putting the squeeze on our hero(es).

 

Bad Guys Close In (pages 55-75) - Both internally (the disintegration of old beliefs) and externally (as actual bad guys tighten their grip), real pressure is applied.

 

All Is Lost (page 75) - The ”False Defeat” and the place where we find ”the whiff of death” -- because something must die here.

 

Dark Night of the Soul (pages 75 to 85) - Why hast thou forsaken me? That part of the script where the hero has lost all hope...

 

Break into Three (page 85) ...but not for long! Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute action or advice from the love interest in the B Story, the hero chooses to fight.

 

Finale (pages 85-110) - The ”Synthesis” of two worlds: From what was, and that which has been learned, the hero forges a third way.

 

Final Image (page 110) - The opposite of the Opening Image, proving a change has occurred. And since All Stories Are About Transformation, that change had better be dramatic!

 

 

HOW TO USE THIS TEMPLATE

This template includes a Save the Cat! Beat Sheet for three films within the Whydunit genre. The three beat sheets are for the films All The President's Men, Body Heat, and The Conversation. The green, yellow and blue text you see are the Save the Cat! Beats and descriptions which were sent to script from the Beat Board. 

 

You can use this template as a reference while you write your script. You can also use the Beat Board to replace these beats with your own scenes and scene summaries. Once you have decided your structure in the Beat Board you can use the SEND TO SCRIPT feature to add them to the Script - Page View.

If you decide to alter or replace this template, first save it with a new file name. Otherwise, you will permanently change the content within this template.

 

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Screenplay by: William Goldman. Based on the book by Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward

Directed by: Alan Pakula

 

Opening Image

The scene in the movie that sets up the tone, type, and initial salvo of a film, a ”before” snapshot — and the opposite of the Final Image.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 1

Like gunshots, the date ”June 17, 1972” is pounded out by a booming typewriter as President Nixon's helicopter lands triumphantly; he is at the height of power.

 

Theme Stated

Usually spoken to the main character, often without knowing what is said will be vital to his/her surviving this tale. It's what your movie is ”about.”

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 2

Burglars are arrested at the Watergate Hotel. On the story, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) arrives at court where they're being arraigned. When Bob asks the burglars' counsel how he got there, the lawyer replies: ”I'm not here.” The theme is subterfuge by the men behind the men that govern us.

 

Setup

The first 10 pages of a script must not only grab our interest and a studio reader's but introduce or hint at introducing every character in the A Story.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 3

Bob digs into the case while another reporter, Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), realizes this is a big story and wants on it ”bad.” Bob learns that one of the men arrested worked for the CIA. Is there more going on than a break-in? Bob is assigned to the story, while Carl dogs the edges trying to be included. As the reporters attempt to work out their differing styles, Bob learns the phone number for the White House was in one of the burglar's address books, and finds out another of the President's men, Howard Hunt, was also in the CIA.

 

Catalyst

The telegram, the knock at the door, the act of catching a spouse in bed with another — something that is done to the hero to shake him/her.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 4

At Minute 23, the two are told they're both on the story. They begin in earnest to write their first byline together.

 

Debate

The section of the script, be it a scene or a series of scenes, when the hero doubts the journey he/she must take.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 5

Are these two reporters too green to do the job? As the ”stakes keep getting raised,” we always come back to this question.

 

Break into Two 

Act Two, that is; it is where we leave the ”Thesis” world behind and enter the upside-down ”Anti-thesis” world of Act Two. The hero makes a choice — and his/her journey begins.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 6

At Minute 33, they file their first story and interact with boss Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards), who shoots it down. ”Bury it in the back somewhere,” he grumbles. And now the team must choose: Quit or re-double their efforts? They decide to get back to work and get the story right.

 

B Story

The ”love” story, traditionally, but actually where the discussion about the theme of a good movie is found.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 7

Twin B Stories as Bob and Carl get two mentors who inspire them to dissect the ”subterfuge” that is our theme. One is Ben, whose ”love” for the rookie reporters pushes them on when the going gets tough. The other is ”Deep Throat,” the real-life mystery man (revealed in 2005 to be Mark Felt) who provided Bob Woodward with inside information. We meet him (Hal Holbrook) in the underground parking lot scene this film is most noted for.

 

Fun and Games

Here we forget plot and enjoy ”set pieces” and ”trailer moments” and revel in the ”promise of the premise.”

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 8

Told by Deep Throat to ”follow the money” (a famous line created out of whole cloth by writer Goldman), the boys have newfound direction. Jetting to Florida, Carl tricks a secretary to see a local official (Ned Beatty). Armed with what Carl dug up, Bob tracks down the Midwest Finance Chairman of CREEP (The Committee to Re-Elect the President), who reveals it was his check that wound up in the bank account of one of the burglars. This is the ”promise of the premise.” Like any great detective story, the first blush of the case and the assorted clues connected to it are exciting. The story - and this mystery - can go anywhere!

 

Midpoint

The dividing line between the two halves of a movie; it's back to the story as ”stakes are raised,” ”time clocks” appear, and we start putting the squeeze on our hero(es).

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 9

The flurry of stories ”Woodstein” files (the boys are working so closely, they've earned the nickname) are all sweet victories; their coverage of ”Watergate” is making the reporters famous, and even getting results as Nixon's finance team is audited. But at Minute 56, A and B Stories cross as Ben ”raises the stakes” when he tells them he wants more - and bridles at the idea of ”Deep Throat,” whom he now learns about. We get a ”false defeat” as the reporters hit bottom at Minute 70 when they reach the end of a list of Nixon employees they've been investigating. It looks like the clues have dried up. ”We'll just have to start all over again,” says Bob, as they go back to the top of the list.

 

Bad Guys Close In

Both internally (the disintegration of old beliefs) and externally (as actual bad guys tighten their grip), real pressure is applied.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 10

Scrambling to get the information they need, the ”Dark Turn” takes hold as Woodstein starts to play games with witnesses, tricking them into going on the record and using their own subterfuge to get accurate quotes and sources. The ”secret,” the pull of what's in that ”last little room,” is overwhelming their sense of fair play. Pressure is applied by the ”bad guys” too, when one story linking Attorney General John Mitchell to the case includes Mitchell threatening Carl and the owner of the Post, Katharine Graham. Despite all the progress, when Bob meets Deep Throat for a second time, he's frustrated when told: ”You're missing the overall.” And it's even worse: This time, Bob thinks he was followed. For his part, Carl visits his doppelgänger, Donald Segretti (Robert Walden), who admits that he will not only lose his law license but will probably go to jail for his dirty tricks. The lawyer's tale foreshadows the penalty for failure.

 

All Is Lost

The ”False Defeat” and the place where we find ”the whiff of death” — because something must die here.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 11

Because the Midpoint is a ”down,” the All Is Lost is an ”up” or a ”false victory.” After thinking Bob and Carl have vetted a story that links the break-in to the Oval Office, Ben agrees to ”go with it” - but the story is immediately denounced by the White House. Threats by Nixon's team include a demand for a retraction. About to be fired, or worse - get their boss sued and his reputation destroyed - the rookies seem to have blown it.

 

Dark Night of the Soul

Why hast thou forsaken me? That part of the script where the hero has lost all hope...

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 12

”What was our mistake?” Carl asks.

 

Break into Three

...but not for long! Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute action or advice from the love interest in the B Story, the hero chooses to fight.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 13

A and B Stories cross as Ben votes to ”stick with the story” and ”stand by the boys.” As a result, Bob sets up another meeting with Deep Throat to find out how they goofed.

 

Finale

The ”Synthesis” of two worlds: From what was, and that which has been learned, the hero forges a third way.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 14

At the garage, Bob has finally had it with subterfuge: ”I'm tired of your chickenshit games,” he tells Deep Throat. ”I need to know what you know.” Deep Mentor decides to tell Bob all - the trail leads to the President. And Bob rushes back to inform Carl. Typing to each other out of fear of being bugged, Bob writes: ”Our lives are in danger.” The boys then rush to Ben's house to tell him. Ben lovingly says: ”Go home, rest up, fifteen minutes.” They are back on the case for real. As we go out, the two are feverishly typing more stories.

 

Final Image

The opposite of the Opening Image, proving a change has occurred. And since All Stories Are About Transformation, that change had better be dramatic!

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN BEAT 15

A series of headlines spit out by a teletype machine reveal how the story unfolds in the next few years leading to Nixon's resignation. The press has triumphed.

 

 

 

BODY HEAT

Written and Directed By: Lawrence Kasdan

 

Opening Image

The scene in the movie that sets up the tone, type, and initial salvo of a film, a ”before” snapshot — and the opposite of the Final Image.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 1

From his bedroom window, Ned Racine (William Hurt) watches a building across town in flames. Behind him, a woman gets dressed; their banter is sexy. And underscoring it all, their coastal Florida town is in the throes of an unprecedented heat wave. This will be a hot and steamy tale.

 

Setup

The first 10 pages of a script must not only grab our interest and a studio reader's but introduce or hint at introducing every character in the A Story.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 2

Ned is a lawyer who represents small-time con men and petty criminals, and seems more interested in his sex life than his professional life.

 

Theme Stated

Usually spoken to the main character, often without knowing what is said will be vital to his/her surviving this tale. It's what your movie is ”about.”

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 3

As a judge he goes before puts it, Ned needs either ”a better defense, or a better class of client.” This statement nicely sums up Ned's situation in this movie, as he'll be out of his depth when he meets...

 

Catalyst

The telegram, the knock at the door, the act of catching a spouse in bed with another — something that is done to the hero to shake him/her.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 4

Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), the ”well-tended” wife of a wealthy businessman. Even though she tells Ned immediately that she's a married woman, their chemistry is irresistible and he begins to pursue her.

 

Debate

The section of the script, be it a scene or a series of scenes, when the hero doubts the journey he/she must take.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 5

After their first chance meeting, Ned returns to the beachfront walkway site of the encounter hoping to run into Matty again. Even though he has other female companionship, he can't seem to get Matty off his mind and finally tracks her down at a bar in her more upscale neighborhood. Their flirtation sizzles, her husband is out of town, and when he follows her home to ”see her wind chimes,” they end up in bed.

 

Break into Two

Act Two, that is; it is where we leave the ”Thesis” world behind and enter the upside-down ”Anti-thesis” world of Act Two. The hero makes a choice — and his/her journey begins.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 6

Their affair continues, but Matty tells Ned that no one can know about it. They have to be careful.

 

B Story

The ”love” story, traditionally, but actually where the discussion about the theme of a good movie is found.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 7

For maybe the first time, Ned's not talking about his latest conquest to his best friends, prosecutor Peter Lowenstein (Ted Danson) and Detective Oscar Grace (J.A. Preston). Their eagerness to hear about his escapades is all in good fun now, but as the story progresses their interest will turn more serious, and official.

 

Fun and Games

Here we forget plot and enjoy ”set pieces” and ”trailer moments” and revel in the ”promise of the premise.”

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 8

As they carry on, Matty begins to drop hints about her husband, Edmund Walker (Richard Crenna), who will be coming home soon. Matty paints a picture of a mean, controlling man. She also tells Ned about the properties that her husband is involved in, the will he's had drawn up which splits his estate between Matty and his niece Heather, and the sad fact that if she divorces Edmund she'll get nothing because she signed a prenup. But as long as she and Ned are together, she says, nothing else matters.

Despite their efforts to be careful, Ned accidentally makes a pass at an old high school friend of Matty's, Mary Ann Simpson (Kim Zimmer), because the two women look so similar. Later, Edmund arrives along with Heather (Carola McGuinness) for a surprise visit, and during the girl's stay she sees Ned and Matty in a compromising position; the mistakes are piling up.

 

And finally, Ned runs into Matty and Edmund at an area restaurant. The three end up sharing dinner and at one point while Matty is away from the table, Edmund tells Ned about the type of man Matty dated before they married -- the type who wasn't willing to do whatever it took to get what he wanted. Ned says he ”hates that kind of guy” -- and that it's a lot like him.

Soon after, Ned and Matty confirm that they're going to kill Edmund and they begin to plan in earnest. She wants Ned to change the will, enabling Matty to collect it all rather than splitting it with Heather, but Ned tells her not to get greedy.

 

Midpoint

The dividing line between the two halves of a movie; it's back to the story as ”stakes are raised,” ”time clocks” appear, and we start putting the squeeze on our hero(es).

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 9

Ned establishes an alibi by checking into a Miami hotel, then drives back to the Walker estate where he kills Edmund. Ned takes the body to an abandoned building in which Edmund had a business interest, and destroys the building with an incendiary device from one of his shadier clients, Teddy Lewis (Mickey Rourke), to make it look like a botched arson job.

 

Bad Guys Close In

Both internally (the disintegration of old beliefs) and externally (as actual bad guys tighten their grip), real pressure is applied.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 10

In the aftermath, Ned tells Matty they need to lay low. But then Ned is contacted by Edmund's lawyer about a new will that Ned supposedly drew up on Edmund's behalf, which was witnessed by Mary Ann Simpson. Unaware of the new will's existence, Ned plays along to avoid suspicion. Still leaving half the estate to Heather, the new will is so poorly prepared it is declared null and void due to a violation of the rule against perpetuities. Because of the errors, Matty inherits the entire fortune.

Knowing well his weakness for women, Ned's friends warn him not to get involved with Matty, who they believe is just a client at this point. But now, to cover his affair, he tells them he's going to begin sleeping with her. In the course of doing their jobs, his friends uncover clues that look bad for Ned and soon they begin to suspect he was involved in Edmund's death.

 

All Is Lost

The ”False Defeat” and the place where we find ”the whiff of death” — because something must die here.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 11

Lowenstein warns Ned that someone kept calling his hotel room on the night in question but never got an answer, thereby weakening his alibi. Ned can't help but question Matty's loyalty. Has she been playing him all along?

 

Dark Night of the Soul

Why hast thou forsaken me? That part of the script where the hero has lost all hope...

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 12

Teddy Lewis tells Ned that Matty came to him to learn how to rig a bomb to the opening of a door. When Matty calls Ned and tells him where to recover a piece of evidence they need to bury, a suspicious Ned goes to the boathouse late at night and sees through the window a long twisted wire attached to the door.

 

Break into Three

...but not for long! Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute action or advice from the love interest in the B Story, the hero chooses to fight.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 13

Armed with a gun and facing his own ”Dark Turn,” Ned confronts Matty.

 

Finale

The ”Synthesis” of two worlds: From what was, and that which has been learned, the hero forges a third way.

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 14

She continues to deny that she deliberately set him up and that she really loves him now. He tells her to prove it by going into the boathouse. She complies, heading toward the building. At the last second he tries to stop her, but it's too late -- the cabin explodes; she couldn't possibly survive. Or was this yet another trick? Now in prison, Ned tries to convince his friend Detective Grace that Matty is still alive, laying out for him a scenario in which the woman he knew as ”Matty” was actually Mary Ann Simpson, who had an unsavory background and, in order to marry Edmund Walker and get his money, assumed the identity of Matty Tyler. The real Matty learned of this and played along, presumably in exchange for some of the money, but was then murdered and left in the boathouse. Had he been killed by entering the boathouse, the police would have closed the case; both suspects would have been found dead, and ”Matty” would have gotten away clean with the money, which was never recovered.

 

Later, Ned manages to confirm his suspicions by tracking down Matty and Mary Ann's old yearbook. Below the picture of the real Mary Ann -- the woman Ned knew as ”Matty” -- is the inscription ”Ambition? To be rich and live in an exotic land.”

 

Final Image

The opposite of the Opening Image, proving a change has occurred. And since All Stories Are About Transformation, that change had better be dramatic!

 

BODY HEAT BEAT 15

Mary Ann, our ”Matty,” on the beach of a tropical island with a young man at her side. As he lifts an ice-filled drink from a tray beside her, he addresses her in his own language. ”It is hot,” he says in English, when she doesn't understand what he's said. Mary Ann puts on her sunglasses and agrees, before the camera moves up to take in the tropical sky.

 

 

 

THE CONVERSATION

Written and Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

 

Opening Image

The scene in the movie that sets up the tone, type, and initial salvo of a film, a ”before” snapshot — and the opposite of the Final Image.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 1

San Francisco's Union Square. From high above, we watch the midday crowd. Slowly the camera hones in on one man: Harry Caul (Gene Hackman). As this establishing scene will soon reveal, Harry is a surveillance expert and he is on the job, along with a small team, recording a conversation between a couple, Ann and Mark (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest).

 

Setup

The first 10 pages of a script must not only grab our interest and a studio reader's but introduce or hint at introducing every character in the A Story.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 2

Harry is the best in the business and, perhaps because of this, guards his own privacy well. His apartment is triple- locked and protected by an alarm. He's even on high alert when someone manages to learn it's his birthday and delivers a gift to him, after which Harry spends the afternoon alone in his apartment practicing his saxophone.

 

Theme Stated

Usually spoken to the main character, often without knowing what is said will be vital to his/her surviving this tale. It's what your movie is ”about.”

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 3

In the opening scene, and repeated throughout the movie, an exchange between the observed couple reveals the theme. Mark says, ”He's not hurting anyone,” and Ann replies, ”Neither are we.” Just as Harry insists he's not responsible for the content of his surveillance or for how it's used by his clients, the question of participation will be examined.

 

Catalyst

The telegram, the knock at the door, the act of catching a spouse in bed with another — something that is done to the hero to shake him/her.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 4

Ann and Mark, at the end of their opening scene rendezvous, set a meeting at a hotel room to occur in a few days' time. The words are clearly recorded but their meaning is ambiguous enough to spark Harry's interpretation and his subsequent actions.

 

Debate

The section of the script, be it a scene or a series of scenes, when the hero doubts the journey he/she must take.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 5

Harry works his magic on merging the surveillance tapes into one record of the conversation. He arranges for the handoff to the client and his payment, but something about it bothers him. What will happen when he hands over the tapes? And just what is his duty in this situation?

 

Break into Two 

Act Two, that is; it is where we leave the ”Thesis” world behind and enter the upside-down ”Anti-thesis” world of Act Two. The hero makes a choice — and his/her journey begins.

 

B Story

The ”love” story, traditionally, but actually where the discussion about the theme of a good movie is found.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 6/7

That night, Harry calls on Amy (Teri Garr), a girlfriend in as much as a man as private and guarded as Harry could have a romantic partner. When she learns it's his birthday she asks him to tell her something personal, a secret. She reveals she knows how suspicious he is of her, as if he's going to catch her up to something. It's not an exaggeration; Harry seems very suspicious of everything Amy does, every word she says in the scene. She asks too many questions that he doesn't want to answer, and when he walks out it's clear to both of them that this is the end of their relationship. It would seem that Harry is incapable of having a truly open relationship.

 

Fun and Games

Here we forget plot and enjoy ”set pieces” and ”trailer moments” and revel in the ”promise of the premise.”

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 8

Harry meets with the client's assistant, Martin Stett (Harrison Ford), to exchange the tapes for payment, but something doesn't sit right and Harry walks out with the tapes. Waiting for the elevator, he sees Mark. Moments later, Ann steps onto the elevator with Harry. Neither seem aware of his presence or identity. Back at his workspace, Harry goes back to enhancing the tapes. He concentrates on one key phrase hidden under the sound of a street musician, finally filtering it out clearly: ”He'd kill us if he got the chance.” Harry is affected by these words and later when he goes to confession he reveals that in the past, people have been hurt as a result of his work.

 

At a surveillance trade show, Harry sees Martin Stett and believes the man is following him. But Martin tells Harry he was looking for him, not following him, and doing so to set up a meeting with The Director (Robert Duvall), the client who commissioned the surveillance of Mark and Ann.

 

Midpoint

The dividing line between the two halves of a movie; it's back to the story as ”stakes are raised,” ”time clocks” appear, and we start putting the squeeze on our hero(es).

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 9

Following the convention, Harry brings a group of colleagues back to his workspace. Though it's a party, the ”second best” in the business dogs him about trade secrets and partnering up. A trade show model flirts with Harry, and ends up staying the night. It's an intertwining of his personal life with his professional life, the effects of which will play out throughout the rest of the second act.

 

Bad Guys Close In

Both internally (the disintegration of old beliefs) and externally (as actual bad guys tighten their grip), real pressure is applied.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 10

At the tail end of the party, the story of Harry's most famous job is explained and we learn that three people were murdered as a result of it. This is the ghost that's been haunting Harry. And now, even with a woman seducing him, Harry can't get his mind off of the conversation between Ann and Mark, and his fear that he could be responsible for another such tragedy. Harry dreams about it that night, telling Ann in his dream that he's not afraid of death, but he is afraid of murder.

 

All Is Lost

The ”False Defeat” and the place where we find ”the whiff of death” — because something must die here.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 11

When Harry wakes up, the model is gone -- and so are his tapes of the conversation.

 

Dark Night of the Soul

Why hast thou forsaken me? That part of the script where the hero has lost all hope...

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 12

Harry reaches Martin Stett, who confirms they have the tapes. Martin tells him the tapes have nothing to do with Harry, and they are ready to pay him in full for the work he's done.

 

Break into Three

...but not for long! Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute action or advice from the love interest in the B Story, the hero chooses to fight.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 13

Harry goes to The Director's office to complete their business transaction. He finds the Director listening to the tapes, and asks him what he will do to Ann.

 

Finale

The ”Synthesis” of two worlds: From what was, and that which has been learned, the hero forges a third way.

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 14

Fearing what will happen to the couple, and in a classic ”Dark Turn” that breaks his own personal code of non- involvement, Harry rents the hotel room next door to the one where the couple planned to meet. Using his monitoring equipment, he overhears a heated argument between Ann and The Director, and to his horror, the tape being played back at a particularly incriminating moment. Harry runs to the balcony outside, hears screaming, and witnesses a bloody hand frantically slamming against the frosted glass partition.

Several hours later, Harry picks the lock into the room and initially sees nothing amiss. On closer investigation, he flushes the clogged toilet and torrents of blood come flowing out. Harry tries to confront The Director at his office, and is stunned to instead find Ann and Mark, unharmed. Their conversation didn't mean what his guilt-wracked mind interpreted it to mean.

 

Harry sees a newspaper headline about The Director's death in a ”car accident,” and knows that the couple killed him in the hotel room. Harry now realizes that the statement ”He'd kill us if he got the chance” was a rationalization of the couple's decision to kill The Director.

 

Final Image

The opposite of the Opening Image, proving a change has occurred. And since All Stories Are About Transformation, that change had better be dramatic!

 

THE CONVERSATION BEAT 15

Later, Martin Stett calls Harry on his unlisted number and warns: ”We know that you know, Mr. Caul. For your own sake, don't get involved any further. We'll be listening to you.” Stett plays back a recording of Harry's moments-earlier saxophone practice, which sets Harry off on a frantic search for a listening device. He tears up walls and floorboards, destroying his apartment in the process, but to no avail. In the final image, Harry sits amidst the wreckage, playing his saxophone.