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Screenplay Structure

By Author: Victor Rodriguez
Total Articles: 35

A definite screenplay structure offers the screenplay writer with a solid frame within which to work indigenously to build up an engrossing story. Whether on the screen or the stage, plays have a more clear-cut organization than any other form of literary expression. It is not an easy task.
It requires a lot of imagination based on profound credibility to compose a heart rendering story. The writer should have the basics of constructing a screenplay on the tip of his fingers because he has to get right to hearts and minds of the audience. Although screenplays are divided into well defined three elements, they are not water-tight compartments and smoothly unfold into one another following a sequential pattern. The three parts or elements are:
1. The set-up (the beginning) Act I
2. The conflict (the middle) Act II
3. The resolution (the end) Act III
A screenplay structure should be written following a uniform format otherwise it is never likely to see daylight. An amateur writer should learn the nationally accepted formula for his work first and later through experience he will develop his own style. The mainstream screenplays comprise of the three basic components - character, desire and conflict. The structure refers to the chain of events that lead the hero to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to attain his objective. Irrespective of the length or the genres of the film, all adhere to the same screenplay structure.
The fluidity of expressions plays an important role in all the three cinematic acts. A page is equivalent to a minute in the film. Act I introduces the hero and the main plot or mission of the entire screenplay, planting the seed of the forthcoming conflict or Act II. The first act covers about 40 pages of the script.
Act II is the longest and act III the shortest, as a general rule. Act II sees a deepening of the conflict which eventually reaches a crescendo towards the end of the act. This act is contained in 50 -60 pages of the screenplay. The conflict is resolved in Act III, leaving the audience excited long after the movie is over. Act III covers 20-30 of the last pages.
There are fine examples of deviations but a typical screenplay structure is more or less consistent. Parallel to the main plot, there runs a sub-plot which is also divided into the three act structure, closely related to the protagonist or the antagonist. It is fun to analyze critically how effective visual story telling can be.

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