Sunday, October 16, 2011

How To Structure A Movie, Part 1: The First Quarter

This is what we’ve been building to for a while… In The Hero Project, I figured out a lot of this (but not all of it) in real time. In The Great Guru Showdown, I looked at the structures that have been offered by other storytelling gurus. I then looked at the relationship of the Problem, the Opportunity and the Conflict. Now let’s put it all together…

Just to be clear, this absolutely positively does not describe the plot of every good movie, and no one movie will hit every one of these points. These are beats that most movies tend to hit. Here’s the first quarter:

  1. A prologue (maybe a framing sequence, or a killing, or a flashforward, or a moment of absurdity...) leaves a big question in the viewer’s mind...
  2. Then we meet an active hero, resourcefully pursuing what they want, but ignoring what they need. Often they (or the person they’re talking to) will issue a false statement of philosophy, which will have to change later in the movie.
  3. The hero’s longstanding personal problem becomes more acute, often in the form of an overly harsh social humiliation.
  4. The hero finds out about a scary opportunity to fix that problem.
  5. After some hesitation, the opportunity becomes more and more appealing.
  6. Consciously or unconsciously, a false goal is formed in the hero’s mind. (False because it’s either morally backwards, the wrong tactic, or too limited in perspective.)
  7. The hero commits to pursuing the opportunity, as long as they can do it the easy way...

Come back tomorrow for the second quarter. (Don’t worry, when the whole thing’s done, I’ll create a one page version for easy linking)

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