Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to Structure a Movie, Part 4: The Final Quarter

Act 3! The Climax! The Big Finale!

  1. The hero commits to pursuing a corrected goal, which is still far away.
  2. Though their philosophy is corrected, the overall thematic question remains totally up in the air until the climax.
  3. All strands of the story and most of the characters come together for the climactic confrontation.
  4. The exciting climax is reached, and the true goal is achieved or lost forever. (This climax makes a definite statement about the thematic dilemma, but the question is not completely settled.)
  5. In the final scene (call it the epilogue, the aftermath or the denouement) the hero’s original problem is finally resolved one way or the other, as they realize (and hopefully show) how much they’ve changed.

But wait, we’re not done! Tomorrow I’ll look at variations of this structure that are used for specific genres... Then we’re done, I promise, and I’ll never mention structure again!


Anonymous said...

This is great stuff! The only thing missing is specific examples for each step. When you're not busy. :)

Matt Bird said...

Glad you like it!

I didn't have a lot of time for long pieces this week, but the four movies I drew the images from (Rear Window, The Apartment, Star Wars, The King's Speech) each hit almost all of these beats, so check them out to see this structure in action.

Anonymous said...

Matt, I have a wall full of books and more bookmarks than I will ever click again, but you know what I've never see? A beat sheet for a movie that describes what each beat accomplishes, and not just in the structure paradigm. I know scenes and even beats do more than one thing, but I'd love to see that done one time. Usually it's piecemeal. What is the actual INTENTION for each beat? We're always trying to do that of course, but a model would be great to have. Maybe by the screenwriter? Or by a viewer as keen as you?
Thanks, Anon
P. S. I would actually BUY that!
P.P.S. I once heard Lucille Ball say, "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it."

j.s. said...

As for never talking about structure again, I say: nooooooo!

Please feel free to bring it up whenever you have more to say. If the comments have been light lately, it's almost certainly because you're saying all there is to say in the posts themselves.