Screenwriting Intensive – Three Act Structure
- A screenplay should be roughly 90-110 pages long.
- A page equals roughly a minute of screen time.
- So a 100 page screenplay would turn into a 100 minute film.
How long are the acts:
- Act 1 is 20-30 pages
- Act 2 is around twice as long as Act 1.
- Act 3 is a little shorter than Act 1.
If it’s a 90 page screenplay
- Act 1: Ends around page 25. (20-25 pages long)
- Act 2: Ends around page 75. (45-50 pages long)
- Act 3: Ends around page 90. (15-20 pages long)
If it’s a 110 page screenplay:
- Act 1: Ends around page 30. (25-30 pages long)
- Act 2: Ends around page 85. (50-55 pages long)
- Act 3: Ends around page 110. (20-25 pages long)
What happens in each act:
- Act One: Beginning ––– Set-up
- Act Two: Middle ––– Confrontation
- Act Three: Ending ––– Wrap-up
- Act 1: Get your protagonist up a tree
- Act 2: Throw rocks at them
- Act 3: Get them down and home
IN ACT ONE:
1.We meet your hero.
2.We see who they are, what their life is like, what their problems and challenges are. What are they dissatisfied with about their life.
3.Call to action (they’re confronted with a challenge). They might resist it at first (refusal of the call) but they rise to the challenge.
4.By the end of Act 1, the hero has accepted the challenge, crossed the first threshold, defeated the threshold guardian, left their “safe spot,” and is underway on their journey – into unfamiliar territory.
IN ACT TWO:
1.Hero makes their first try at whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish. Usually fails.
2.Tries again… problems arise. (It gets complicated)
3.There’s a major loss about halfway through this act. Things look hopeless. Encounters temptation: tempted to give up. Meets the “Goddess” (or “God”), the member of the opposite sex who teaches them something they’ll need to know, to succeed.
4.Their entourage of friends come to their aid.
5.Hero rallies his or her strength to make one more try. The stakes are the highest.
6.By the end of Act 2, the hero is about to have their final confrontation with the forces of evil. They may live… they may die… but they’re going to give it their all.
IN ACT THREE:
1.Hero fights their toughest battle… and (almost always) wins.
3.“Master of two worlds.” What they’ve achieved at least partially resolves what they were dissatisfied about in their life.