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Friday, July 30, 2010

BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END: The Three Act Structure at it's most basic!


I just finished teaching at a prestigious boys school, a two-week course on filmmaking for summer term. The first week was dedicated to creating a film-story idea and creating the storyboards to illustrate the fiction. The second week was dedicated to shooting the TWO chosen film scripts from the first weeks work. I am really proud of my students work - see youtube link. In total, they really only had 3 days to craft their story and another 3 to shoot the short. They did it and the filmstories totally work! With tweaking they will work really well.

Monday was spent going over the basic story structure for film - THREE ACTS (beginning, complications and then the end). After screening & lecture, they did an in-class writing exercise based on creating fiction from a random picture, torn from a magazine, that was handed to them only moments before.

Tuesday, we talked about ‘framing the shot’ and did another writing exercise. I divided the class into writing teams, so they’d have someone to help generate story ideas. And they began to write their own film piece. We watched some Pixar shorts to see how they were presented. I gave them a sample of my storyboards for a Pixar short; and we viewed the film again - with the storyboards in hand.

By Wednesday, they were well on their way. We watched another film and talked about world building and complications! By the start of class Thursday they had their short piece written; and now it was time to storyboard it. Final storyboards were presented on Friday morning; and the class selected which two films to shoot based on the 6 questions I suggest screenwriters answer for themselves (FILMMAKING WIZARDRY) in their script.

They had the weekend to prepare their shot lists and on Monday they rehearsed actors and camera moves. Tuesday they shot their films. (One film had to completely reshoot 90% of it's footage; but made it’s deadline too). Wednesday was pick-up shots and editing. Thursday was music track, titles and glitches. FRIDAY, THE SCREENING for parents, friends and the whole school!

The students were all between the ages of 8 and 16 years old. We had ten great story ideas submitted on that first Friday; and far more than the TWO could have gone to camera. This underscores my theory that everyone really does have a movie idea in their head… And that if you ask the right questions, you can get them get it out and onto the page!

I hope this helps. And I wish you luck with your screenplay. Let me know when you’ve completed your script. I’d love to read your work!