This week we looked at the structure of classical Hollywood feature films:

  • Three acts: set up, conflict/crisis, resolution
  • Turning points: moments that cause the story to move in a new direction
  • Pinch points: moments that remind the character of the ‘threat’
  • Main event: the big event in the middle of the film that pushes the story forward

I found this article by Michael Hauge that describes the “5 key turning points of all successful screenplays”. He describes the basic plot structure as follows.

  • Stage 1: The Set Up
  • Turning point 1: The Opportunity (10%)
  • Stage 2: The New Situation
  • Turning point 2: The Change of Plans (25%)
  • Stage 3: Progress
  • Turning point 3: The Point of No Return (50%)
  • Stage 4: Complications and Higher Stakes
  • Turning point 4: The Major Setback (75%)
  • Stage 5: The Final Push
  • Turning point 5: The Climax (90-99%)
  • Stage 6: The Aftermath


We had a discussion on this structure in class where we talked about how short films don’t often follow this structure, partly because of time constraints and partly, as someone pointed out, because short films are meant to be experimental. Sometime this structure can be a useful guideline to follow when writing a short film, but i think it’s much better to  find ways to be creative without using this structure.
Another thing we discussed that I thought was an interesting point is that even feature films are now steering away from the traditional structure of feature films. Filmmakers are now becoming freer in the ways they write their stories rather than sticking to a rigid, predictable structure. Audiences get bored of seeing the same story and being able to predict what’s going to happen, they like to be surprised so I think it’s great that filmmakers are now allowing themselves to write stories that are different and surprising.




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