The art of the screenplay.

Write your own


Start with:

The Idea

Your story world: Suburbia? Outer space? Newspaper office? Boxing ring? ...

Your theme: A story is an argument about how life should be lived. What’s more important: Family or friends? Winning or playing the game? The group or the individual? Money or love? Your story should be about something folks care about. This is the theme.

Your hero: Your central character will change, driven by a moral weakness he/she needs to overcome to achieve their goal.

Your hero’s goal: A story is about a person who has a compelling goal:

- to win ( a game or someone’s love)

- to stop (something bad happening/ a bad person’s plans)

- to retrieve (a treasure/ lost child/ missing brother/ a heist)

- to escape

Your premise/logline: What if? (…someone cloned dinosaurs from blood in amber?)

Your movie Title: (It’d better be a killer title – it must have irony and a compelling mental picture which suggests the logline)

Your story: It's about (your hero) who is a (dissatisfied with role in life) who suddenly (gets an opportunity to change) and decides to (go for a goal). This becomes increasingly difficult because of (obstacles and complications. By (change of plan), in spite of (opposition) your hero makes a moral choice, overcomes (self and antagonist) in a (final battle) to reach a new sense of her/his place in the world.

Now you'll arrange your material in a:

Three Act Structure

The First Act of a screenplay consists of usually about 25% of the story and is called the setup. In a 100 page screenplay it would be the first 25 pages or so. It sets up empathy for your hero and states the theme, then incites him/her to action.

The first turning point marks the end of the first act. It’s an event that forces the hero to change plans, and turns the story in another direction.

The Second Act, also called the confrontation, continues for approximately the next 50%. At the midpoint the stakes are raised, your hero has a big win or a big loss, and cannot go back to how things were at the beginning.

Towards the end of the second act, all is lost for your hero and there is a touch of death. But thanks to the effect your hero has had on other characters, his/her recognition of the theme, and the hero’s best efforts, the second turning point reveals the answer to the main problem, leading to:

The Third Act, or resolution, the final 25% or so of the story, in which your hero does the hard yards to apply all the lessons learned, and dispatches all villains in ascending order, until the final battle is won and your hero reaches a new place in the world.

The final image is the opposite of the opening. It proves that change has occurred.

All done?

"A first draft of anything is shit."Ernest Hemingway

Now you're going to have to re-write until it's terrific. To help that process here are my Ten Commandments

If you're a producer looking to make a hot project, email Martin Simpson at Widgets Widgets Widgets

Of the hundreds of books on screenwriting in my library, SAVE THE CAT is one of the very best. Down to earth, entertaining and practical, it takes in Snyder’s Hollywood experience, structural teachings ranging from Aristotle to Robert McKee, many useful tips; and shows a fine appreciation of how emotion drives drama. The centerpiece, his beat sheet, is a useful tool to check the structural feel of your screenplay when it’s done or to help move it forward when it’s stuck. I’ve even sought and received extremely useful advice from Snyder’s friend Mike Cheda, whose name appears in the book. I was saddened by his untimely death, but Blake Snyder leaves a body of work of which this book alone is a worthy legacy.





© OMPYX COMMUNICATIONS 2008 Privacy Statement