Monday, May 28, 2007

The 5 Act Screenplay

This is crazy because technically it's 6 Acts - there's a teaser on the front people! Anyway, as I mentioned before I wasn't able to stretch to 6 proper acts. I'd have managed it certainly if I'd have stretched for a 60 minute Screenplay.

But, I'm actually really quite happy with what I've produced so far - a 43 minute Screenplay that does what I wanted it to do. Now, the story arc that I meant to cover in the first episode will have to be split over the first and second - ah, yes, a two-parter. Isn't that the best way to open a series? The best way to end it, with a nice big hook for the audience to sink their teeth into, and get that hook right through their cheek?

So, Dark Machine's pilot episode Everyman - part 1, is ready for production Mr. TV Exec! Anyone listening? Well, perhaps it's not great television... my problem has been that the story revolves around one main character - he's in a very unique position meaning that the entire story must be from his point of view. Couple that with the timelock situation I've put him in, that the pilot covers one day (okay Parts 1 and 2 now cover one day) and I've set out a very restrictive regimen for him to follow. This has meant that in order to keep the plot marginally tight, the themes consistent and the characters appropriately motivated, some of my scenes stretch that 3 minute barrier a bit. One goes for 5 minutes (a big no no), and even though I've split it up with a minute long premonition, I'm not sure I can get away with it.

But then, that raises the question about scene length. Surely the purpose of moderating your scene length is to make sure the audience don't get bored and feel continually pushed forward by the plot? In that case, maybe my premonition scenes, splitting up a longer scene, benefit the audience's interest.

I'll have to beg, borrow or steal from my tutor to get him to read the whole thing before the hand in date, but it's probably worth it to get his input on these pertinent questions - I e-mailed him to ask if I'd get penalised for going way over the page limit of the assignment (40 pages) and then barely scraped 43, s'funny how things quickly change.

In the meantime, here's the breakdown of the Acts:
  • Teaser = 2 Minutes
  • Act 1 = 5 Minutes [Cum = 7 Minutes]
  • Act 2 = 7 Minutes [Cum = 14 Minutes]
  • Act 3 = 7 Minutes [Cum = 21 Minutes]
  • Act 4 = 10 Minutes [Cum = 31 Minutes]
  • Act 5 = 12 Minutes [Cum = 43 Minutes]
On a plus note, each Act ends with (I believe) a sufficiently intriguing cliffhanger/hook for the next Act opening. Also, I've been able to stick my nadir, my protagonist's darkest moment right in the middle at 21 Minutes, right at the end of Act 3. Obviously, from there everything goes further wrong, but at least I've set everything up for that.

The question is do I fulfill the criteria of dramatic screenwriting? Do I:
  1. Enter late, leave early
  2. Provide bathos as well as pathos (these aren't Musketeers)
  3. Ensure multi-actions
  4. Play the characters appropriately off one another
  5. Keep the plot progressing
  6. Not overload the audience with boring exposition
  7. Keep the characters resolute in their character types
  8. Change scenes (as per McKee) from positive to negative, or negative to positive
  9. Avoid "on the nose" dialogue
Only a break, a word with my tutor, and a return in a few weeks will answer those...

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