Sunday, November 4, 2012

Act Two

Since I've decided which story I'll be turning into a screenplay during this term and the next, we've completed a rough outline of the whole movie as well as a scene-by-scene breakdown of the first act.  I am greatly encouraged and have high hopes for "The Cynic."

The rough outline and Act One scene breakdown both benefitted from a reading and critique in our workshop.  There were definitely points in the plot where, like a sloppy contractor, I filled in the gaps quickly and without care.

Some cinematic tropes come all too readily to our mind, and one of the jobs of the writer is to resist their temptation in order to strike more accurately at the truly unique aspects of the story we are birthing.

How easily the wheels of our wagon settle into grooves in the road... and we find ourselves in places painfully familiar.  Worse, the spark of genuine inspiration that set us out on our journey has long been snuffed out.

My task this week is to create a scene-by-scene breakdown of my Second Act.  To all concerned this is readily evident as the most difficult part of a movie to craft well.  How often have you watched a movie that started out fine and then "fell apart" during the middle?  Boredom is the chief evil here.

Given characters and a plot set forth in the first act, we may well guess what occurs in the third act.  If the first act is well laid out, we have clearly have a protagonist, a goal, the suggestion of complications to come, etc.  And by simple extrapolation we can easily guess what the third act will contain.  So much so that if our expectations are not met, we leave the theater with a sense of disappointment and incompleteness.

Why is Act Two so tricky?  It's the longest part, as long as the first and third act combined.  But it's length is not the reason.

It's the toughest to craft effectively because it is, compared to acts one and two, essentially a blank slate.  It's a vast wasteland where our only signposts are vague... we know that things must go well for our hero(es), we know there must be complications, we know that all must seem lost.  Beyond that, our only dictum is that we be original and entertaining.

But in difficulty lies challenge, and if this is where poor screenplays are lost... perhaps it is also where great screenplays are made.

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