ACT 1

ACT 1

(THE BEGINNING)

(THE SITUATION)


Start with the story in motion. 

The "rising conflict" theory should already be present scene one. 

Page 1

  • Seize the reader on Page 1. 

  • Grab them, seize them, hook them on page 1. 

Tone

  • The first few scenes set your story's perimeters and tone. 

  • You cannot break those laws and rules later in the movie, as you'll snap the audience's suspension of disbelief. 

Setups

  • Sometimes, writers make the choice to not start the movie with high action, drama, or comedy because the film might emotionally or dramatically peak too soon, and undercut the 2nd or 3rd acts. Afraid that the beginning sequence is so extraordinary that nothing in the following drama can follow up the audience's high.

  • This is rarely a problem but just in case, try first to strengthen the balance of the movie before beginning the film with that extraordinary sequence. 

  • In the case that you can't top your visual or dramatic action with what's coming up, it'd be best to drop or mute that scene. 

Pet the Dog

  • Pet the Dog = a character showing vulnerability. 

  • This should be occasionally evident, while always latent in your heroes and heavies. Most especially in Act 1. 

  • This is the moment when you show your hero or heavy to be "human" underneath all that bluster or cynicism. 

  • Eg. Sundance not killing the gambler in the opening poker scene, or the tyrant telling whoever "My mother beat me, my father drank. Then my father beat me, and my mother drank."


Runners

  • Runners = Identifiable Character Traits, which can be used for plot development.

  • (Eg)

    smooching cigarettes, loving fast food, scratching their privates, speeding, drinking, etc. 

  • Include these in Act 1, and hopefully, that runner can be used in the plot development. 

  • (Eg)

    Meryl Streep's character always wrapping leftover food in balls of aluminium foil. In Act 1, her roommates teased her, joking that it was mystery meat. This was the setup, just like a setup in a joke. 

The writers then let us forget about this until the 3rd Act. Men were trying to find incriminating evidence of radiation in her home and bingo! It was in one of the aluminium foil balls she had left over from dinner. 

  • (Eg)

    In Some Like It Hot, Tony's weakness for betting was used throughout the film. Or even Popeye's love for spinach. 

  • Playback is another term for this. Because the audience mentally plays back the information, and they feel good for remembering the reference, being able to keep up with and get the drama or joke. 

The End of The Beginning

  • Page 17

  • (The Glass Hammer) The situation here is Cliff going into a mental institution. 

  • When you reveal the situation to your audience, you have reached the end of the beginning.