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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old April 30 2011, 02:19 PM   #1
FalTorPan
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Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

I'm aware that many movies are written with a three-act structure, but I've never been good at analyzing a film to determine where the acts begin and end. Are there any good online or printed resources wherein a bunch of movies (or their scripts) are analyzed from a three-act perspective?

I hear people here and various professional movie critics talk about something being a certain way in a certain act, and it frustrates me that I'm not always clear about which part of the film is being discussed, aside from the very basic -- the first few minutes are obviously part of the first act, the last few minutes are obviously part of the third act, etc.

Thanks in advance!
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Old April 30 2011, 03:20 PM   #2
DrMcCoy
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

Read 'Story' by Robert McKee.

It's probably one of the best (if not THE best) book on the structure and composition of scripts, but the principles are applicable to all storytelling media.
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Old April 30 2011, 04:45 PM   #3
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

Something that may help a bit is if you think in terms of "shot", "scene" and "sequence" with each of the smaller elements making up the larger ones. Naturally, I don't recommend trying to analyze movies this why while you're munching your popcorn at the multiplex, however your DVD is a wonderful tool for educating yourself about how movies are made. Just about any DVD will give you the ability to select individual scenes, so you can look at each of those and figure out fairly easily where each one begins and ends. Also I highly recommend listening to the director's commentary tracks. One in particular that I like is the director's commentary for "The Mask". They don't necessarily talk directly about "shot" "scene" "sequence" "act", however they can give valuable insight insight into how various elements of the movie are constructed. The book is a great place to start while using the DVD as a teaching tool will be a great way to give context to what the book is saying.
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Old April 30 2011, 06:17 PM   #4
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

First Act = 1st ~25% of film
It is the Introduction which sets up all of the important elements of the film, notably the problem to be solved, the protagonists and antagonists, themes, etc.

2nd Act = middle ~50% of film
It is where the Complications occur. The problem of the story takes twists and turns and gets harder.

3rd Act = last ~25% of film
Resolution. Wherein the problem of the story is directly and finally addressed and is overcome or fails to be overcome.

That's a simple overview.
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Old April 30 2011, 09:59 PM   #5
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

I'll be interested in seeing your take on "The Void" when it's available in the coming month. We primarily do little one-act sketches or one-act plays, but "The Void" is more in line with conventional approaches on structure.
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Old April 30 2011, 10:04 PM   #6
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

I think a lot of writers don't care about this and just write what comes naturally. Painters don't use ruler and compass to get proportions and stuff correct either.
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Old May 1 2011, 12:23 AM   #7
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

That's a common misperception. There's a lot of structure in most successful artistic endeavors. And, as the saying goes, you have to understand the rules in order to break them. I think it's safe to assume most fan filmmakers are enthusiasts and not studdnts of film and film production. There's a fairly steep learning curve.
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Old May 1 2011, 12:41 AM   #8
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

A point that McKee makes, in passing, is that even experimental or avant-garde scripts acknowledge traditional story structure in how the choices are made to discard parts of it - it's something to "push against," so to speak.

Some writers may absorb story structure more intuitively than others from the many examples we're exposed to throughout our lives - but sooner or later, to get a story into the shape you want it to be you do have to do the work and at lest some of the analysis.
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Old May 1 2011, 01:09 AM   #9
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

DS9Sega wrote: View Post
That's a common misperception. There's a lot of structure in most successful artistic endeavors. And, as the saying goes, you have to understand the rules in order to break them. I think it's safe to assume most fan filmmakers are enthusiasts and not studdnts of film and film production. There's a fairly steep learning curve.
Where did I say anything about breaking them?
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Old May 1 2011, 02:05 AM   #10
Sir Rhosis
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

Dennis makes a great point that I have personally observed in people who have never set pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. After a lifetime of film/television exposure many people, not really able to put their finger on it, exactly, will "know" what should come next in a movie, will know if something feels out of place, will sense that this film didn't "feel right," even if the word "structure" is not part of their vocablulary. Even my late unlearned mother absorbed enough film to know that once boy lost girl, he would go to outlandish ends to get her back, or knew enough to know that it was a cheat to introduce a "deus ex machina," though she probably never encountered that term in her life.

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Old May 1 2011, 02:58 AM   #11
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
DS9Sega wrote: View Post
That's a common misperception. There's a lot of structure in most successful artistic endeavors. And, as the saying goes, you have to understand the rules in order to break them. I think it's safe to assume most fan filmmakers are enthusiasts and not studdnts of film and film production. There's a fairly steep learning curve.
Where did I say anything about breaking them?
In just about any endeavor the usual learning curve is learn the rules, learn to apply the rules, then learn to creatively break them. What happens in a lot of cases is that the amateur dives in head first and ends up learning the rules the hard way, but only after much wasted time and effort. The "rules' of good TV or movie production were not handed down like the Ten Commandments, but they did start to evolve (boy talk about mixing metaphors) at about the time D.W. Griffith and George Melieres (sp?) started shooting. Knowing as many of those rules as possible before you go in will save you huge amounts of time and give you a much better chance of ending up with a watchable project. Things like shooting across the line and simple continuity errors will jump out like a sore thumb, even if the viewer can't really articulate what the problem is. If your project is just you and a few friends, go for it! It's fun, it'll keep you out of trouble and you'll learn a lot. However, the chances that you'll have a product that someone besides family and friends will enjoy aren't that great. Once you really understand the rules you'll find that they're not really so much "rules" as training wheels!

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Old May 1 2011, 05:07 AM   #12
Maurice
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Re: Analyzing Movies' Three-Act Structures

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
DS9Sega wrote: View Post
That's a common misperception. There's a lot of structure in most successful artistic endeavors. And, as the saying goes, you have to understand the rules in order to break them. I think it's safe to assume most fan filmmakers are enthusiasts and not studdnts of film and film production. There's a fairly steep learning curve.
Where did I say anything about breaking them?
Bad word choice on my part. I meant to say "it's a common misperception that".
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