Writing A Screenplay- Rules and Structure

Guidelines When Writing A Screenplay

  • Feature- length screenplays are 90- 120 pages. When formulated correctly this equals 90- 120 minutes on screen.
  • Industry Standard Formatting
    • Act 1 = pages 1-30
    • Act 2 = pages 31-90
    • Act 3 = pages 91-120

The Five and Dime Rule

Typically studios and producers look at the first five pages and the last ten pages of a screenplay to determine if they will produce it.

The Basics of Writing a Screenplay | The Film Look - YouTube

Act 1

  • Introduction to your screen world
  • Begin with an image
  • The first few moments are the most important because they will immerse the audience into your production
  • The inciting incident will occur in Act 1 and this is the catalyst that begins the main conflict of the movie
  • The “World” of your film goes from order to chaos
  • What does your character want? Will he/she succeed?
  • End of Act 1 = the first big turning point or Plot Point 1
  • Remember the end of Act 1 should occur around page 30

Act Two

  • Act 2 is the middle of the movie. Remember, according to industry standards Act 2 occurs from pages 31-90.
  • The focus is how the plot point will be resolved.
  • More complications should develop that are keeping the main character from reaching their goal or objective.
  • Plot Point 2 will occur right at the end of Act 2 (around page 90). Plot Point 2 needs to be dramatic and drastic as it will lead to the climax of the film. For example, maybe someone dies, and the main character is battling internally with whether or not he would continue. Raise the stakes!!!

Act 3

  • Act 3 is the resolution of the film
  • Remember Act 3 usually occurs between pages 91 and 120 in a feature length film.
  • An epiphany needs to happen as well as a resolution and wrapping up of loose ends.

Review

Screenplay Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

This is the typical industry format for a feature length film. Keep in mind that one minute of script should equal one minute of screen time. Also, make sure you have two plot points as this will drive forth the action of your film and captivate the audience. It’s also important to note that these ruled are more of a guide than a formula you must strictly follow. However, there is a reason these rules have become the standard, and it’s because it works. Audience members are used to this formula, and it’s what we expect when watching a film. However, ruled can be broken successfully. Especially for starting out with writing a feature-length film, these guidelines are really helpful to follow.


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