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Thread: Help with ACT1/Beginning

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Help with ACT1/Beginning

    Hello everyone, I'm new to screen writing. I have no experience with it. I just basically got final draft and started writing once i found out what a slugline is. My script is setup pretty well, I think. My action scenes are precise yet descriptive visually, my dialogue keeps the story flowing well, and all seems good except that my beginning seems to be running long. I have a script that roughly runs 38 pages before the end of act 1. My protagonist experiences his first sign of trouble at page 32, but the trouble doesn't get detrimental until page 34, then all hell breaks loose lasting up until page 38 before things calm a bit leaving my protagonist with a very tough loss, and a very tough decision to make. Should my act 1 be shorter or is running though 40 pages then beginning act2 acceptable?

  2. #2
    Pro scribe MrJayVee's Avatar
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    Arrow First act woes...

    Forty pages is too long. It's important that you get things going fairly early in the script, so your first act should wrap up in the 15 to 20 page range.

    Being that you're a first-time screenwriter, I can guarantee you are overwriting your script. In other words, you're using 60 words to make a point that a more seasoned writer can make in, say, 25 words. Go through every one of those words and trim anything that's not absolutely necessary.

    But I suggest you just get the script completed. If it wraps up at 152 pages (which would be about 35 pages too long), that's fine--you can always go back and trim things up. And a big part of being a pro writer is knowing what (and how) to cut.

  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJayVee View Post
    Forty pages is too long. It's important that you get things going fairly early in the script, so your first act should wrap up in the 15 to 20 page range.

    Being that you're a first-time screenwriter, I can guarantee you are overwriting your script. In other words, you're using 60 words to make a point that a more seasoned writer can make in, say, 25 words. Go through every one of those words and trim anything that's not absolutely necessary.

    But I suggest you just get the script completed. If it wraps up at 152 pages (which would be about 35 pages too long), that's fine--you can always go back and trim things up. And a big part of being a pro writer is knowing what (and how) to cut.
    Maybe i should elaborate more. I have gone though my first act line by line and trimmed. Everything thing in my opinion seems vital to the emotional connection that I am trying to make with my audience. My protagonist and his progression as the story flows is captivating, pulling the audience in, making them fall in love with him. While this is happening, simultaneously another story is being told. The antagonist is being introduced and his presence is being felt all throughout act 1 until finally at page 36, he meets the protagonist and disaster takes place.

    Are there not stories told creatively, with in-depth introduction mixed with action and suspense, where 40 pages is actually necessary to capture the hearts of the audience? Its not like my story is flat up until page 32. Its full of action, and even death scenes. Please advise.
    Last edited by mistachy; 11-26-2012 at 01:18 AM.

  4. #4
    Arranger Of Disorder WriteKnight's Avatar
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    My advice - cut it to thirty pages, tops. Again, this assumes that you ALREADY have written a completed screenplay that is probably well over 120 pages in length. Understand that READING a script might seem compelling - especially to YOU. But to a professional reader, if the scene break doesn't happen by page thirty - they'll toss it.

    Your job... as a SCREENWRITER. Is to keep all the compelling dramatic riveting GOLD you have in there - and cut the crap.

    And there is always crap.

    It might be as simple as three lines of description that can be written in one. It might be as simple as coming in as late as possible, and getting out before you need to. The standard approach to cutting and trimming.



    Forty pages is forty minutes of screentime. (More or less) That's WAY too long to develop a first act of a movie that will run ninety to 120 minutes.

    Cut it down.

    Or not. Your choice. Send it out just as it is... and see if you get turned down.

    One of my favorite stories - ON the set of "Air Force One" - they were running behind on a scene one day. The set up was complicated. Harrison Ford looked at the two pages of dialogue and said, "I can say this with a look..." And he did. Two pages cut.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mistachy View Post
    ... Everything thing in my opinion seems vital to the emotional connection that I am trying to make with my audience. My protagonist and his progression as the story flows is captivating, pulling the audience in, making them fall in love with him.
    ..
    Are there not stories told creatively, with in-depth introduction mixed with action and suspense, where 40 pages is actually necessary to capture the hearts of the audience?
    It sounds like you've already made your decision.

    Good luck,

    Mac

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    If you need help figuring out your story's beats, then you may want to take a look at Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat" books which help to explain not only what happens when, but also the reasoning behind it.

    I've pulled apart several of my scripts and mapped them on to his Beat Sheets and they flow much more smoothly and fit comfortably within the recommended page/minute timings.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    thanks for the replies. ive made some additional adjustments.

  8. #8
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Blake Synder's Save The Cat website is listed in the screenwriting tips sticky thread, and is worth a visit.

    I seem to recall being able to read the beat sheet samples on the website, but now the links only offer file download options. Possibly because Mr. Snyder is no longer with us and someone else is maintaining the site, I dunno.

    Once you reach 50 posts, you can post sample pages for critique in our Share Your Work forum, if you're looking for some feedback.

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