Over two years ago I wrote a series of three articles on how to write a script.
How to Write a Feature Movie Script Part One – What is a movie script anyway?
How to Write a Feature Movie Script Two – Writing a script isn’t just writing a script
How to Write a Feature Movie Script Three – Finding your way into the story
I started the series as a way to organize my thoughts about how to write a script. Since then I have thought about other articles in the series, but I haven’t done any, yet.
One idea was to talk about getting feedback. I did write one article about the feedback I got on my film Who Shot the President (Why Do People Hate my Film?). I still may do an article that looks more generally at the issue.
Another idea I had more recently was on structure. Over the last year I wrote three feature scripts and several short stories. That experience gave me a lot to think about on structure.
I get confused by the terminology people use to describe structure. Scripts can be broken down into acts, sequences, plot points, story events, scenes and beats. What some people call story events, other people call scenes. I define a scene as something that happens in one location at one time, which is useful when you shoot a film. In a film, a story event could be played out in several scenes.
One of the things that I want to write about is the concept of the “beat”. Some people seem to use it as a synonym for story event or scene, while others use it to refer to a brief interaction within a scene. In my view I think the brief beat is a more useful concept. I see a beat as something lasting about 10 seconds. It could be an exchange of dialogue, or a bit of action. For a 90 minute film there would need to be about 540 beats.
Beats are built up to create a scene. Story events are built up to create sequences and sequences are built up to create acts. Acts are combined to make the whole movie. When you write, you would normally work backwards from act to sequence to scene to beat.