Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Secret of Sarah Pennington - Formula

It has always been a goal of mine to produce a feature length movie.  To have a potentially successful low budget feature length movie it must contain several ingredients.  First and foremost it must have a great story.

There are all sorts of advice on how to write a great story or a successful screenplay Such advice as:
Don’t do a buddy film.
Don’t write a journey film.
The script must be a minute a page.
Write what you know.
Don’t do horror.
Don’t do comedy.
Don’t do drama. 
Watch a movie a week.
Write every day.
Don’t write in the screen formula and, 
Hold your pencil and walk three times around your desk before you sit down and begin writing.

Oh the bits of wisdom go on and on. 

Also to produce a low budget feature you need to have some money.  I am sure we can all share money woe stories for days.

You must have the equipment.

And you need to surround yourself with people you know you can work with.

But if you look at any good screenplay writing book you will read that there is a basic breakdown of a movie and it is three acts.  Act one is roughly pages 1-30 act 2, 30-90 and act 3, 90-120.  In act one the equilibrium is established and something happens to disturb this equilibrium and all main characters are introduced in the first 10 pages.  Act 2 the main character must proceed to fix what is wrong and reestablish equilibrium and in act three the main character has been successful, equilibrium is reestablished but the new equilibrium is different than the equilibrium in the beginning.

I’ve tried to stray from this formula and have discovered that audiences don’t care for those pictures as much.  People aren’t coming up to me and saying, “Ah, Act one was only ten pages and you introduced a new character on page 52.”  Often, disappointed viewers cannot pin down their dislike.

In movie making, I am a firm believer in “breaking the rules.” But there is a reason for the three act screenplay being written about in books and after all, over 100 years of movie making certainly has perfected this formula.