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THREE-ACT SCREENPLAY STRUCTURE

Page numbers below are based on a 100-page screenplay. Increase these numbers
proportionally for longer scripts.
ACT 1
STAGE 1: Set-up pages 110.
a) Draw reader into story.
b) Reveal everyday life of hero.
c) Establish identity of hero (Is he funny, likable, powerful, etc.?)
TURNING POINT 1: Opportunity page 10.
a) Hero is presented with an opportunity or new desire.
b) This starts hero on journey.
c) It is not the specific goal that defines the entire movie.
STAGE 2: New Situation pages 1025.
a) Hero reacts to new situation that resulted from opportunity.
b) Hero gets acclimated to new surroundings; formulates specific plan.
c) Hero usually enters this stage willingly with excitement and anticipation.
TURNING POINT 2 [ACT 1 BREAK]: Change of Plans page 25.
a) Hero transforms original desire into a specific goal with clear end point.
b) Heros motivation is revealed.
ACT 2
STAGE 3: Progress pages 2550.
a) Heros plan seems to be working as he takes action to achieve goal.
b) Whatever obstacles hero faces, he is able to avoid or overcome them.
TURNING POINT 3: Point of No Return page 50.
a) Hero must fully commit to goal; no turning back.
b) Hero may have burned bridges, is taking much bigger risks.
STAGE 4: Complications and Higher Stakes pages 5075.
a) Achieving visible goal becomes far more difficult.

b) Hero has much more to lose if he fails.


c) Conflicts build.
TURNING POINT 4 [ACT 2 BREAK]: Major Setback page 75.
a) Seems that all is lost for hero.
b) Only option is to make one last all-or-nothing effort.
ACT 3
STAGE 5: Final Push pages 7590.
a) Conflict is overwhelming; pace accelerated.
b) Everything is working against hero.
TURNING POINT 5: Climax page 90, could come near end of movie.
a) Hero faces biggest obstacle of entire story.
b) Hero must determine his own fate.
STAGE 6: Aftermath pages 90100, could be shorter.
a) Resolution of heros objective.
b) Reveal new life of hero now that hes completed journey.
* * *

Movie Breakdowns
Casablanca:
1. INCITING INCIDENT
Ugarte (Peter Lorre) comes to Rick's Caf Amricain, a swank nightclub owned by
American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), with letters of transit he obtained
by killing two German couriers. The papers allow the bearer to travel freely around
German-controlled Europe, and Ugarte plans to sell the documents to the highest bidder
but leaves the letters with Rick for safekeeping. (00:10:15)
2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)
Even though Ugarte is captured by Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), a corrupt
police official accommodating the Nazis, before he can sell the letters of transit to Victor
Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a infamous Czech Resistance leader, Rick isn't locked in until Ilsa
(Ingrid Bergman), Victor's wife and Rick's past lover in Paris, who re-enters Rick's life.
(00:31:16)
3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)
Laszlo and Ilsa seek out Signor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet), one of Rick's competitor's
and owner of a club called The Blue Parrot. Ferrari; however, his is only able to secure
one exit visa for Ilsa, explaining that "it would take a miracle" to get Laszlo out of
Casablanca. But the couple agrees that they are "only interested in two visas". Ferrari
then hints that Rick has possession of Ugarte's letters of transit. (00:58:30)
4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)
Ilsa confronts Rick in the deserted caf, holding a gun on him in a desperate attempt to
retrieve the letters of transit, but Rick dares her to "Go ahead and shoot." Unable to pull
the trigger, Ilsa confesses that she still loves him, and only after this confession does Rick
decide to help Laszlo escape Casablanca, leading Ilsa to believe that she will stay behind
with Rick when Laszlo leaves. (01:21:19)
5. THIRD ACT TWIST
After Laszlo is jailed on a minor charge, Rick convinces Renault to release Laszlo,
promising to set him up for a much more serious crime: possession of the letters of
transit, However, Rick double crosses Renault, forcing him at gunpoint to assist in the
escape. There is a final twist upon the twist, however, when at the last moment, Rick
makes Ilsa get on the plane to Lisbon with her husband. (1:33:10)

Chinatown:
1. INCITING INCIDENT
In 1930s drought-ridden Los Angeles, Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), a savvy private
detective, is hired by Ida Sessions (Diane Ladd), posing as Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray, in
order to confirm her suspicions that her husband, Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling), the
Water Commissioner of Los Angeles, is cheating on her. Gittes gets the job done fast, but
when the photos he took hit the papers, the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) shows
up with her lawyer in tow wielding a lawsuit. (00:18:50)
2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)
Gittes attempts to meet with Hollis Mulwray and smooth things out, but hes not at
home. Evelyn Mulwray meets with him and surprisingly agrees to drop the lawsuit, but
Gittes intends to pursue the matter because he hasnt gotten to the bottom of things yet.
He explains that hes not used to being the one caught with his pants down. (00:28:12)
3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)
After Hollis turns up dead, drowned, Gittes is attacked by hired thugs while snooping
around a Water Department reservoir trying to dig up some answers. The next day,
Evelyn shows up in Gittes office again and offers him his usual fee plus a very generous
bonus if he finds out what happened to her husband and who was involved. (00:55:32)
4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)
After meeting with Noah Cross (John Huston), Evelyns father, who wants to find the
missing girl Hollis was allegedly having an affair with, Gittes checks out a lead on
properties in the valley, only to be attacked by angry farmers claiming hes a stooge for
the Water Department. Fortunately, Evelyn picks him up and takes him back to her house
where they spend the night together. She leaves suddenly after a late phone call, and
when Gittes follows her, he finds that Evelyn has been keeping the missing girl hostage
all along. Hes been had, again. (1:27:40)
5. THIRD ACT TWIST
Tired of being jerked around, and convinced that she is her husbands murderer, Gittes
confronts Evelyn about the girl, slapping her in the face until he gets the answer. Evelyn
breaks down and confesses that the girl Katherine is her sister and her daughter. From
this unexpected reveal, everything falls into place: Evelyn is trying to protect her
sister/daughter from the incestuous Noah Cross. So now Gittes decides to try and help
Evelyn escape with Katherine to Mexico. (1:45:45)

Beauty and the Beast:


1. INCITING INCIDENT
Beast captures Maurice.
2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)
Belle gives herself up for her dad.
3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)
Beast chooses to release Belle to save her father, potentially giving up the chance to
become human again.
4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)
Gaston holds the upper hand, threatening to have Maurice committed unless Belle
marries him. After affirming the reality of Beast, the townspeople decide to attack the
castle.
5. THIRD ACT TWIST
After the rooftop battle, Gaston dies the traditional Disney villain death. Belle and Beast
fall in love before the last petal falls, and the curse is broken. Everyone lived happily ever
after except for probably Gaston's idiot sidekick.
Tangled:
1. INCITING INCIDENT
Flynn finds the tower while on the run from the police.
2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)
Rapunzel leaves the tower.
3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)
Mother Gothel catches Rapunzel. She tries to get her to return to the tower, but she
refuses. Mother Gothel gives Rapunzel the tiara to test Flynn's loyalty to her.
4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)
Flynn goes to meet the Stabbington Brothers. The brothers end up convincing Rapunzel
that Flynn betrayed her, and she goes running back to the tower with Mother Gothel.
Meanwhile, Flynn gets arrested.
5. THIRD ACT TWIST
Rapunzel gives up her hair to revive Flynn, but it doesn't work. Mother Gothel starts
turning into a skeleton and falls out the window (see: Gaston). Rapunzel's tears are also
magic though, so Flynn comes back to life. Everyone lived happily ever after because
Mother Gothel who died.