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03/22/2005 - WRITING A SCREENPLAY - 4th 10 Pages

Chapter Four - Pages 31 to 40


In our last chapter we talked about the first act break that moves us to...


This will be probably surprising to you but you should be very excited at this moment. We're dealing with something I don't think we've discussed in a while (I know it's been a while since I wrote the last chapter - my apologies). It was mentioned at the end of Chapter 3 and that is, simply, MOMENTUM!

Think about this as the top of the hill before the car goes down the other side. You've spent the first 30 pages showing the car, the people inside, gotten to know them, their wishes, their desires, their wants, their needs, their passions - now you're at the top of the hill and you're going to go down the other side and...NO BRAKES! What happens now?

What we're talking about is momentum. It's putting that roller-coaster in motion and getting the movement ratcheting up like the chain that pulls that roller-coaster car over the top.

NOTE: Though I am talking about momentum, I'm not saying that your film is supposed to be some gut-busting rambling Joel Schumacher explosion fest. No, momentum can be just as strong watching a married main character pick up a woman in a bar as it can be to see the spaceship blast off to outer-space.

Look at the momentum built up in the film "The Wizard of Oz?" You've got from a black-and-white Kansas farmland to the colorful world of Munchkinland! Complete with witches and little people.

Is the momentum in a film like "Star Wars" any different? The story shifts when Luke says: "I want to learn the ways of the Force. I want to become a Jedi like my father."

You, as the writer, should be dying for this moment because this is where you really start to screw with your characters. This is where the story REALLY begins. The decision has been made and off we go!

So within these ten pages: 31 to 40 - you should use the momentum of the decision by the main character to explore the areas your about to write. This is not a time for complacency or boredom. This is the time you have been waiting for. This is the scene you have been waiting for.

Imagine, if you will, that you are George Lucas or you are the writer of "The Wizard of Oz" and you are about to write the Cantina Scene and introduce Han Solo or you're about to create another world filled with little people and falling houses and yellow-brick roads. Pretty darn exciting.

You've come to the moment of decision in the 21 - 30 pages. Now you need to explore what happens next. How is that decision going to impact the next ten pages (and all the other characters in the story)? What will happen next?

Only you and your imagination know.

Let me give you another quick example using the "married man meets woman in bar" scenario I used above. You spend the first act meeting the husband. Let's say he's trapped in a love-less marriage. Well, his wife loves him and adores him but he's bored and tired and nothing seems to be working out right. He tells his buddy that he wants to be happy and that he wants to explore a life beyond his wife. When he's at the local pub he spies a beautiful woman from across the bar and he approaches her. We've just established a couple of the main characters (husband, loving wife) and we know what his desires and wishes are and he has made a conscious choice - which of course is going to move the story in an interesting direction - where that direction goes - that's for you to figure out. That's where these next ten pages come in to play.

What would you do? Sleep with Glenn Close (like in the film "Fatal Attraction?" Dance with Jennifer Lopez (like in the film "Shall We Dance?") - note I have seen neither of these films.


1. Create the pivotal scene that increases the momentum built up from the first 30 pages.

2. Create more conflict.

3. Introduce the new characters that will bring the rest of the screenplay to life.


Ask yourself if your main character(s) is/are taking the necessary risk(s) that validates their initial dreams/wants/desires. Build up the conflict. Let it start with plenty of room to grow. This is a journey, not a destination.


Ask yourself about how the next ten pages are going to play out. What, by the actions taken by your character, is going to happen now?


What Characters come in to play now? Are they the same was who we met in the first act? Are they new? How are they going to effect the main character and his/her desire/want/need/passion?

HOMEWORK: Watch for the break between the 1st and 2nd act and then pay close attention to the scene(s) that immediately follow the decision that was made. What did those scenes set up? How has the conflict risen? What new characters have arrived on the scene?



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