HEY EVERYONE! HULK HERE! PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS A FULLY RE-WRITTEN, UPDATED VERSION OF THIS COLUMN RIGHT HERE: http://badassdigest.com/2013/12/11/hulks-screenwriting-101-excerpt-the-myth-of-3-act-structure/

PLEASE CHECK IT OUT! HULK THANK!

*  *  *

HULK HEAR IT ALL THE TIME: “PROBLEMS IN THE FILM’S SECOND ACT.”

ALL… THE FUCKING… TIME.

NOW HULK UNDERSTAND THE INTENTION OF THE STATEMENT, IT USUALLY IMPLY WHEN FILM TREADING WATER, OR LOSE TRACK CHARACTERS, OR RUNNING OUT OF STEAM, OR CRAMMING STUFF IN, OR WHATEVER. HULK GET HOW COMMENT INTENDED. THE PROBLEM WITH THIS GENERIC “SECOND ACT” DESIGNATION THAT REALLY IT CAN IMPLY A PROBLEM WITH ANYTHING IN THE “MIDDLE PART” OF STORYTELLING. IT BEYOND VAGUE. SO WHAT CREATE SUCH WISHY-WASHY STORYTELLING? AND THE EVEN WISHY-WASHY-IER WAY OF EXPLAINING IT?

IT BECAUSE EVER-POPULAR NOTION OF THE 3 ACT STRUCTURE = THE MOST ABOMINABLE WAY TO EXPLAIN STORYTELLING IMAGINABLE. EVEN IF SOMEONE WROTE A STORY USING THE MODEL AS GUIDE, IT STILL, ESSENTIALLY, A MYTH.

IN ORDER TO EVEN DISCUSS, HULK FIRST MUST DEFINE WHAT CONSTITUTE AN “ACT.” PEOPLE USE THE WORD ALL THE TIME WITH OUT REALLY BOTHERING THINK WHAT IT MEAN. IT SORT OF JUST GENERAL PLACEHOLDER FOR “BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND END.” AND WELL… THAT MEAN NOTHING.

SO HULK, AS WELL AS MANY SCREENWRITERS, PROFESSORS, ACTUAL GOOD BOOKS ON SUBJECT, AND MANY OTHER SMARTER PEOPLE THAN HULK, DEFINE THE END OF AN ACT AS FOLLOWING: A POINT IN STORY WHERE CHARACTER(S) MAKE CHOICE AND CAN NO LONGER “GO BACK.”

THE “POINT” OF COURSE = PURPOSELY VAGUE.  AFTER ALL, THERE MANY DIFFERENT KINDS STORIES, ALL WITH MANY DIFFERENT KINDS GOALS. BUT YOU MAY SAY “BUT HULK, COULDN’T THAT POINT REALLY BE ANYTHING? LIKE A CHARACTER JUST LEAVING HIS HOUSE AND GRABBING COFFEE OR SOMETHING?” OKAY IT HAVE BE SLIGHTLY MORE VALID THAN SIMPLE CHANGE IN ACTION OR ENVIRONMENT. THE ACT BREAK CAN BE NEW AND INTERESTING PLOT POINT, A POIGNANT CHARACTER DECISION, A PERSONALITY REVEAL, TWO PREVIOUSLY UN-MET CHARACTERS BECOMING FRIENDS, OR EVEN, IF HANDLED CORRECTLY, SOMETHING AS INSIPID AS “NO! THE BAD GUYS ARE HERE! RUN!” … IT CAN  BE ANYTHING AS LONG AS IT HAVE CHANGING NARRATIVE VALUE. THE CHARACTERS ALWAYS HAVE MOVE FORWARD IN SOME NEW REALITY/SITUATION.

THE TRUE END OF ACT CREATE PROPULSION.

WITH THIS DEFINITION, IT MEAN FILM CAN HAVE ANY NUMBER OF ACTS DEPENDING ON WHAT TRYING TO SAY/DO. A MOVIE LIKE MALCOLM X HAVE ABOUT 9 DISTINGUISHABLE ACTS IN HULK’S ESTIMATION, EACH FOCUSING ON TIME IN HIS LIFE WHERE MALCOLM GO THROUGH PERIOD OF FOCUS AND COME TO NEW KIND OF ENLIGHTENMENT OR CHARACTER REALITY. IT TRULY EPIC FILM THAT TAKE THE STANDARD BIOPIC (WHICH TEND JUST JUMP FROM EVENT TO EVENT IN PERSONS LIFE) AND SEPARATE THEM INTO VERY OBVIOUS “SECTIONS” OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. IT ONE OF HULK’S FAVORITE MOVIES TO POINT TO WHEN COMES TO MULTI-ACT-LABELING.

AND HECK, SOME MOVIES HAVE UPWARDS OF 20 ACTS. IT ALL A QUESTION OF WHAT STORY YOU WANTING TELL AND THE BETTER YOU UNDERSTAND THIS “MOVING FORWARD” MARKING OF ACT BREAKS, THE BETTER THE SCREENPLAY AT PROPELLING NARRATIVE IN MEANINGFUL WAY.(1)

IT STRANGE WHEN YOU LOOK AT CERTAIN-OH-SO-TERRIBLE MOVIES WITH THIS DEFINITION OF AN ACT-DEFINING AND REALIZE “HOLY CRAP, SOME OF THESE MOVIES DO NOTHING LIKE THAT!”

*COUGH COUGH*

YUP. THIS TINY BIT OF ADVICE  OF IGNORING 3 ACT STRUCTURE IN FAVOR OF CONSTANT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT WOULD SAVE HUNDREDS OF MOVIES.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE RECENT-AND-UTTER-SHIT-FEST GREEN LANTERN HAVE ONE REAL GENUINE ACT BREAK. REPEAT. ONE. OH SURE, THERE STUFF THAT HAPPEN, BUT IN TERMS OF MAIN CHARACTER PROPULSION? NOPE. TO REITERATE THE PLOT: HAL JORDAN = A PISSY-ASS FIGHTER PILOT, HE GIVEN LANTERN RING, ZAPPED TO OA (NEITHER HIS DECISION), TRAIN FOR ALL OF TWO SECONDS AND QUIT TO GO BACK BEING PISSY-ASS NON-FIGHTER PILOT. IT NOT UNTIL 90 DIFFERENT SCENES OF RELATIVE MOPING, FUTZING AROUND IN SUIT, AND FUCKING REJECTING BLAKE LIVELY’S ADVANCES, THAT HE EMBRACE BEING LANTERN AND MAKE ACTUAL FUCKING DECISION TO CHANGE CHARACTER AND GO BACK TO OA. AND NO TELL HULK THAT HAL GETTING THE RING = AN “ACT BREAK” BECAUSE HE THEN SPENT THEN ENTIRE “MIDDLE” OF MOVIE GOING BACK ON THAT. REPEAT, THE FILM HAVE ONE ACT BREAK. THAT IT. EVERYTHING ELSE, OUTSIDE OF HECTOR HAMMOND WHO THE ONE AN ACTUAL STORY ARC, JUST = STUFF HAPPENING. THERE NO CLEAR CHARACTER MOTIVATION AT PLAY IN ANYONE ELSE. THE FILM, ALONG WITH HUNDREDS OTHER MOVIES, PLAIN NO REALIZE WHAT “ACTS” MEAN. THEY NO REALIZE THAT CHARACTERS HAVE MAKE DECISIONS.

AND HULK BLAME THIS STRINGENT BELIEF IN EXISTENCE OF “3 ACT STRUCTURE” FOR CRAP LIKE THIS. HULK REALLY DO.

FOR STARTERS, IT GO BACK TO THAT PROBLEM OF PEOPLE NOT EVEN TRYING DEFINE “ACT BREAKS” WHATSOEVER. THIS WHOLE BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND END THING MAKES SOME BASIC SENSE IN TERMS OF “SUMMARIZING” A PLOT, BUT IT LITERALLY GIVE ZERO INDICATION OF HOW ACTUALLY WRITE THAT STORY. IF USING THE TRADITIONAL MODEL OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE THEN THE 1ST ACT ALL “INTRODUCTION/SET UP” AND THE 3RD ACT “THE CLIMAX!” WHICH BOTH VAGUE BUT PRETTY  SELF-EXPLANATORY… BUT THEN THERE THAT SECOND ACT WHICH OFTEN JUST DEFINED AS “RISE IN CONFLICT”… SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK THAT EVEN MEAN?

YOU KNOW… THE CONFLICT! JUST, UM, RISE IT!”

WHATEVER IT MEAN, IT CERTAINLY NOT GOOD STORYTELLING. SURE, HULK GUESS IT AN INCREDIBLY VAGUE SUMMARY OF WHAT HAPPENING, BUT AGAIN, IT NOT INSTRUCTING HOW ACTUALLY DO THAT. NONE OF THE GOOD STUFF WHICH CRITICAL TO CHARACTER ARCS, MOTIVATION, RELATIONSHIPS, PROPULSION. NONE OF IT!

MOST OF TIME IT LEAD WRITERS TO JUST TRY MAKE CONNECTING POINTS BETWEEN THE BEGINNING AND ENDING. THAT ABOUT IT. WHICH MEAN CHARACTERS NOT MOVING FORWARD IN ANY DISCERNIBLE WAY. JUST WAITING AROUND FOR 80 MINUTE MARK SO THAT THEY CAN BEGIN THAT ENDING THINGY. IT A SHELL GAME OF UNMOTIVATED EVENTS ALL BECAUSE THE DEFINITION OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE = COMPLETE ASS.

AS RESULT, WE HEAR IT ALL THE TIME: “THE PROBLEMS IN THE FILM’S SECOND ACT.”

SO OKAY, LET’S GET SERIOUS. IF THE 3 ACT MODEL SUCKS AND ACTS MERELY JUST CAN-NO-GO-BACK, HOW ACTUALLY APPROACH STRUCTURE THEN? LET HULK COMPARE THE TRADITIONAL 3 ACT MODEL WITH THAT OTHER OH SO FAMOUS ACT MODEL CREATED BY THE GREATEST STORYTELLING GENIUS OF ALL TIME: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

THIS GUY

FACT: SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS HAD 5 ACTS…  REPEAT: 5… NOT 3.

AND FOR SAKE OF EXPLANATION, HULK WILL USE MOST SHAKESPEARE’S MOST POPULAR PLAY, ROMEO AND JULIET (2), TO HELP ILLUSTRATE HULK’S UPCOMING POINT ABOUT NATURE OF STORY STRUCTURE.

THE 1ST ACT COMPRISED OF INTRODUCTIONS AND ESTABLISHING OF PRE-EXISTING CENTRAL MAIN CONFLICT (I.E. TWO FAMILIES AT ODDS, ROMEO LOVESICK PUP OVER ROSALINE, JULIET NAIVE AND LOVELORN GIRL). NOW, THIS PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT IN BACKGROUND SORT OF IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT CREATE A CONDITION OF THE WORLD THE AUDIENCE ENTERING. IT CREATE SENSE OF SPACE, HISTORY, AND BELIEVABILITY. AND IT BIG SURPRISE TO HULK HOW OFTEN IT IGNORED IN TRADITION OF GRAND BLOCKBUSTER  FILMMAKING THAT SO POPULAR NOWADAYS. AND HECK, EVEN IF IT SOME INTRICATE HUMAN DRAMA, THE PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT GIVE REASON FOR THE OCCURRENCE OF THE MAIN ACTION WHICH SPUR PLOT INTO EFFECT.

THE 2ND ACT USUALLY COMPRISED OF SOME KIND OF TURN OR REVERSAL WHICH CHALLENGE OR DEEPLY WORSEN THE MAIN CONFLICT, USUAL IN FORM OF RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT, REVEAL, OR SURPRISE (I.E. STAR-CROSSED TEENAGERS ROMEO AND JULIET MEET AND GO GA-GA OVER ONE ANOTHER, WHICH HUGE PROBLEM GIVEN THE NATURE OF THE PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT). BASICALLY THIS ACT FEATURE THE MAIN DEVELOPMENT OF THE STORY. MEANING IF HAD TO EXPLAIN WHAT THE MOVIE ABOUT, THE CONFLICT BEING DESCRIBED SHOULD BE THE THING HAPPENING SOMEWHERE IN HERE, REVEALED IN WHICHEVER WAY BENEFIT THE STORY MOST.(3)

THE 3RD ACT COMPRISE A TURNING POINT. NOW, HULK REMIND YOU THIS NEED NOT BE A “TWIST” BUT MORE A SPURRING ACTION THAT MAKE THE CONFLICT INFINITELY MORE COMPLICATED (I.E. MERCUTIO DYING, ROMEO THEN KILLING TYBALT). OFTEN THESE MOMENTS SURPRISING. THEY DEEPLY AFFECT NOT ONLY THE SERIOUSNESS OF MAIN CONFLICT, BUT EVEN ALTER THE ACTUAL DIRECTION OF IT. THIS THE SORT OF THING ALLUDED TO IN THE “RISE IN CONFLICT” STATEMENT, BUT YOU KNOW, WAY MORE SPECIFIC. THE 3RD ACT SUCH GREAT OPPORTUNITY IN STORYTELLING AND SHAKESPEARE’S 3RD ACTS OFTEN THINGS OF BEAUTY: GREAT INVERSIONS. BEST INTENTIONS GONE AWRY. DEATHS! LOSS! CONFUSION! SUDDEN CHAOS! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT EVEN THOUGH THESE THIS 3RD ACTS DON’T FINISH THE ARC OF THE STORY, THEY STILL CLIMAX-WORTHY IN SCALE, AND NOT JUST “HEY, LET’S PUT AN ACTION SCENE HERE!

“SO, MY FIRST ACT IS GONNA BE THIS FIGHT. THEN MY SECOND ACT IS GOING TO BE THIS FIGHT. MY THIRD ACT IS THE HOUR-LONG FIGHT SCENE WHERE NOTHING CHARACTER WISE ACTUALLY HAPPENS!”

BUT THE REAL KEY WITH THE THIRD ACT TO MAKE THE “TURNING POINT” ONE THAT DEEPLY AFFECTING AND TO CHANGE THE ARC OF THE STORY. IT SOMETHING FAR MORE IMPORTANT THEN JUST “PUTTING THINGS IN PLACE FOR CLIMAX”. SPEAKING OF WHICH…

THE 4TH ACT THEN “THE SPIRAL” AND IT ACTUALLY FULL OF DECISIONS THAT CAUSE CHARACTERS SINK TOWARD THE REAL CLIMAX (I.E. ROMEO AND JULIET DECIDE GO ON THE LAMB, HATCH PLAN TO FAKE DEATHS, ETC). IN TRUTH THIS THE POINT WHERE YOU REALLY ARRANGING AND SETTING UP THE CLIMAX, BUT IN THAT GOAL IT IMPORTANT REMEMBER THAT STAYING TRUE TO CHARACTER ARCS. IT REALLY THE BEST PLACE TO EXPOSE THE DEEP CHARACTER FLAWS THAT WILL EITHER BRING DOWN HERO OR ALLOW THEM SUCCEED. (MEANWHILE, THE THIRD ACT TURNING POINT CAN SOMETIMES ALLOW FOR MAIN CHARACTER ACTING OUT OF CHARACTER. IT A NEAT LITTLE DISTINCTION). THE 4TH ACT ALSO GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR QUIET MOMENTS OF REFLECTION BEFORE THE FINALE, BUT IT CAN NO JUST BE ALL REFLECTION AND PAUSING (COUGH COUGH GREEN LANTERN). AGAIN, THAT “FULL OF DECISIONS” ASPECT NEED BE THERE. THE PACE SHOULD QUICKEN. THINGS SHOULD FEEL LIKE THEY FALLING OUT OF CONTROL. IT THE SPIRAL.

AND THE 5TH ACT WHERE AUDIENCE GET THE CLIMAX/RESOLUTIONS/WEDDINGS/TRAGEDY/FALLOUT/ETC. (I.E. ROMEO AND JULIET KILL SELVES, FAMILY HEARTBROKEN AND DECLARE PEACE). (4) THE MOST IMPORTANT THING REMEMBER THAT IT NO JUST “WRAPPING THINGS UP” BUT THE ENCAPSULATION OF THE STORY AND SHOULD EXHIBIT ALL THE POINTS ONE TRYING MAKE IN MOVIE. THE CLIMAX AND RESOLUTION = THE GOAL OF YOUR MOVIE. IT SHOULD BE THE SUMMATION OF EVERYTHING YOU WRITTEN SO FAR. IT SHOULD NO BE FREAKIN’ AFTERTHOUGHT.

AGAIN, THIS 5 ACT STRUCTURE THING JUST AN EXAMPLE. CAN DO WHATEVER YOU THINK BEST. LIKE THE 9 ACTS IN MALCOLM X. BUT IF LOOKING FOR TOOL TO HELP STRUCTURE YOUR STORY THEN, WELL, ONE COULD DO A LOT WORSE THAN SHAKESPEARE. NO MATTER WHAT THE STORY: TRAGEDY, COMEDY, OR HISTORY, HE USED THIS SPECIFIC 5 ACT STRUCTURE EVERY TIME. THE INTRO, THE CONCEIT, THE TURN, THE SPIRAL, THE CLIMAX. HE GET HEAPED WITH PRAISE OVER MASTERY OF LANGUAGE AND THE DEEP RESONANCE OF THEMATICS, SOME EVEN CREDIT HIM AS THE FATHER OF PSYCHOLOGY, BUT HE JUST SO FUCKING BRILLIANT AT STORY STRUCTURE TO BOOT… IT SORT OF UNFAIR. AND HULK KNOW IT MAY SEEM LAME BRING UP SUCH AN OBVIOUS CHOICE AS “BEST WRITER EVER” BUT, WELL, HE WAS.

AGREES

SO NOW THEN.

HULK WANT YOU GO BACK TO TRADITIONAL DEFINITION OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE FOR SECOND. YOU MAY NOTICE SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT WHEN COMPARING IT TO SHAKESPEARE’S MODEL. THE WAY THE SECOND ACT DESCRIBED IN 3 ACT STRUCTURE = THE SAME WAY ACT 4 DEFINED IN SHAKESPEARE’S MODEL. HIS “SPIRAL” REALLY SIMILAR TO THE “RISE IN CONFLICT.”

HULK ARGUE THIS SO FUCKING TELLING IT NOT EVEN FUNNY.

IT MEAN THAT THIS LITTLE WAY SHAKESPEARE ESCALATING THE STAKES AND POSITIONING THE ENDGAME = THE SAME EXACT WAY HOLLYWOOD SCREENWRITERS HANDLE THE ENTIRE MIDDLE PARTS OF THEIR GODDAMN MOVIE.

NO WONDER THEY AIMLESS AND BORING.

FOR ONE, IT NO MISTAKE THAT SHAKESPEARE’S ACT 4 ALWAYS THE SHORTEST, LEAST INTERESTING, AND LEAST COMPELLING OF EVERY SINGLE ONE HIS PLAYS. SO IMAGINE TRYING FIT THAT SAME STORY TELLING LOGIC INTO THE 30-60 SUM ODD PAGES THAT MAKE UP SECOND ACTS? IT MEAN THEY CHARACTERS JUST WAITING AROUND. IT MEAN THE WRITERS JUST TRYING COME UP WITH DISTRACTIONS AND B.S. CONFLICTS THAT NO HAVE DO WITH THE POINT OR AFFECTING THE ARC OF STORY. IT MEAN THAT WRITERS END UP CRAMMING TOO MUCH GOOD STUFF IN “FIRST ACT” TO TRY AND ESTABLISH ALL NEEDED DETAILS WHEN REALLY THEY MISSING GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR DEVELOPING A STORY AT ORGANIC PACE.(5)

SO MAYBE SHAKESPEARE NOT YOUR THING. YOU MAY ASK “HULK, HOW THIS 5 ACT WORK WITH POPULAR MOVIE GOING? I NO REMEMBER SEEING FIVE ACT MOVIE BE BIG HIT.”

THIS WHERE HULK POLITELY REQUEST YOU LOOK AT HOST OF EXAMPLES. HECK, LOOK HULK’S OLD BUDDY/GREAT MOVIE IRON MAN, WHICH HAVE EXCEPTIONAL STORY STRUCTURE. THE ONE THING EVERYONE SEEMED LOVE THAT IT SPENT SO LONG BEFORE TONY ACTUALLY BECOME “IRON MAN” SO THEY GET EXPERIENCE ALL THE GREAT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT TO GET THERE. EVERYONE LAUDED THE FUN SENSE OF ADVENTURE THAT CAME FROM HIM ACTUALLY BUILDING THE SUIT. IT NEVER RUSHED GETTING TO “THE ACTION” THAT CAUSE THE STORYTELLING = THE ACTION. BUT THIS BIG BUDGET MOVIE!!! HOW THIS HAPPEN? GOOD STRUCTURE THAT’S HOW. GUESS HOW MANY ACTS THE MOVIE HAVE?

YUP. FIVE.

“OBIDIAH, I KNEW HIM WELL!”

NO BELIEVE HULK?

ACT ONE – INTRO + STATE OF PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT – WE GET SEE TONY AS PLAYBOY AND THE EXTERNAL MORAL CONFLICT OF SUPPLYING WEAPONS.

TWO – THE CONCEIT AND PUTTING AT ODDS WITH PRE-EXISTING CONFLICT – TONY CAPTURED AND PUT IN TERRORIST CAMP. DISCOVERS REALITY ABOUT HIS WEAPONS BUILDING AND LIFE THREATENED. BUILDS PROTOTYPE SUIT AND ESCAPES.

THREE – THE TURNING POINT – TONY NOW BACK AT HOME, HE MAKES MORAL DECISION SHUTS DOWN WEAPONS OPS CHANGE DIRECTION OF HIS LIFE. TONY DECIDES TO CONTINUE ON PATH AND BUILD NEW SUIT. OBADIAH REVEALED AS BAD GUY BEHIND TONY’S KIDNAPPING. TONY GOES LIVE W/ SUIT.

FOUR – THE SPIRAL/ESCALATION OF CONFLICT – TONY CONTINUES USE THE SUIT OUT IN REAL WAR CONFLICT AND HAS “HERO TRIALS” SO TO SPEAK, ADMITS TRUTH TO RHODES, GETS SIDELINED BY OBIDIAH, NOW IN GRIM CIRCUMSTANCE. NOTICE THAT THESE DEVELOPMENTS FEEL MORE OF THE ACTION-Y WHEEL-SPINNING ACTIVITIES THAT REEK OF STANDARD ACT 2 DEVELOPMENTS ONE SEES IN 3 ACT STRUCTURE. BUT IN THIS MOVIE? BECAUSE IT COME AFTER THE AWESOME SUIT-BUILDING TURN OF ACT 3, IT FEEL FRESH AND EXCITING TO NOW SEE IRON MAN IN ACTION. AND IT GO ON FOR PERFECT SHORTER LENGTH OF TIME BEFORE MOVING TO INEVITABLE FINALE.

FIVE- = CLIMAX/CONCLUSION/RESOLUTION – TONY’S CONFLICT WITH OBIDIAH COMES TO CONCLUSION BOTH PERSONALLY AND AS, YOU KNOW, BIG IRON MEN FIGHTING IN DEATH SUITS. THE IMPORTANT PART THAT ALL THE PLOTS ALL COME TOGETHER EVEN THOUGH THE ACTION FELT UNDERWHELMING. HULK ACTUALLY FIND THAT PART KINDA NEAT AS IT MEANT “THE ACTION” = THE LEAST INTERESTING PART OF BIG SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER. THAT AN ACHIEVEMENT.

“IT’S CALLED CHARISMA AND CHARACTERIZATION BITCHES”

SOME OF YOU MAY ARGUE THERE LOTS OTHER POSSIBLE ACT BREAKS IN IRON MAN. THAT THAT ABSOLUTELY TRUE. GREAT WRITING FILLED WITH “MICRO-ACTS” WHICH HELP PROPEL EVERY SCENE FORWARD.  THERE REALLY MANY DIFFERENT STORIES: TONY’S ARC WITH PEPPER HAVE IT OWN ACT BREAKS. TONY’S RELATIONSHIP WITH OBIDIAH HAVE ITS OWN BREAKS. IT WHAT MAKE A STORY FEEL PROPULSIVE + ORGANIC. AFTER ALL, EVERY SCENE SHOULD HAVE REAL GOAL AND OBJECTIVE TO IT. SO GOING BACK TO THE POINT AT HAND, LABELING ALL THAT GREAT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AND DECISION-MAKING IN THE MIDDLE OF MOVIE AS JUST “RISE IN CONFLICT” = FUCKING ASININE.

AND IT NOT JUST SHAKESPEARE AND IRON MAN FOLKS. HULK FIND MOST TRADITIONAL NARRATIVES (AT LEAST THE WELL TOLD ONES) HAVE ABOUT 5-6 ACTS. IT JUST A GREAT MODEL FOR TRADITIONAL STORYTELLING. NOTICE THAT ALL ONE HOUR TV DRAMAS ALL SEGMENTED INTO 5 ACTS? YES IT FOR COMMERCIAL BREAKS, BUT THIS MAGIC NUMBER NO REAL ACCIDENT AND IT REALLY HELP MAKE TV SHOWS PROPULSIVE. AGAIN, LIKE ANYTHING, YOU MORE THAN ALLOWED TO BREAK AWAY FROM THIS MODEL, BUT YOU BE SURPRISED HOW MANY NON-TRADITIONAL NARRATIVES UTILIZE 5-6 ACTS.

PEOPLE LOOOOOOOOVE TALK ABOUT QUENTIN TARANTINO’S NON-LINEAR STORYTELLING AS COUNTER EXAMPLE TO “ACT-BASED” STORYTELLING. PARTICULARLY WITH PULP FICTION. BUT GUESS WHAT? THAT MOVIE EXACTLY 5 ACTS (PLUS LITTLE VIGNETTES). RESERVOIR DOGS? 5 ACTS. BOTH KILL BILLS? EACH ONE HAS 5 ACTS. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS? 5 ACTS. YOU SENSE THEME?

“TO BE OR NOT TO BE”

HULK JUST CAN NO EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH.

A STORY A MULTIFACETED THING. IF YOU WANTING TO STRUCTURE YOUR STORY, REMEMBER TO HAVE BOTH ACT STRUCTURE FOR THE MAIN PLOT AND ACT STRUCTURE FOR THE EACH OF YOUR CHARACTERS PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENTS. BY HAVING ALL THESE VARYING STRUCTURES, EACH WITH THEIR OWN BEATS, IT CREATE A CONSTANT SENSE OF “MOVING FORWARD” FOR MOVIE. THAT WHY THEY CALL IT “DEVELOPMENT” AND IT THE KEY TO BRINGING YOUR AUDIENCE ALONG FOR JOURNEY.

PERHAPS YOU THINK HULK BEING TOO HARD ON 3 ACT STRUCTURE. THAT PERHAPS HULK SIMPLIFYING IT IN EFFORT TO TEAR IT DOWN.

FINE.

READ THIS “SUMMARY” OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE AND ENJOY THE BIGGEST EXAMPLE OF MISSING THE FUCKING POINT IN HISTORY:

http://www.lavideofilmmaker.com/filmmaking/screenplay-tips-three-act-structure.html

… WOW. HULK MEAN… WOW. THIS GIVEN AS ACTUAL ADVICE. AND WHAT ABOUT THAT AMAZING PART WHERE HE TAKE ACT 2-4 OF SHAKESPEARE’S WRITING AND ESTABLISH IT AS HIS “ACT 2” WHICH NOT ONLY HILARIOUS IN ITS OVER-SIMPLIFICATION BUT IT ACTUALLY IGNORE 3 ACT STRUCTURE RULES BECAUSE THE CONCEIT INTRODUCED IN SECOND ACT NOT END OF FIRST. THE WHOLE THING LAUGHABLE.

YUP, ALL YOU’LL EVER NEED TO TELL A STORY!

PLEASE. IF YOU WRITING SCREENPLAY. HULK TELLING YOU. THE 3 ACT STRUCTURE = GARBAGE.

STOP CITING IT IN ARTICLES.

STOP TALKING ABOUT IT WITH FRIENDS.

IT WILL NOT HELP YOU.

IT CAN ONLY HURT YOU.

STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ANYONE WHO EVEN CLAIM IT EXIST. IF THEY SAY IT DO. SAY “OR COURSE SHIT HAS BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND ENDING YOU INSUFFERABLE TURD” THEN THROW A DRINK IN THEIR FACE AND RUN AWAY…

… OKAY, MAYBE HULK GETTING CARRIED AWAY. PERHAPS ALL THIS ADVICE USELESS.

AFTER ALL, IT PARTICULARLY TELLING OF HOLLYWOOD THAT THEY EVEN FAIL AT THE BASICS OF THIS SUPPOSED 3 ACT STRUCTURE. BECAUSE SO MANY MOVIES GREEN-LIT ON JUST A “PITCH” AND SOME STARS ATTACHED, YOU BASICALLY HAVE MOVIES BEING MADE THAT HAVE ONLY FIGURED OUT THE CONCEIT, MEANING THEY ONLY KNOW THE FIRST ACT… AND THAT FUCKING IT. THE ENDINGS OF THESE BARELY ESTABLISHED CONCEITS UNIFORMLY TEND BE TERRIBLE. IT BECAUSE THE WRITERS JUST KEEP WRITING IN STRAIGHT LINE FROM THEIR STARTING POINT, PURSUING THE FALLOUT TIL THEY JUST RUN OUT OF STEAM. YOU BE STUNNED BY AMOUNT WRITERS THAT NO PLAN OUT MOVIE AND JUST SORT OF WRITING STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS. AND YES, THERE SOME GENIUSES WHO GET AWAY WITH WRITING LIKE THAT BUT TRUTH IS, THOSE GENIUSES HAVE INHERENT UNDERSTANDING OF PACING, DEVELOPMENT, CHARACTERIZATION, AND PROPULSION SO IT FLOWING OUT NATURALLY TO THEM.

IT REALLY INCONCEIVABLE TO HULK THAT FOLKS CAN START MAKING MOVIE WITHOUT TRULY “KNOWING” THE ENDING. IF YOU WANT BE WRITER, ALWAYS KNOW YOUR ENDING. HECK, YOUR ENDING SHOULD BE  IT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DOING. TO REITERATE, NO ONE EVER SEEM REALIZE THAT THE ENDING IS THE CONCEIT. IT LITERALLY THE COMPLETE SUMMATION OF WHAT YOU FUCKING TRYING TO SAY.

OH BALLS

TO SUMMARIZE THIS INSANE RANT:

THE AMOUNT OF ACTS MOVIE SHOULD BE DEPENDENT ON STORY WANT TO TELL. EACH ACT SHOULD REACH THIS MOVING FORWARD POINT IN ORGANIC, EARNED WAY. AND TOTAL NUMBER DEPENDENT ON HOW MUCH TRYING ACCOMPLISH WITH STORY. MORE IMPORTANTLY, THEY SHOULD ALL TIE TOGETHER IN COHERENT WAY.  AND THEN, ULTIMATELY, IT SHOULD TRY BE DONE WITH BEST ECONOMY POSSIBLE WITHOUT LOSING ANYTHING CRITICAL OR AFFECTING THE ORGANIC QUALITY.

HULK LOVE BRINGING UP THE ORIGINAL KUNG FU PANDA ALL THE TIME, NOT BECAUSE IT GREAT MOVIE, BUT BECAUSE IT KNOW PERFECTLY HOW TO INTEGRATE SIMPLE STORIES INTO COHERENT AND ECONOMIC NARRATIVE. IT SO TRUE TO THE BASICS AND YET COMPLETELY EFFECTIVE. IT STORYTELLING 101.(6)

HULK KNOW, HULK KNOW. HULK REFERENCE STORYTELLING 101 ALL FREAKING TIME. IT SORT OF BECOMING HULK’S MANTRA. BUT IT STUNNING HOW OFTEN PEOPLE FORGET THE MOST BASIC TENANTS.

AGAIN, HULK’S EMPHASIS ON STORYTELLING 101 NOT A HOW-TO-GUIDE OF STRINGENT RULES, IT MERELY A TOOL HELP MAKE WHAT YOU WANT DO MORE FOCUSED. BECAUSE IN ORDER INVERT RULES, ONE MUST UNDERSTAND THE RULES IN FIRST PLACE. HULK HEARD THIS ALL TIME IN WRITING CLASSES AND THE REBELLIOUS MINDED YOUTH TEND PAY IT NO HEED. BUT IT NOT UNTIL MUCH LATER IN LIFE, AFTER LOGGING ABOUT 1000-2000 HOURS OF SCREENWRITING THAT HULK REALLY “GOT IT” SO TO SPEAK.(7)

NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, STORYTELLING LARGELY ABOUT PROBLEM SOLVING. ONE CAN ALWAYS COME UP WITH GREAT IDEAS THAT MOTIVATE AND EXCITE, BUT THE OTHER HALF THAT EQUATION FIGURING OUT HOW MAKE TRANSLATE TO FULLY FORMED REALITY. HOW MAKE A MOVIE THAT TRUE TO THAT CONCIET? ONE THAT WORK ON EVERY LEVEL? ULTIMATELY, THE WRITER ASK HOW MAKE THIS SCENE WORK? HOW ESTABLISH WHAT WANT SAY?

IT PROBLEM SOLVING.

AND TAKE HULK’S ADVICE. THE 3 ACT STRUCTURE NO HELP YOU PROBLEM SOLVE.

JUST DIE ALREADY

ENDNOTES:

(1) YES, EVEN WITH “CHASE MOVIES” THE SIMPLE ACT OF “IT THE BAD GUYS! RUN!” WORK IN TERMS OF CHANGING THE SITUATION REALITY, BUT IT OFTEN BECOME SO DULL AND REPETITIVE THAT MORE INTERESTING THINGS HAVE BE GOING ON/DEFINING THE SITUATION. THIS THE CHIEF REASON MICHAL BAY MOVIES NO WORK. IT ONLY THE CHASE. SURE, HE SOMETIMES ABLE TO MASK THIS MACGUFFIN/SET-PIECE-JUMPING WITH DISTRACTING VISUALS OR ATTEMPTS AT QUASI-RACIST COMEDY, BUT THE CHASE ALWAYS BECOME BORING. THERE NO ACTUAL INTRIGUE.*

*OKAY MR. HULK THERE A CHASE MOVIE THAT JUST ALL PLOT BUT STILL WORK?” YES. IT CALLED THE FRENCH CONNECTION. THAT MOVIE KICKS 100% ASS BECAUSE IT WORK OFF PURE INTRIGUE AND TWO LIKABLE CHARACTERS/ACTORS YOU FOLLOW DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE. IT PERFECT. ALSO FX’S “THE SHIELD” KNEW HOW DEAL CREATE A STREAM OF SHIFTING NARRATIVE INTRIGUE ACROSS 6 SEASONS. IT CAN BE DONE.**

**MEANWHILE, JJ ABRAMS  ONLY SEEM KNOW HOW PRESENT THE MOST APPETIZING INTRIGUE EVER, BUT THEN HE NOT KNOW HOW DELVE INTO IT… WHATSOEVER. EVERYONE ALWAYS DEMAND “ANSWERS” OF JJ’S WORK, BUT REALLY THEY JUST WANT CATHARSIS. OR HECK EVEN DEVELOPMENTS WILL DO… YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK IF THEY DON’T JUST WANT STORYTELLING… THE MYSTERY ONLY GO SO FAR.

(2) SORRY FOLKS, IT NOT HULK’S FAVORITE PLAY, BUT IT BEST KNOWN. SO IT HELPS WHEN TRYING EXPLAIN.

(3) AND NOW, HULK HAVE A HELPFUL TOOL FOR YOU! SOMETIMES THERE EXPRESSION USED IN SCREENWRITING CALLED “PAGE 17” WHICH MEAN THAT BY PAGE 17 THE AUDIENCE SHOULD NOW HAVE IDEA WHERE THE FILM GOING. IT SOUND DUMB AND IT CERTAINLY NOT HARD OR FAST RULE, BUT YOU BE STUNNED BY NUMBER OF SCRIPTS THAT HIT THE CONCEIT OF THEIR MOVIE EXACTLY ON PAGE 17. IT JUST SORT OF GOOD PLACE TO AIM BECAUSE IT GIVE ENOUGH ROOM BOTH ESTABLISH THE WORLD AND THEN BE ON WAY. NOT ALWAYS, BUT GENERALLY IF YOU WAITING TIL PAGE 30 TO GET TO FREAKING CONCEIT YOU WAITED TO LONG. ANYCRAP. AIM FOR PAGE 17-ISH.

(4) HULK JUST WANT MENTION THAT ROMEO AND JULIET MIGHT BE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD PLAY IN HISTORY. YES, SHAKESPEARE CRITICIZING OVERZEALOUS AND DOMINEERING PARENTAGE (AND RACISM BY PROXY) AND EVEN THOUGH HE UNDERSTANDING OF YOUNG LOVE AND ALL THAT, SHAKESPEARE ALSO CLEARLY EXPRESSING THAT ROMEO AND JULIET WERE DUMBASS BRATS WHO TOOK THEMSELVES WAY, WAY, WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. THEY WEREN’T IN LOVE. THEY WERE INFATUATED. THE PLAY ABOUT THE PRATFALLS OF INFATUATION. THERE. HULK SAID IT*

*OOOOOH, AND RANDOM NOTE ON SHAKESPEARE: HULK TALKED ABOUT CHARACTERS HAVING MAKE DECISIONS. WELL HAMLET A PLAY THAT LITERALLY ABOUT INDECISIVE CHARACTER. THE KEY THAT IT STILL HAVE TONS NARRATIVE STEAM AS IT DEAL WITH OTHER ASPECTS OF HIS CHARACTER AND EXPLORE THE EFFECTS OF HIS MIS-STEPS ON ACCOUNT OF SAID INDECISIVENESS. AND IT MAYBE BEST PLAY EVER. MOVING ON!

(5) LET HULK EVEN THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX HERE. SO MANY MOVIES SO CAREFUL TO TELL EVERYTHING ABOUT CHARACTERS RIGHT UP FRONT SO YOU KNOW EVERYTHING RIGHT AWAY. HULK THINK THIS MISTAKE. THINK ABOUT IT. IF A CHARACTER REVEAL AND “TWIST” WORK SAME WAY IN TERMS OF PROVIDING NEW INFORMATION TO AUDIENCE, WHY NO TAKE LONGER REVEAL SOME GOOD INFORMATION AND MAKE SECOND ACTS MORE INTERESTING? ATTACK THE BLOCK GREAT EXAMPLE OF MOVIE THAT TAKE LONGER TIME REVEALING THE CHARACTERS AND PROVIDING INTRIGUE WHILE THE A PLOT DEVELOPED AROUND THEM. SO HULK ASK, WHY NOT INTRODUCE A CHARACTER OVER LONGER PERIOD OF TIME? HULK RECENTLY ESPOUSE THE INCREDIBLE MERITS OF HAPPY-GO-LUCKY BECAUSE IT GRADUALLY REVEAL THE MORE DIMENSIONS OF ITS MAIN CHARACTER OVER ENTIRE COURSE OF MOVIE. AND NOT TO BEAT DEAD HORSE, BUT GOING BACK TO GREEN LANTERN THAT MOVIE SO QUICK TO HURRY UP AND ESTABLISH ALL THE ASPECTS OF HAL JORDAN THAT PERTINENT BEFORE HE GET RING THAT THERE LITERALLY NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT HIM AFTER HE GET IT. AND HEY REMEMBER THE FAMILY THEY INTRODUCED AT THE BEGINNING THAT NEVER SHOW UP IN REST OF MOVIE? UGH.

(6) TO ILLUSTRATE FURTHER, HULK GOING COMPARE IT TO AVATAR, WHICH ALSO HIGHLY AWARE OF ALL IT’S STRUCTURAL BEATS. YET KUNG FU PANDA ACTUAL KNOW HOW INVEST SENSE OF EMOTION AND MAKE THE STORY FEEL BOTH REAL AND INTEGRATED TO ALL THE CHARACTERS AT HAND. YES, THEY BOTH SIMPLE APPROACHES TO STORY. BUT KUNG FU PANDA USED THAT SIMPLICITY TO ACHIEVE A COHESIVE NARRATIVE, WHILE AVATAR WAS PAINT-BY-NUMBERS. ANYCRAP…

(7) IT BRING UP INTERESTING DILEMMA WITH REGARD FILM CRITICS. THE SCREENWRITER SEEM LOVE LAMBAST THE CRITIC AS KNOW-NOTHING-WANNABE. THIS STRIKE HULK AS MISGUIDED AND GROSS MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE ROLE OF CRITICS. THEIR JOB, IN THIS ERA ESPECIALLY, TO FOSTER AND ENGAGE IN A DIALOGUE WITH CONSUMERS. AND TO DISMISS THE CRITIC’S REACTION = TO INDIRECTLY INSINUATE CONSUMER HAVE NO VALUE EITHER. WHICH A BIG, BIG PROBLEM. BUT, ON OTHER END OF SPECTRUM THEY DO HAVE  POINT.  WRITING A COHESIVE NARRATIVE AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TASK AND UNLESS HAVE REAL FAMILIARITY WITH THE PRACTICE ITSELF, NOT JUST THE END RESULTS, IT EASY TO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW THE PROBLEMS ONE ENCOUNTERS MANIFEST ON SCREEN. THERE A MILLION WAYS A GOOD SCRIPT CAN BE MASSACRED BY FINAL PRODUCT OR WAYS A CRAPPY SCRIPT CAN BE ELEVATED TO SOMETHING MORE FUNCTIONAL, BUT ALL OF THAT COMPLICATION CAN BE OBSCURED WHEN VIEWING THE FINAL PRODUCT. WHAT CRITICS MISS MOST OF ALL = THAT WRITERS OFTEN ACUTELY AWARE OF THEIR OWN WORK’S FAILINGS. BUT THEY WENT WITH THEIR CHOICE BECAUSE THEY FELT IT MAY HAVE ACHIEVED A LARGER GOAL, OR IT WOULD COME OFF DIFFERENTLY, OR SIMPLY BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE DID SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND THEY HAD NO CHOICE. WRITING LARGELY A GAME OF “WHAT LOSES HERE?” IN ORDER CONCENTRATE ON A, B, AND C, SOMETIMES D FALLS BY WAYSIDE.  AND THERE ALWAYS SOMEONE IN AUDIENCE WHO CARE ABOUT D. ULTIMATELY, THE BEST FILMS NAVIGATE THIS DIFFICULT PATH SEAMLESSLY. THEY PICK THE RIGHT THINGS FOCUS ON AND KEEP EVERYTHING BALANCED WITH TONE… AND IT ABSURDLY DIFFICULT.

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