Well, I’m sure you know the concept of a three act film. It’s been called
- The world before the event,
- The event takes place, and
- The new world after the event.
Or I’ve also heard Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis. All good, you get the point.
Anyway, I’m a big fan of the book “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder. It’s a fantastic and concise book on the fundamentals of a three act film and the major scenes or “beats” that make it commercial. (Or, should I say good?) So, one of such beats is what Blake calls the all important “Breaking into Act II”, and it is that point in a screenplay when the main character, the protagonist, and usually our soon to be hero, decides to take an action that will forever change his/her world (whether he knows it or not.)
The hero doesn’t have to actually do anything (that’s Act II), but it is important that the decision to do something is arrived at, and that it is strictly the will of the hero. A good main character drives the film and cannot be pushed or tricked into Act II, they must choose to go there.
So, it has become somewhat of a hobby for some screenwriters and coverage writers to look for that breaking into Act II moment in a screenplay in order to see how it was arrived at. It’s a key part of the setup and a weak one can break a film. And now finally, my inspiration for writing this post.
I have been writing a screenplay about a young female photographer, Jemma, who lives with some challenging life circumstances and decides to build a unique set in which to photograph people. And as you have probably guessed I have arrived at that point in the screenplay when Jemma must make that transition into Act II. I have build up several motivating factors and pushed her to the edge of a cliff. She can of course turn back, but will she?
I think not. :)