“All Hollywood movies are the same nowadays!”
You’ve probably heard someone say that recently. Heck, you’ve probably said it yourself at some point. Well, you’re right, all movies ARE the same! They all follow -exactly- the same story-structure. And, I’m not talking about some vague similarities here, I’m talking about the finest details. Almost every Hollywood film has their turning-points in exactly the same spots, at the end of acts that are all the same lengths! It’s like they’re following a template. And, well, they are.
For instance, pay close attention the next time you watch a movie. At about the 20-minute mark (give or take a few minutes), there will be a scene that changes everything for the main-character. A scene that sends him off on a quest. A scene that tremendously raises the stakes for him. If the movie is about a man who gets trapped in a cave – it’s the scene where he gets trapped. In a cave. If it’s about an astronaut who gets stranded on the moon, it’s the scene where he gets stranded. On the moon.
This scene is called the first turning-point and it marks the end of the First Act.
As you might have already guessed, the end of the Second Act comes with it’s own turning point as well. That one’s aptly named – the second turning-point. And it usually comes 25 to 30 minutes before the end of most films.
Every Hollywood movie seems exactly the same nowadays. Well, that’s because every Hollywood movie IS the same! They all follow the exact same story-structure. The three-act structure. So, if you’re going to write your own screenplay and make a splash in the film-industry, you’ll need to know that structure backwards and forwards. To get you started off, here is a handy screenwriting template that shows you were all your script’s various story-elements and plot-points go.