Testing a "Trailer" Layout


Log Line

When a (type of person) has, does, wants or gets “A” (something)…

…he or she has, does, wants, gets, tries or learns “B”…

…only to discover that “C” now happens and…

…he/she must respond by doing “D”.

Story @ http://thescriptlab.com/screenplay/what-is-a-screenplay

Writing a screenplay, or screenwriting, is telling exciting stories about exciting people in an exciting form. 

(Character + Want) x Obstacles = Story

The root of writing a great story or screenwriting a film.

And the essential elements of a good story well told are:

  1. The story is about somebody with whom we have some empathy.
  2. This somebody wants something very badly.
  3. This goal is difficult, but possible to do, get, or achieve.
  4. The story accomplishes maximum emotional impact and audience connection.
  5. And the story comes to a satisfactory ending, not necessarily a happy one.

We need to become proficient at developing stories about interesting characters who are struggling to achieve unequivocal goals through the practical application of story scenarios and story questionnaires, but also explore the three major areas of story: location, population, and situation. We need to create original, believable worlds with a clearly defined populace and a well developed, plausible situation.

PLOT = 5 key moments of plot (pp = plot points)

Clearly a screenplay is built through scenes, sequences, acts, using tension and conflict, while eliciting hopes and fears, etc., but the most basic template for structuring a screenplay is to build it around the five major plot points of a film.

“A movie, I think is really only four or five moments between two people; the rest of it exists to give those moments their impact and resonance. The script exists for that. Everything does.”   – Robert Towne


  1. INCITING INCIDENT (pp1) Often called the point of attack, the inciting incident is the first premonition of impending trouble, dilemma, or circumstance that will create the main tension of the story. It usually falls at the end of the first sequence. But it can sometimes appear in the first few minutes of a film.
  2. LOCK IN (pp2) The protagonist is locked into the predicament that is central to the story, which occurs at the end of Act One, This lock in, therefore, propels the protagonist into a new direction in order to accomplish his/her new objective throughout the second act
  3. FIRST CULMINATION (pp3) The first culmination generally occurs around the midpoint of the second act and is a pivotal moment in the story but not as critical as the Lock In or Main Culmination. Consider the first culmination as the second highest or second lowest point in Act Two, the second highest hurdle to be faced.
  4. MAIN CULMINATION (pp4) The final culmination occurs at the end of the second act and brings the main tension to a close while simultaneously helping to create a new tension for Act Three.
  5. THIRD ACT TWIST (pp5) The twist is an unexpected turn of events in the third act. Without a twist, the third act can seem too linear and predictable. It can also be the last test of the hero.

Save the Cat! 15 Point Beat Sheet with page locations:

  • Opening Image (1) – The first impression of a movie – its tone, mood, and scope.
  • Theme Stated (5) – Thematic premise.
  • Set-Up (1-10) – Introduce the hero, the stakes, and the goal.
  • Catalyst (12) – A life changing event for the hero.
  • Debate (12-25) – The hero must decide how to proceed in life
  • Break Into Two (25) – Entering the new world of Act Two.
  • B Story (30) – Second plot that gives a breather to the main story.
  • Fun and Games (30-55) – Having fun in the new world.
  • Midpoint (55) – Stakes raised with a false victory or false collapse.
  • Bad Guys Close In (55-75) – Villains regroup against the hero.
  • All Is Lost (75) – Opposite of Midpoint that signifies transition from hero’s old ways.
  • Dark Night of the Soul (75-85) – Worse moment for the hero.
  • Break Into Three (85) – Main Story & B Story converge for hero to find a solution.
  • Finale (85-110) – Hero triumphs over villains to create a new society.
  • Final Image (110) – Opposite from Opening Image to show a change occurred.

8 sequences

8 x 15 minute (mini) movies = done

SEQUENCE ONE – Status Quo & Inciting Incident (pp1)  

SEQUENCE TWO – Predicament & Lock In (pp2)

SEQUENCE THREE – First Obstacle & Raising the Stakes

SEQUENCE FOUR – First Culmination/Midpoint (pp3)

SEQUENCE FIVE – Subplot & Rising Action

SEQUENCE SIX – Main Culmination/End of Act Two (pp4)

SEQUENCE SEVEN – New Tension & Twist (pp5)


ACT 1-S1

SEQUENCE ONE – Status Quo & Inciting Incident
Establishes the central character, his/her life, and the status quo and the world of the story. It usually ends with the POINT OF ATTACK or INCITING INCIDENT, but this plot point can sometimes appear earlier in the first few minutes of the film.

ACT 1-S2

SEQUENCE TWO – Predicament & Lock In

Sets up the predicament that will be central to the story, with first intimations of possible obstacles. The main tension will be established at the end of the act. The sequence ends when the main character is LOCKED IN the predicament, propelling him/her into a new direction
to obtain his/her goal

ACT 2-S3

SEQUENCE THREE – First Obstacle & Raising the Stakes

The first OBSTACLE to the central character is faced, and the beginning of the elimination of the alternatives begins, often a time where EXPOSITION left over from ACT I is brought out. Since our character is locked into the situation and can’t simply walk away, the stakes are higher – there is a lot more to lose.

ACT 2-S4

SEQUENCE FOUR – First Culmination/Midpoint

A higher OBSTACLE, the principle of RISING ACTION is brought in and builds to the FIRST CULMINATION, which usually parallels the RESOLUTION of the film. If the story is a tragedy and our hero dies, then the first culmination (or midpoint) should be a low point for our character.

If, however, our hero wins in the end of the film, then sequence four should end with him winning in some way.

ACT 2-S5

SEQUENCE FIVE – Subplot & Rising Action

The SECOND ACT SAG can set in at this point if we don’t have a strong SUBPLOT to take the ball for a while. We still want RISING ACTION, but we’re not ready for the MAIN CULMINATION yet.

ACT 2-S6


SEQUENCE SIX – Main Culmination/End of Act Two

The build-up to the MAIN CULMINATION – back to the main story line with a vengeance. The highest obstacle, the last alternative, the highest or lowest moment and the end of our main tension come at this point. But we get the first inklings of the new tension that will carry us through the third act.

Note: Since most midpoints and endings are paralleled, the PLOT POINT at the end of act two is usually at a polar opposite of those points. So if our hero wins at the midpoint and at the end of the film, then she usually has her lowest point here.

ACT 3-S7


SEQUENCE SEVEN – New Tension & Twist

The full yet simple, brief establishment of the third act tension with its requisite exposition. Simpler, faster in nearly all ways, with rapid, short scenes and no real elaborate set-ups. The TWIST can end this sequence or come at the start of the eighth sequence.

ACT 3-S8


Hell-bent for the RESOLUTION. Clarity is important. If they turn left, all is well, if they go right, the world as we know it ends. Not that we don’t have complex emotions or ideas about what it all amounts to, but at this point we crave clarity. Will he get the girl, defuse the bomb, turn in his murderous brother and escape from the sinking boat surrounded by sharks?