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Old 06-01-2020, 08:56 AM   #31
JeffLowell
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Default Re: Midpoint

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Originally Posted by Bono View Post
I'm sure there are things you do, that you learned a long time ago (maybe from books, probably from doing the work), and you may not talk about them out loud any more, but they are there right?

I'm just talking about this as the forum was dead and it was on my mind, but I'm not talking about it because I want to study up on it. I just wanted to share mostly.

And when I outline new ideas, I do think of Midpoint for sure.
Sorry, I was more reacting to where the conversation had gone, rather than your original question.

Yeah, I might think about at a midpoint when I'm thinking about a movie... I do tend to think of movies in three acts, even though I'm not a slave to any page count or paradigm. That said, I think about midpoints as big reversals or escalations... and I often have more than one.

I think the more I write, the more basic I get. Do I have a conflict that I believe will carry a movie? What are the great scenes/set pieces that it promises? How does it get complicated? How does it get solved?
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Old 06-01-2020, 09:25 AM   #32
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Default Re: Midpoint

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I was saying, I wanted to discuss how we use the Midpoint in our own writing -- that's way different than arguing/discussing one specific's movie midpoint to me.
Yikes. Sorry I misunderstood you.

But, you jumped into the debate/convo about Star Wars' midpoint along with everyone else when you commented on what Syd Field said after there were a few comments, so maybe I misunderstood your entire point altogether. I thought you were adding to the conversation that was going back and forth.

Yes, I think of midpoint turns in stories I write, including an 8 page short.
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Old 06-01-2020, 09:45 AM   #33
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Default Re: Midpoint

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
Sorry, I was more reacting to where the conversation had gone, rather than your original question.

Yeah, I might think about at a midpoint when I'm thinking about a movie... I do tend to think of movies in three acts, even though I'm not a slave to any page count or paradigm. That said, I think about midpoints as big reversals or escalations... and I often have more than one.

I think the more I write, the more basic I get. Do I have a conflict that I believe will carry a movie? What are the great scenes/set pieces that it promises? How does it get complicated? How does it get solved?

Thanks for sharing, Jeff and making this clear. Great to know you do use MP too.

See this is the info I need to seek out. What do pro writers use when writing their stuff -- now that they are in the machine. I have friends that have gone from my side to the making money writing side (some used to ask me for help -- those were the days) and I never really ask them about this formulas and beats. Maybe I should.

Because most of these discussions are non pro writers talking about ideas put forth by teachers who have never themselves wrote a script that sold. (exception Blake Snyder --I liked Save the Cat for many reasons -- but him having done the job made his POV stronger to me.)

One of our only outlets is Scriptnotes podcast -- but that's run by 2 A-List writers -- who have only gotten more successful as the show has gone on. So sometimes they are talking about things that are only for working writers not us up and comers -- and I feel like 25% of the time they are only talking to the Top 500 writers in Hollywood not the majority. Sometimes it almost feels they are speaking another language some episodes.
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Old 06-01-2020, 09:50 AM   #34
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Default Re: Midpoint

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Yikes. Sorry I misunderstood you.

But, you jumped into the debate/convo about Star Wars' midpoint along with everyone else when you commented on what Syd Field said after there were a few comments, so maybe I misunderstood your entire point altogether. I thought you were adding to the conversation that was going back and forth.

Yes, I think of midpoint turns in stories I write, including an 8 page short.
No, say whatever you want -- re: the Star Wars thing I thought I found a good summation of the MP -- and honestly I didn't think it would be such a debatable topic -- but that's the DD way! I figured it is what it is -- like Jaws the 3 men go onto the Orca to kill the shark.

Also -- I was trying to say -- I think we all might be agreeing about the MP -- because to me the Midpoint isn't always just one specific page (like page 60 out of 120) and one scene -- some movies it's more a series of scenes and in an epic movie like Star Wars -- I'd say a 20 min chunk (same one both me and you are talking about) is the Midpoint of that story. It's hard to separate it into ONE beat and I think that's the disagreement when I think we were both basically picking the same section.

I feel like action adventure movies like that it's going to be more a "section of scenes" vs "one scene" like in most comedies -- when you find out the good guy is actually the bad guy. Boom, done.
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Old 06-01-2020, 10:37 AM   #35
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Default Re: Midpoint

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No, say whatever you want -- re: the Star Wars thing I thought I found a good summation of the MP -- and honestly I didn't think it would be such a debatable topic -- but that's the DD way! I figured it is what it is -- like Jaws the 3 men go onto the Orca to kill the shark.

Also -- I was trying to say -- I think we all might be agreeing about the MP -- because to me the Midpoint isn't always just one specific page (like page 60 out of 120) and one scene -- some movies it's more a series of scenes and in an epic movie like Star Wars -- I'd say a 20 min chunk (same one both me and you are talking about) is the Midpoint of that story. It's hard to separate it into ONE beat and I think that's the disagreement when I think we were both basically picking the same section.

I feel like action adventure movies like that it's going to be more a "section of scenes" vs "one scene" like in most comedies -- when you find out the good guy is actually the bad guy. Boom, done.
Agreed.
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Old 06-03-2020, 07:05 AM   #36
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Default Re: Midpoint

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let's name some movies that don't use the MP that you like
The non-pro peer scripts and the professional scripts/films that I have analyzed over the years all have included a midpoint.

If I were to look for an example of a film without the structural midpoint element, I would not read/view Major Studios’ scripts/films. I would look at Independent films. Arty films. Foreign films. Even if in the history of cinema, every film produced has a structured midpoint element, my point: it’s not a necessary rule to include a midpoint, a major turning point halfway through your screenplay.

For anyone to insist to a creative person that a midpoint is required, is giving him a formula (specific point), a set way, for the writer to fit his story in a certain mold.

The traditional three act structure does not include a midpoint function (Four Acts, yes, a major turning point from [EDITED to make correction] around the halfway mark, which turns us from the end of act two into act three, and then act four).

It was Syd Fields who made an observation from analyzing screenplays that a major turning point happened halfway through a majority (not all) of films/screenplays.

Now with that said, I'm not saying including a midpoint is bad for telling an entertaining and compelling story. It's quite the opposite. The midpoint is a valuable tool to craft/build an entertaining story.

My point was just to say it's not a "rule" where it's required by Screenwriting Law.

There are a lot of benefits for a writer to structure his story by including a midpoint approximately 50%/halfway (too far in either direction throws the rhythm and balance off) through his story:

It acts like a lighthouse in the middle of Act 2 to give the writer navigational aid to get through its vast darkness.

By dividing the second act in half (2A and 2B), it becomes equal sections of duration (shorter) as Acts 1 and 3, therefore more manageable.

It’s a strong structural element for a writer to hang his story on, allowing for more story development in case the story was running out of steam.

If the second act is dragging, a midpoint adds a new development, giving the story freshness and energy.

Midpoint escalates action and raises stakes. (I’ll give examples shortly.)

A midpoint is not just a plot device. It adds emotion to the story. (I’ll give examples shorty.)

Midpoint separates the protagonist’s first half of reaction to the second half of action that leads him into the climax. (I’ll give examples shortly.)

A midpoint is sorta like a “point of no return”: No choice. Must move forward. Must finish, can’t turn back now. (I’ll give examples shortly.)

Other midpoint functions (one or more): an action or revelation that spins/shifts the story into a different direction, causes protagonist to give a 100% commitment, reversal of fortune, etc.

The midpoint could be subtle: The protagonist is on a road trip to meet someone. Upon arrival, the person the protagonist was supposed to meet was a no show.

The midpoint could be big: The shark attack in JAWS where Chief Brody’s (protagonist) son had a near death experience.

The 1975 film JAWS, 124 minutes:

The midpoint happens at the 62 minute mark where the monstrous shark enters a pond where Chief Brody’s son, Michael, is sailing. The shark heads for Michael, but a man in a dingy happens to cross its path and gets knocked in the water along with Michael. The shark eats/kills the man in front of a horrified Michael.

This near death experience of his son, incites the protagonist to shift from reaction, where in the first half he bent over backwards to accommodate Mayor Vaughn’s concerns about the closure of beaches would have on the towns revenue, to action where he forces the mayor to hire Quint so the protagonist can go out and hunt and kill the shark.

This different direction that the protagonist embarks on escalates the action and the stakes. The protagonist is going out into the shark’s territory. The protagonist can’t swim. With the near death experience on his son, it’s personal now. The near death of his son Michael wasn’t just a plot device, it evoked emotion.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST:

The midpoint is the crop-duster scene. This is a reversal of fortune (setback) where instead of believing he had an ally, he was set upped to be killed. This is plot. Emotion: He was set upped by the woman he trusted and had strong feelings for: Eve Kendall.

THE GODFATHER:

The midpoint happens when Michael arranges to meet the men responsible for the attempt on his father’s life at a restaurant, where he kills them. Plot: the killing. Emotion: he revenged his father’s assassins. This act is a point of no return: his desire to be not involved in the family business is no longer viable. He’s in -- deep. Reaction in first half: to avoid the family business. Action in second half: to protect the family business.

Last edited by JoeNYC : 06-07-2020 at 02:23 AM.
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Old 06-03-2020, 10:25 AM   #37
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Default Re: Midpoint

Act 1 is about foreshadowing the journey and giving good reason why the hero will embark on it. Act two is the playing out of the journey itself. The problem is the length of Act 2 and how material becomes stale real fast. A lot of stories can be resolved 30 pages after Act 1 and so the writer fill the script with a lot and of bs off tangent scenes to stretch it out. We’ve all read those scripts that go off on a tangent for like 15 pages then return to the story. To get through Act 2 you need to complicate the story. It can’t be the basic journey we were promised in Act 1. It needs to be more complicated than just that and Act 2 is where that happens. Truthfully you can divide Act 2 into as many pieces as you want as long as the number is divisible by 60. You can say you will have 4 sequences of 15 pages in Act 2 each sequence with a climax that complicates the story. You can do 5 sequences of 12 pages. You can even have 1 sequence that is 5 pages and another that is 20. You can design a story that has a dead center midpoint or you can turn a story ten pages before the midpoint and ten pages after. If you keep turning the story then hitting the timing of traditional plot points becomes less important.

When I read a script and after five pages I’m thrown a turn I didn’t see coming, then you have me for five more with me being engaged. The moment you show me scenes where the hero is complaining about their problems or offering their life story and then they come across an obstacle and they handle it in a way I saw coming before it happened then you no longer have me engaged and the skimming starts.

If you’re able to keep turning a story then you’ll get the reader for ten more and ten more.

What’s the point to have that great midpoint reversal if you lose the reader before they even get there. You have 30 pages to fill from Act 1 climax and midpoint. The second those pages start going sideways the less of a chance you have for the reader to even get to the midpoint.
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Old 06-03-2020, 03:50 PM   #38
JeffLowell
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Default Re: Midpoint

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Truthfully you can divide Act 2 into as many pieces as you want as long as the number is divisible by 60. You can say you will have 4 sequences of 15 pages in Act 2 each sequence with a climax that complicates the story. You can do 5 sequences of 12 pages. You can even have 1 sequence that is 5 pages and another that is 20. You can design a story that has a dead center midpoint or you can turn a story ten pages before the midpoint and ten pages after. If you keep turning the story then hitting the timing of traditional plot points becomes less important.
This is just designed to get me to read another spec script, right?
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Old 06-03-2020, 05:45 PM   #39
Cyfress
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Default Re: Midpoint

I'm saying that regardless of the person reading your script, which probably is a spec cause I don't think many of us on here are getting assignments( but I know there are writers here who have and are working writers), if you want to keep the reader engaged you'll need to have ups and downs and more ups and downs than just an inciting incident, act 1 climax, midpoint, act2 climax, and resolution. There's lots of pages between those events where you'll need to have cool and unique things that the hero gets into along the journey that makes sense to the overall story and to your particular hero.

I think the better mindset for an aspiring writer is not to hit the standard beats but try to figure out what's special about every scene, what role it plays in the story, and what the substance of the scene is and try to make it its own special beat. You can't have a flat story and only have the graph of the story go up or down at those standard moments. If you're a flat line between those structural events then it's possible the reader starts skimming.
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Old 06-03-2020, 05:51 PM   #40
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Default Re: Midpoint

I can only imagine how terrible my comedy specs would be if I took the above advice. I mean, they are already terrible. But I mean worse.

There is making sure every scene needs to be there and not just filler scenes vs making every scene be so dramatic that you feel like you're having a seizure.

Also this is the MD thread! Not also make sure the rest of it good thread! I only care about my beloved midpoint and her mistress, the dark night of the soul.
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