Act breaks



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  • Act breaks

    Simple question: Do y'all use any transitions or other elements to indicate the act breaks in your written products?

  • #2
    Who are you indicating the transitions to - a script reader or the movie-going audience? You wouldn't want your audience to ever see the writer writing, so I assume the same goes for a reader.

    Your story's natural progression of conflict/drama should not require artificial "add-ons" to get itself told. That's not to say that a director will never choose to use a crossfade or dissolve but that probably is the director's call to make in most cases.


    • #3
      Not needed... true!

      However, sometimes used to create a more powerful visual image for the reader, but never arbitrarily, but only in conjunction with an act break that, say, moves forward or backward in time, as an example. In this case, the act break coinciding with an opportunity to enhance the visual image you are creating for the reader, with the use of a MATCH CUT-DISSOLVE TO-etc.

      Yes, you want to avoid technical terms and keep any technical instructions to minimum that slow the read, but at the same time, you want your project to have as much "visual clout" as possible for the reader!

      It's every writer's own call when to use such formatting terms, when they think the use of such a term will either clarify an item or heighten an emotion, even at the cost of potentially slowing the flow for the reader!

      Just my own two cents!:smokin


      • #4
        Not in feature scripts. Yes in sitcoms and plays.

        You need to read some screenplays to learn about format issues, and more importantly, to get a sense of pacing, amount of description, etc.


        • #5
          Good question. You're not supposed to indicate ACTS in a screenplay. Yet if you do not idicate ACTS, how does the READER know when ACT 1 ends and ACT 2 begins? I know, I know. From the excellent writing. Give me a break.

          Here's an idea. When ACT 1 ends, leave the rest of the page blank. Then begin ACT 2 at the top of the next page. A clear indication that SOMETHING has happened. Just don't actually write ACT 1, ACT 2, etc.


          • #6
            No. Don't do that.


            • #7
              A clear indication that SOMETHING has happened.
              Yes. The reader has just said, "Omigod, Wall of Shame material."


              • #8
                In movies the idea of acts is more of a concept. Technically, an act can break in the middle of a scene or even in the middle of a character's dialogue ... so ... no labels, gaps, transitions, or indications of any kind.

                Besides with all the definitions floating around of the various acts, you will most likely get it wrong in the eyes of the reader. (Okay, the start of Act I is a gimme.)

                I would be willing to bet that no two people on this board would identify the exact acts and midpoint for Raiders in the same way.


                • #9
                  I would be willing to bet that no two people on this board would identify the exact acts and midpoint for Raiders in the same way.
                  Let's test that theory!!!

                  End of act I: Indy gets the "job" to find the ark (call to action)
                  End of act II: Indy is locked into the tomb with the snakes and loses ark to Nazis (all is lost)

                  Midpoint is EXACTLY the line "Bad dates."

                  Actually, I have no idea about the mid point (as you could probably guess), but the act breaks are pretty obvious.


                  • #10
                    End of Act II: Indie and Marian are on the boat with the Arc and heading home. (all is well).


                    • #11
                      Damn, you're right. My chronology of the film is all wrong. That's what I get for posting off the cuff. I agree with you.

                      And the Nazis stealing the ark at sea is the start of act III.

                      My bad.


                      • #12

                        My bad. I thought you meant labeling the acts. But a special transition isn't necessary either. You either need a transition or you don't, but not because it's an act break.


                        • #13
                          Shoot. I had great solid arguments to argue with.

                          But, off the cuff myself, I think you are almost right about the mid-point. "Bad dates" comes right after Indie realizes the Nazis are digging in the wrong place.


                          • #14
                            It is true that there is no formal act break-point needed in your script. The incidents I was referring to above are only instances where transitional formatting terms were employed because they worked between the transitions themselves to either clarify or highlight, and would only "coincidentally" occur at an act break, which as Two Brad pointed out, is not an exact process of pinpointing.

                            Basically you read a piece of drama. You see the set up and inciting incident, then the conflict that occurs as your protag attempts to fulfill his or her goals, then the conclusion with a twist!

                            Setup-Conflict-Resolution= story!

                            Again, as Two Brad mentioned, this will change from script to script. So the three act structure itself is fluid regarding the point and place in which a particular story will move from act to act!

                            Though, most likely, your act breaks will occur at points of scene transition and thus will "occasionally" offer the opportunities I alluded to in my earlier post.:smokin


                            • #15
                              My advice regarding ACT BREAKS is to the screenplay writer who's trying to break in to the business. Listen. You get a request for your script. A tired READER will most likely write up a review of your script. Sure, all of us here are GREAT writers. But do you trust a READER to know where your ACT BREAKS are?

                              Your three-act script is reviewed by the READER and reported as: This script has no acts... Another one bites the dust.

                              I defy ANYONE to tell me where the ACT BREAKS are in Stallone's original ROCKY. IMO, there are no ACT BREAKS. Others will disagree with me, and disagree amongst one another.