Quotations on Screenplay Structure

This is the first post in a series of my favorite quotes that I refer to for inspiration or insight while I’m creating a story. Post topic: quotations on screenplay strucure.

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Before you can write one word of the screenplay, you must know your structure: The ending, beginning, plot point I, and plot point II. The screenwriter builds his or her story around these four elements.”
(
Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

The three-act structure is intrinsic to the human brain’s model of the world; it matches a blueprint that is hard-wired in the human brain, which is constantly attempting to rationalize the world and resolve it into patterns. It is therefore an inevitable property of almost any successful drama, whether the writer is aware of it or not.”
(Edoardo Nolfo)

Screenplays are STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE.”
(Alexander Mackendrick)

In every film that’s worth its salt, there’s the text, and there’s the subtext. And the subtext of this film [French Connection II] is alienation. The language and the culture worked against Gene’s character.”
(John Frankenheimer, director of French Connection II)

The first 10 pages of any screenplay are the most important. Almost everything you need to know about the movie is found in these first 10 pages. When the screenwriter sets up the first 10 pages of the screenplay, the reader must know immediately what’s going on.” 
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“There could be as many as nine or 10 plot points during a screenplay. But the two most important come at the end of act one and at the end of act two. They are the anchors of your storyline, the stitches that hold everything together.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

Screenplays come in three sizes: LONG, TOO LONG and MUCH TOO LONG.” 
(Alexander Mackendrick)

“A screenplay is a living thing, and each piece, even though separate and complete, is a part of the whole. Structure, remember, is the relationship between the parts and the whole.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

Passivity is a capital crime in drama.
(Alexander Mackendrick)

“There could be as many as nine or 10 plot points during a screenplay. But the two most important come at the end of act one and at the end of act two. They are the anchors of your storyline, the stitches that hold everything together.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“Anything on screen that is superfluous to the forward motion of the story is absolute torture to the audience…. If you want to verify that, just watch some movies that are like that and it really drives it home with a sledgehammer. If you have information on the screen that doesn’t move the story forward, you are taking moments away from people’s lives.”
Screenwriter Callie Khoury

“Good screenwriting is the art of discovery.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“A plot point does not have to be a dramatic moment, or major scene, or sequence. A plot point can be a quiet moment for an exciting action sequence. The plot point is whatever you choose it to be … But it is always an incident, episode, or event that is dictated by the needs of the story.”
(Syd Field, from chapter 6 of his book Four Screenplays)

Dramatic irony is … where we, the audience, are aware of circumstances of which one or more of the onstage characters are ignorant and are thus kept in a state of expectation mingled with uncertainty.”
(Alexander Mackendrick from a ScriptWriter Magazine interview)

“The Plot Point at the end of Act I is always the true beginning of your screenplay. Acts I sets up the story components. Then, the screenwriter has to establish the dramatic need and create obstacles to that need; the story becomes the main character overcoming the obstacle after obstacle to achieve his or her dramatic need.”
(Syd Field, from chapter 6 of his book Four Screenplays)

“Act II is a unit of action that is held together with the dramatic context of Confrontation. Your character will confront obstacle after obstacle after obstacle to achieve his or her dramatic need.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“The Midpoint, that link in the chain of dramatic action that connects the first half of Act II with the second half of Act II, is what moves the action forward and creates a new dramatic subtext.”
(Syd Field, from chapter 6 of his book Four Screenplays)

“I try to make my screenplays as readable an experience as I can, for a good and greedy reason — I want the executives, who read them and who have the power to greenlight a flick, to say, ‘Hey, I can make money out of this.'” 
(William Goldman from his book Four Screenplays with Essays

“Be certain that the hurdles get bigger and come closer together, accelerating the pace of your story, as your story moves forward.”
(Michael Hauge, author and Hollywood script consultant)

All stories are about transformation.  In every story a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.”
(Blake Snyder, screenwriter and screenwriting instructor/consultant, author of Save the Cat!)

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One Response to Quotations on Screenplay Structure

  1. […] I’ve added a couple new quotes to my writer quotations collection—one quotation for the story structure section, and one for the writer motivation section—and both from screenwriter Blake Snyder.  […]

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