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Act 2

Lesson 18 from: Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

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Lesson Info

18. Act 2

Learn what makes up Act 2 and how to structure the largest act into sub-acts for best effect.
Next Lesson: Act 3

Lesson Info

Act 2

Yeah, Act two is your largest act. It's twice as long as Act one and Act three. So it makes up about 50 pages of the 100 page example. So you've got a lot of ground to cover. So let's see, I always divided into Act two A and act to be, let's see what's into act two A. In act two A. Your main character, your hero is pursuing their want right there, leaving the comfortable, they're familiar their regular world, they're journeying out so they are in pursuit of their want along the way they hit obstacles, the villain conflict. There are things that are getting in the way of that character, getting what they want, Those obstacles, progress and they build just like the chart I sold you before and I'm about to show you another chart for Act two. New tactics are employed right? As soon as I decide I want something and then I don't get it. I have to find a new tactic to get what I want and your character should always be using new tactics. So if the goal of the character and act two is to um fi...

nd the best donut in Manhattan, well that person is gonna start out looking at a donut shop and then they're gonna say this donut is not so great, let me try another donut shop. Same thing with your characters. If the first tactic doesn't work, which it shouldn't or the movie will be over. They've got to adjust and find a new tactic to then employ And by the end of two a the mid point of the movie, you'll hear this a lot, the midpoint turn or the midpoint complication by the middle of the movie and you can clock it on movies you watch or scripts that you read, there is a false sense of success. It appears as if the hero has gotten what they want now, if they get what they want again, the movie is over, but we still have a half the movie to go. So things are about to get more complicated. Let's take a look at this on the chart on your story chart, Act two A is 25 pages pages 25 through 50. Now you can divide that however you want, you can create it as three sequences that are progressing from 25 to 50 with obstacles and conflict along the way. Or you can divide it into four sequences. For example, with the same thing progressing towards the goal, hitting an obstacle, finding a new tactic, progressing towards the goal, again, hitting an obstacle, finding a new tactic, progressing toward the goal again, you always want to be intensifying your story, progressing your story, it gets heated, it deflates, it gets heated, it deflates, it gets heated, it deflates and so on, and so forth. Back to those elements. You start by pursuing the want midway through is your obstacles, your conflicts, all your new tactics and you end to a with a real false success. There's a midpoint turn there in the story where a midpoint complication, it appears as if the hero is getting exactly what they want. But things are about to get much more complicated By page 50 at your mid point. This is the moment where something happens that complicates the story. So, in Titanic, this is the moment that they hit the iceberg, right. Really great love story for 50 pages and now there's an iceberg. So something happens at that midpoint that launches you into to be that's called the midpoint turn, or midpoint complication. Because of that midpoint turn a midpoint complication. Your hero sets a new goal and that new goal is to overcome whatever the complication has given them. So, back to titanic 50 pages of a love story, there's an iceberg. Now, the new goal for Rose and for Jack, is to escape the boat to get off the boat safely so that they can then go have a love life together. Ultimately, it's a tragedy because they don't escape together. But new tactics are important because the character is going to have to figure out how to overcome this new complication. And so they will use new tactics in order to do that. The villain becomes very powerful and to be we've introduced the villain in the first act into a we've had conflict with the villain in to be the villain is very powerful because we're going to build and progress toward the act to climax, where it appears that the villain is winning because the villain is winning. We reach our lowest point often called The dark night of the Soul that's in other people's work, not mine, meaning they've coined the term, but I use it all the time. The Dark night of the Soul is the lowest point of the movie. It's about three quarters of the way through. Its about page 70-75 or so. This is where the character, the hero has lost everything, their friends, their faith in themselves, their confidence, the battle that they were waging. The journey seems hopeless. You know, this point in the movie, every character's got that point where they seem to have lost everything and then there's a breakthrough, I call it the angel conversation or the angel moment that moment that someone or something comes along, that breaks them through that they're feeling hopeless and then the angel character gives them insight or knowledge that launches them into act three. Let's take a look at this on the chart. Act to be in our 100 page example, is 25 pages, pages 50 through 75. Now you can divide that however you like into four sequences or three sequences. That's totally up to you. Let's start on the left. First at page 50, is that midpoint turn or complication things get much more complicated and so the hero sets a new goal, this goal to overcome that complication. We move forward in the story, we progress and we build, we have some successes and some failures and the bulk of to be here are whatever the new tactics are that the hero employees to overcome and accomplish that goal. Along the way, the villain is getting much more powerful here and the whole thing progresses at the act to climax after climax is that about page 70 where the hero and the villain go head to head and it looks like the villain has won. Now from 70 to 75, you've got this all is lost moment or the dark night of the soul this moment that's hopeless for the hero, where your main character just really feels like they're not winning and then the angel comes along and helps them break through that, You'll see the yellow line sort of flattens out there. That's because for pages 70 through 75 there's not a lot of rising action. This is our main character, our hero sort of sitting in the hopelessness of that dark night of the soul before the Angel comes along and shares insight or knowledge or love or a special gift to help them break through Act two was big, it was complicated, it was half of your screenplay and at this point in your writing, I want to make sure a couple of things have occurred first, you put your characters through it right, like you put your hero through all the things They have jumped over absurd, every obstacle, used, every sword dodged, every bullet said, I love you as many times as it takes. And it's all climax at the end of Act two. Now, if your story ends there, that's a tragedy, right? The villain wins. It's all over most of our stories, they will break through and rebound and head into Act three.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Case Study Films
Story Analysis Template.xlsx
Sample TV Scripts
Story Design Worksheet
Story Fundamentals Worksheet
Seed to Script Process

Ratings and Reviews

Carlos Sandoval

Just a great way to start on your path to screenwriting. A clear and concise class with a friendly tone and humor. I think it is important that a teacher has actually worked in the field. Kudos.


Perfect for a beginner or actors who need a better understanding of what is and why is. Info packed and FUN too!

Asem Nurkina

I took this class last year. And after one year of working with presented tools (story design worksheet, story fundamentals workseet, seed to script process) on different projects I can say that it is very powerful and useful course I ever taken. I can strongly recommend this detailed screenwriting guidance by Julio Vincent Gambuto.

Student Work