字幕表 動画を再生する 英語字幕をプリント Hi, I'm Michael. This is Lessons from the Screenplay. A couple months ago, while promoting his new Netflix show, Mindhunter, director David Fincher made a comment about the limitations of the Marvel superhero films, and the potential of new platforms like Netflix. “Look, there's a very large talent pool of people who don't feel there's much for them in terms of sustenance working for Marvel. And I think that if we can make a playground for them that is thoughtful, adult, interesting, complex, challenging… there's a chance at something that isn't lassoed and hogtied by three acts.” This last part of his comment has stuck with me. I've been thinking about it a lot. In fact, it's become a kind of obsession. It's led me to revisit screenwriting books, re-read some Shakespeare, and re-watch every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All in search of an answer to a question: What is the most useful way for a writer to think about act structure? I want to bring you along on the journey I took to find the answer in two videos… starting by figuring out what an act even is. So today I want to use “The Avengers,” a well-known and well-structured film, to explain the details of conventional three-act structure. ...To explore its history, as well as its classical alternative, five-act structure. And share a new way I've decided to think about the acts in a story. Let's take a look at “The Avengers.” The idea of a formal three-act structure for a screenplay was popularized in Hollywood by Syd Field, when he described it in his 1979 book, ”Screenplay.” According to him, it looks likes this. Three acts, two plot points. Act One should make up the first twenty-five percent of a script, providing all the set up for the story. So let's see if this is true for “The Avengers.” In the film, the first half of Act One shows Loki's arrival and reveals his evil plan. The second half of Act One is all about S.H.I.E.L.D. recruiting our heroes to join the fight against Loki… “Security breach!” …and raising concerns about bringing them together, thus setting up the story. At the end of Act One comes the First Plot Point, during which the protagonist makes a difficult choice and enters a new world. Because there are so many characters in “The Avengers,” this moment plays a bit differently than in most scripts. Iron Man commits off-screen, and Thor joins up later. Nonetheless, this is where we see Captain America and Bruce Banner commit to helping S.H.I.E.L.D. The Helicarrier lifts them up into Act Two, exactly 25% of the way through the film's run time. As a side note, act breaks are often—but not always—accompanied by a change in location. The middle 50% of a script forms the second act, where the protagonist struggles to achieve their new goal. Since 1979, this section has somewhat evolved. It's now common to include a midpoint— a big turn that comes exactly half way through the screenplay. This midpoint splits the second act into two halves, often referred to as “2A” and “2B.” In “The Avengers,” the first half of Act Two is all about our heroes trying to stop Loki's plan while struggling to trust each other. At the midpoint—almost exactly half-way through the film— our heroes learn that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been keeping secrets from them. During this apex of tension, Loki's men attack, and the momentum of the story swings in a new direction. The second half of Act Two is about our heroes failing to stop Loki, taking losses and ending up scattered. This leads to the Second Plot Point. A moment of crisis, which forces the protagonist to make another big choice. Our heroes realize what's at stake, put aside their differences, and come up with a plan to stop Loki once and for all. They gear up and fly off into Act Three. In Act Three, the protagonist knows what they need to do, but must overcome their weaknesses to do so. In learning to work together and by defeating Loki, our heroes become The Avengers. The rest of Act Three is about resolution and tying up loose ends. This is the three-act model that has formed the foundation of what we consider “proper” screenplay structure for almost forty years. So what's the problem with this “paradigm” three-act structure? Well, it's a bit vague when it comes to the second act. Acts one and three have specific functions that are understood intuitively: set-up the story and resolve the story. But Act Two, the bulk of the narrative, is pretty bare. And even with the midpoint, there are only three turning points put forth in this model. A lot happens in “The Avengers”—this doesn't really seem to cover it all. So what are the alternatives to three-act structure? The most commonly discussed model, famously found in Shakespearean plays, is the five-act structure. In 1863, German novelist Gustav Freytag published his book “Technique of the Drama,” and introduced “Freytag's Pyramid.” He had analyzed classic Elizabethan drama, and declared there were five stages in every tragedy. Let's go through these five stages and see how they align perfectly with “The Avengers.” The first stage, Exposition, is all about setting up the world, the conflicts already in place, and the protagonist. As we've already discussed, this is the first 25% of “The Avengers,” where we learn about Loki's plan and meet our heroes as they are pulled into the drama. During the second stage, Complications, tension mounts and momentum builds as the intricacies of the drama are established. Now assembled, our heroes go to work tracking Loki. They find him, confront him, and capture him. Along the way, Iron Man and Thor make their entrances, and we see the beginnings of conflict between our heroes. They are not good at playing nice with each other. The third stage is The Climax. This may seem like a strange name, because we usually refer to the final showdown in a story as the climax. But I feel this conveys the appropriate amount of weight this section should have. Freytag wrote of this middle stage: “The development of conflict reaches its high point, the Hero stands at the crossroads, leading to victory or defeat, crashing or soaring.” In “The Avengers,” this third stage begins once Loki is on board the ship. The conflict between our heroes that was hinted at in the second stage reaches its highest point. Everything we've seen so far has been building to this... and at this very moment, the antagonists attack. (explosion) This section ends in defeat. The fourth stage, Falling Action, is all about reversals, as the protagonists reacts to the consequences of the climax. Our heroes, now having tasted defeat, are no longer bickering about their differences. They reverse their behavior, and commit to working together to destroy their common enemy. By the end of this stage, they become The Avengers, conveyed in a single, now-iconic shot. Finally, in the fifth stage, Catastrophe, the conflict is resolved, either through the downfall of the hero if it's a tragedy, or through victory and change. In “The Avengers,” this stage begins immediately following the iconic shot, as Loki commands: Loki: “Send the rest.” Our heroes have changed for the better and become a team, but now they're about to be truly tested. The Avengers fight and sacrifice and win the day. And get schawarma. These are the five stages of Freytag's Pyramid, which form the basis of a classical five-act structure. So what are the major differences between a five-act structure and a three-act structure? As it turns out, if we take Freytag's Pyramid and place it on top of Syd Field's three-act paradigm, it fits quite nicely. As John York writes in his book, “Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story”… “It's important to underline that a five-act structure isn't really different to a three-act structure, merely a detailed refinement of it… Simply put, five acts are generated by inserting two further act breaks in the second act of the traditional 'Hollywood' paradigm. The first and last acts remain identical in both forms.” So using a classic five-act structure satisfies the demands of the three-act paradigm, while also providing a more detailed take on the middle section of a story. But if we compare these two structures as we just applied them to “The Avengers,” we see that they don't fit exactly as John Yorke described. The fourth stage where The Avengers reunite doesn't occur during the “paradigm's” second act, but rather the third. So why doesn't it line up perfectly with how the screenwriting book said? Did we put the act breaks in the wrong spot? Well, maybe. But more importantly, does any of this really matter? Here we arrive at the heart of my obsession, where I was left pondering how to define an act. Perhaps the most common criticism of the three-act structure is that it leads to formulaic stories. The argument goes: “won't all movies be the same if they follow this three-act paradigm?” I think this misses the point of what makes a story good or bad. To use an analogy, almost all popular songs use a verse-chorus structure… But we don't love our favorite pop songs just because they're structured “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus.” We love them because of the content within the verses and chorus, what is put into the structure. The same goes for screenwriting. Knowledge of act structure helps you organize your story, but it's not a shortcut to quality. And when a writer has something random happen on a certain page because a book told them to, instead of it being an organic result of the story events, that is the misuse of structure that leads to frustrating, formulaic movies. So can we come up with a definition for an act that is more useful during the actual writing process? One that isn't based on placement in a story, but rather function? Film Crit Hulk, a film critic who writes in all caps and as if he were the Hulk, released a blog post several years ago railing against three act structure. In it, he offers a definition: “THE END OF AN ACT IS A POINT IN THE STORY WHERE A CHARACTER(S) MAKES A CHOICE AND CAN NO LONGER 'GO BACK.'” I like that this definition is character-centric, focusing on a specific action that affects the momentum and direction of a story. Another similar but more detailed definition is by John Yorke: “...acts are bound by dramatic desire, with a turning point spinning the character off in pursuit of a new goal... A course of action, defined by one single desire, will be completed, whether successfully or not.” I think this is a really useful definition, again because it is based on what is actually happening in your story— the desire of the protagonist. But the definition that has helped me the most came from combining the two, and taking John Yorke's advice when he wrote... “Sometimes it's easier to think of the structure in question-and-answer form.” So now, I think of an act as the dramatic question it introduces to the story, persisting until the question is answered and the protagonist has made a choice that sends them in a new direction. This was what I was looking for when I began my investigation into act structure. When you describe an act with a question, it becomes actionable. It is the writer's job to design a series of events that will answer this question, force the protagonist to make a choice, and send them in a new direction. So now, for the fourth and final act of this video, let's define the Acts of “The Avengers” using questions and answers. Act One begins as Loki appears and reveals his evil plan. The dramatic question posed is: Will Nick Fury be able to recruit our heroes to help stop Loki? This is answered when they say yes... even though we don't see them all commit on-screen. Captain America and Bruce Banner choose to start searching for Loki, which brings us to... Act Two: Can they track Loki down and catch him? Answer: Yes, but it feels like it was too easy. Despite disagreement amongst the team about what should be done with Loki, they choose to bring him back to S.H.I.E.L.D. Act Three: Now that our heroes are finally united, will they be able to get along and trust each other? No. Distrust leads to failure, and Loki escapes. Realizing their errors, they finally choose to work together. Act Four: Will our heroes unite to become The Avengers? Yep. By the end of act four they choose to face Loki's impossibly large army together, in a coordinated effort. Act Five: Will The Avengers be able to stop Loki's army from destroying New York City? Yes, through a concerted effort that shows that this new team is greater than the sum of its parts. Having grown, the characters choose to go their separate ways, knowing they will have each others' backs when the time comes. You can analyze a film and apply any structure if you try hard enough. Whether it's three-act structure, eight-sequence breakdown, or the Blake Snyder beat sheet, it's just an intellectual exercise unless it helps you improve your writing. In the end, all screenwriting books are essentially talking about the same thing, it's just about finding what clicks with you and makes you a better writer. But what about that David Fincher quote? Are Marvel films really “lassoed and hogtied” by three-acts? What is an example of a film that doesn't follow the “paradigm” structure? And what happens when we zoom in closer to dissect the anatomy of an act? I'll examine all of this in my next video, next week.