Shocking the Donkeys progress report

Posted on September 2 2010 by James

We’ve just finished the treatment (or book – see previous post) for Act 1.

Most screenplays for feature-length films are designed to produce a movie that’s between 100 to 120 minutes. Hollywood proportions expect them to comprise three acts in the proportion 1:2:1.

This means that a movie of 120 minutes has a 30-minute Act 1, a 60-minute Act 2, and a 30-minute Act 3.

Now that our first act is written out as a treatment we are able to study the proportions of the different scenes. There are 24 scenes and mathematically that means they average about 75 seconds each. Of course, some scenes will be longer than others, but the treatment helps us to see which ones need to be longer and which shorter.

Screenplay formatting is designed to make one page of script equal one minute of finished movie. So when you know that scene 16 can only be 90 seconds long, you know your script for that scene must be confined to one-and-a-half pages.

This is exactly what I was talking about last time when I said you need to start out painting on a canvas (or in this case writing on a digital sheet of paper) that’s the right size in the first place. This is a much better method of working than trying to make savage cuts later. And less time wasting.

The secret is to get the proportions right in the treatment stage before you start writing any dialogue.

But for the moment, we’re moving on into the treatment for Act 2. September is all about getting the book written for the first half of Act 2. We’ll come back to the relative proportions of the Act 1 scenes later.

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