Saturday, August 16, 2008


by Christopher Keane

The act II climax is not always easy to mark but it's got one factor that establishes its reason for being. It's the lowest point in the story for the main character the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. In most situations, in real life, most people would give up their lives at this point, but not in a movie. The character can't go back and can't stay put, and looks as if he or she can't go forward either. BUT! Hamlet sees the play in which the player king pours poison in the ear -- a reenactment, Hamlet thinks, of how his uncle had killed his father -- and watches closely for his uncle's reaction... BINGO! There it is. He sees the twitch. Claudius, the bastard, did kill his father!

Hamlet's devastated. Not only did his uncle kill his father, but this also confirms that Hamlet';s own mother was having an affair with his uncle and she is a cocpnspiratpor. The worst possible situation is true!

Hamlet never asked for this. He just came home oin Spring Break from college, for a little R and R. Now he's got his father, dead. His uncle did it. His mother did it. His girlfriend is half mad. The kingdom is in total disarray. And now he's got to kill his uncle, the king, and maybe - maybe? fuck all, real good chance of - losing his own life before he even gets to Claudius.

This is the moment when the main character knows what he has to do if he wants to solve the problem. But to do it he has to climb out of this pit, buckle up, fight all the forces telling him to go to sleep or run, and march up the perilous mountain (or through the deadly swapms) of Act III, all the while keeping focus (with all the other stuff going on), fight the tougest battle, physically and emotionally, that he or she has ever fought, and hopefully prevail, emerging with life intact, against all odds, and even wisdom and logic - because if she doesn't she will be (if she's not dead) condemned to be free to live the most awful life she could ever imagine.

So the climax at the end of Act II is that moment of decision that will launch youir character into the cesspool of Act III, without an assurance of anything except that if the journey is not made the alternative is too frightening to even consider.

Now there's where your character should be.

Talk about a climax.



How do I write thee? Let me count the ways.
Yeah, well, I’d rather write them than count them. But unfortunately some things take study and time and laborious exercise in the art of looking at a screenplay from different angles.
Three of them.
1. Angle One: You can look at the screenplay from the broad perspective: the story itself, the whole shebang, the biog noodle. From beginning to end. You can write it in a four-page mini-treatment, the four most exasperating, and necessary, four pages you’ll write ever.
Page One is the action of Act 1, down to and including Plot Point 1, on page 25, more or less.
Pages Two and Three hold the action of Act II, down to and including Plot Point II, in which the central character is at his or her lowest point in the story.
Page Four is action of Act III, down to and including the climax.
This is the overview.
2. Angle Two: You can look at a screenplay from a narrower perspective, the scene-by-scene movement from beginning to end. How one scene folds into the next, carrying with each scene emotion, motivaton, conflict, tension. Each scene is like a little screenplay.
It has a beginning, middle and end. The characters that walk into the scene carry with them agendas that do not match up with or agree with the others characters and their agendas. Thus we have conflict and tension.
So we’re moving from Angle One, the general, to Angle Two, the Specific.
3. Angle Three is where I wanted to get to in this long, roundabout way. Angle three is the in between angle. It’s not as broad as One or as narrow as Two. Angle Three has to do with The Sequence.
A lot of screenwriters write their screenplays using sequences right from the start. A Sequence is a cluster of scenes that usually take place in one general location, or area. The scenes all have to do with a specific event. Or place. Or moment.
Sequences are like strings of interconnected floating barges sailing across the sea of your story.
Each sequence has a beginning, middle or end. The sequence has a specific purpose. Like the opening Wedding Sequence in The Godfather. This sequence sets up the entire movie. We meet just about everybody we need to meet. The Family.
There are chase sequences, and more chase sequences.
In your screenplay you have a number of sequences. Watch out for them. They will save you so much time, make your work so much better. Learn the secret of sequences.