We have created a 5-point structure we use with groups who have not made a film before. This 5-Point Story Plan supports you identify and structure the key points of your film story.
Watch video demos by clicking on the links below:
Chris discusses their 5-point story for Ngarrindjeri Ruwe – Working On Country
Owen discusses their 5-point story for Ngarrindjeri Ruwe – Working On Country
Johanis demonstrates basic storytelling conventions for film.
Most films, including documentaries, follow a dramatic arch: beginning, middle and end.
With your team, it often helps to discuss the structure of some of your favourite films and documentaries to identify typical story formats.
Ideally, watch films that have similar themes to the one you want to make – we all learn from each other, so copy from the best…
These are our essential story building blocks – by no means the one-and-all, but we have found them in most stories:
1. Set the scene in your introduction as fast and clearly as possible.
• Who is it about, introduce your main character, host.
• What is your theme, tell your audience what this is about.
• When – are we in present day, in a past event, or are we talking about future threats / possibilities.
• Where is your story set? the country, city – the environment is a key character in most films.
Why should we come on the journey? Can you explain what’s at stake? This is what compels the audience to continue watching or gets them trigger happy with their remote controls or keyboards.
In the middle part of your film you may follow the action and turning points as more challenges are presented. These are a few hints:
• Facing the challenges
• Presenting possible solutions
• Assessing results
• Trying again…
Identify your turning point: something happens that changes your theme, your main subject – this can be a discovery, a new piece of information that challenges the initial assumptions presented at the start…or somebody shares the emotional impact the issue has on them.
End: The resolution; is it possible to resolve, what do we feel or learn from this? What is the main point you want the audience to walk away with after watching your film? Do you need an end resolution – or not? What do we feel or learn?
Find other useful web resources here:
Wikipedia’s understanding of the Act Structure, a system of understanding story structure that is ages old.
Wikipedias understanding of dramatic structure, and references to various different philosophies on said structure.
Story structure as a key to success and industry misconceptions, listed by John Truby.
Wikipedias definition of Ars Poetica, or ‘the art of poetry’. Lists various philosophers who popularised this view of story.
Alexander Sokoloff’s method of understanding story structure. A very visceral and practical method aimed at understanding story structure purposed specifically for you and your style of films.
Michael Hauge’s website, a prominent screenwriting expert.