Story Structure

5-Point Story Plan

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.

1. Intro – who, what, where, when

2. Hook – why, what’s at stake?
3. Journey – what happens?

4. Transformation – what has changed?

5. Message – what will your audience say?

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.

1. Intro – who, what, where, when

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.


2. Hook – why, what’s at stake?

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.

3. Journey – what happens?

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…


4. Transformation – what has changed?

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.


5. Message – what will your audience say?

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.


5-point story structure pitch




‘Pre-Production’ is where you start to devise some more of the specifics about your project. No longer in the world of amorphous maybes, or will we/won’t we type discussions, pre-production is your chance to start planning and getting your ideas down on paper.


In this section we look at research and development, different styles of shoots, how to write and create your story and how to organise a production day and manage risks.


Hoops and Dribbles
Renmark - Tree Change
Animal Interviews 2
Tidy Town EIC
Ngarrindjeri Yarluwar Ruwe
Pinnaroo Surfer Series - Football Legend
Mental Health Man
Is Your House Killing You? trailer
Nukkan Kungun Yunnan - Trailer
Pinnaroo Surfer Series - The Fish Whisperer
Skater Boy
Don't Be That Guy - TVC
Don't Be That Guy - Behind the Scenes
Pinnaroo Surfer - The Original
Hide and Seek
Horse TV
Pinnaroo Surfer Series - Painting a Masterpiece
Pinnaroo Heist
Keepin' It Country
The 56 Floods
Ngarrindjeri Elder Tom Trevorrow
Pom Fiction - Ozzie Dangers
Renmark - Hard to Swallow
A Life Well Lived
RAA - Alice, the Journey
Pinnaroo Surfer Series - Heavyweight Champion
Christie Walk - A Closer Look
Ngarrindjeri Ruwe Ngopamuldi - Working on Country
Cooking up a Storm
Where is Father Christmas?
Everyones a Hero

Watch All Films