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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clever in-depth debunking of the three act formula, 28 Jan 2002
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This review is from: Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique (Paperback)
There is much more to film structure than the screenwriting gurus, such as Syd Field would have us believe. It is a more complex, more flexible thing, that ultimately allows for more creative storytelling than they allow.
As things stand, aspiring screenwriters must pay attention to the vagaries of three act structure when pitching their ideas: in Hollywood especially, execs are very much in thrall to the notions popularised by Field, Key et al, mainly because it provides them with the analytical tools to get their teeth into your story, and suggest changes that, to an extent, can justify their role in optioning and pre-production.
However, as Thompson demonstrates, the vast majority of films as made diverge from the three act model, and in fact have a four-act structure.
This is a fundamental point, which will help any writer get over the perennial problem of that "difficult second act": here is a an analysis that demonstates that it's better to split your second act into two. Thompson shows that most Hollywood movies are in fact split into four equal parts, rather than three parts of unequal length.
Reductive, formulaic catch-all writing credos are antithetical to creativity, and in many cases are so loose in their criteria that they end up providing little of practical value to aspiring writers.
Thompson stresses the individuality, the virtuosity involved, the difficulty of good writing - and demonstrates that not only will you not write well overly adhering to three act formula - you will write a screenplay which will be difficult, if not impossible to film. So be warned.
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Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique
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