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Mar 20 / Darryl Shreve

In six words

“…you can tell a good story in 6 words: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ Hook, intrigue and then interest.”
Ernest Hemingway

The key to any movie, promo or commercial project is its “Big Idea.” Folks will often shroud a poor concept with shiny adjectives in order to sell it. Much like accessorizing an unattractive outfit or airbrushing a bad drawing, the temptation is to try to fix weak concepts with great cinematography or editing. All stories should have a rise and fall; a beginning, a middle and an end. The trap is in rushing an idea that has not matured. In Walter Murch’s book, “In The Blink of an Eye” story is one of the six main criteria he says all good editors must utilize in telling their stories.

“I want to film a movie about this bipolar mouse that can talk and spends the entire movie fighting with herself. People can identify with her different personalities because they will be able to see themselves in parts of the rodent and then the aliens come…”


Let’s try it in six words: “Unstable mouse saves humanity from aliens. “ If you can get behind the core idea, then the rise and fall can be developed. Story arcs can be generated and the three acts can be cemented.

What are the components for good storytelling?

There can be multiple Story arcs in a film, but they all have the same basic tenants listed below. Some sort of conflict propels your storyline into its final resolution.

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.16.53 AM

In a three act film, you will have one main story arc that carries over the entire film and then multiple small arcs that advance the plot.

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.16.40 AM


Act I comprises the first quarter of the screenplay. (For a two hour movie,  Act I would last approximately 30 minutes.)

Act II comprises the next two quarters of the film. (For a two hour movie,  Act II would last approximately 60 minutes.)

Act III comprises the final quarter of the film. (For a two hour movie,  Act III would be the final 30 minutes.)

I’ll get more detailed about this in a screen writing blog. The bottom line is that you need to consider all of these elements when telling your story. Pretty pictures do not make your project great, it’s the writing that centers around a well thought out idea. When I was in art school, it was instilled in us to never take shortcuts with the base drawings for our artwork. To work out the structure, proportions and overall design first and then come in with the markers, paint and/or pencils.

To put it more succinctly and to quote one of my old professors, “Never render a turd, because it will still be a pile of…” you get the idea.

Just saying.



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