Do Short Films Follow Three Act Structures_

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Do Short Films Follow Three Act Structures?

Short films, and screenplays that are presented similarly to the full-feature films we’re all most familiar with typically follow a similar structure. In fact, many aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters wonder, “Do short films follow three act structure just like full-feature movies and films do?” This common question among screenwriters that are just getting started in the industry has a simple answer — YES!

Most short films follow the three act structure just like full-feature films. The 3-act story structure is used in almost all literary storytelling and represents the beginning, middle, and end. But it can definitely get more refined than that. Let’s take a look.

Short Film Structure

The typical three act structure of a short film is made up of the introduction, the body and the conclusion – thus a beginning, middle and end. Just because it’s a short film does not mean that it should lack any of these components or that it has to lack these important features.

In fact, the short film story structure is quite similar to long or full-feature films except the will generally be fewer characters, a much less complicated or complex story, and a simple resolution.

Almost all short films are going to be made up of:

  • A three act structure that outlines the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
  • A distinct midpoint in which there is incredible escalation of the story or a reversal of the story.
  • A memorable ending to the story.

Understanding the 3-Act Structure in Short Films

So, now that you know the answer to the question, “Do short films follow a three act structure?” Let’s take a look at the three act structure and how it applies to a short film in particular. The three act structure of a short film is broken down into Acts 1, 2 and 3.

Act 1 addresses the following:

  • Where the story is taking place. 
  • When the story takes place.
  • Who the characters are.
  • The theme of the story.
  • What the suspense, problem, or thrill is.

Act 2 addresses the following:

  • The goal of the characters.
  • The time to complete the goal.
  • The secondary story.
  • The meat of the main story.
  • The roadblocks prevent character achievement of the goal.

Act 3 addresses the following:

  • The lowest point for the character.
  • Coping with the loss of or inability to achieve a goal.
  • A new goal.
  • The rise of winning or achieving goals.
  • A final scene.

Easy enough, right?

Yes and no! Just because a film is short, does not mean that it will be easy. Writing a screenplay is challenging for sure, and there are a number of potential struggles that could occur in attempting to write the story or produce a short film.

Using the three-act structure to write your screenplay is a great starting point that can help you to define your characters, plot, and ending in a way that will resonate best with your desired audience.

So, the next time someone asks, “Do short films follow three act structures?” Your answer should be, “Yes, they do! Let me explain…”