Simple Film Structure Definition for Beginning Screenwriters

Simple Film Structure Definition for Beginning Screenwriters

The film structure, sometimes referred to as narrative structure or plot structure, can take many different forms. It also happens to be one of the most important early elements that leads to a successfully produced screenplay. In this simple film structure definition, we’ll help you understand how narratives, plot, and the form used to share your story come together. Either in chronological or non-chronological order for maximum audience engagement and entertainment. 

What is Film Structure?

Script writing, much like other forms of literary works, follows a particular process or convention. If you’re familiar with the conventions that are common in the creation of a script or screenplay. Then you most likely already know that film structure.

Moreover, by definition, represents the methods in which a film story is organized and frequently follows what is most widely knowns as the three-act structure.

Which essentially means:

  • Films have a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • There is typically an introduction of characters, location/setting, and plot.
  • This is followed by the character facing a problem and intended solution.
  • There is a climax in which the character wins/loses.
  • Followed by a de-escalation period in which there is a cool-down phase.
  • And there is an ending scene.

It’s in the Planning

The film structure represents the means by which the plot is delivered to the audience. And, according to most professional screenwriters and filmmakers, your film is only as good as your plot.

The plot is the central story. Which develops over the basis of the storytelling or narrative structure. To inform and connect with the audience before it ends.

Film structure controls the way the script is written. The way the shots are captured and the way 

Because script writers have found that most stories can best be told in one of these ways post-production edits take place. It all begins with the initial plan for the structure of the film. Amazing isn’t it?

Types of Film Structure

scriptwriting by hand

Furthermore, different types of narrative structure or film structures have come into play over the years. In fact, film structure has infinite possibilities depending on the scriptwriter.

However, most successful productions have followed one of a handful of film structures or narratives, why?

Linear Narrative

The story is told in chronological order just as it actually happened. 

Non-linear Narrative

The story is out of order. Often utilizing flashbacks or special literary devices in order to provide clues and insight into past or future events of the story.

You might recall this structure from a mystery or drama in which the story begins with a scene from the end, and then, through flashbacks or other means the chronology is shifted around, through time.

Quest Narrative

So, the story involves a character working tirelessly towards a goal, on a quest to succeed. And often faces insane roadblocks attempting to achieve success. They may or may not achieve their goal, but they will certainly be consumed by it.

Viewpoint Narrative

The story shares the various points of view of a subject or main character based on personal experience, moods, feelings, or other viewpoints. The narrator is deceptive, and the entire story is subjective in nature.

This simple film structure definition should clear up a lot of the questions that beginning screenwriters and script writers have when it comes to the impact of narrative structure and the importance of structuring a story just right.

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