What is Film Structure?
Film structure is typically composed of three acts. Which are more widely represented or understood as the three-act structure in film. Sometimes we hear the term “film structure”. Also being used to reference narrative structure. In this case, when film structure is being used to reference narrative structure in film. It simply states the method in which the plot is delivered (through narrative) in a particular order. Different types of film structure, or narrative, are used to deliver the story. In a cyclical beginning, middle and end manner, or in a full circle, the beginning is also the end manner, or otherwise.
Understanding the answer to a common question, “What is film structure?” is important for any screenwriter or artist.
We’ll take a look at how we can best answer this question, whether it is meant to relate to the typical three-act structure or to other forms of narrative structure in film as well as guide you to understanding what the different forms or types of narrative structure are in film.
What is Film Structure?
Moreover, film structure includes the structuring or planning of the plot of the story and how it will be delivered to the audience. Typical filmmaker or screenwriting structure will use a three-act structure.
To outline and define the narrative. Such that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to the story.
So, within this three-act film structure are several potential narrative structures that dictate how the film will be narrated. Or, how the narrative of the film will play out. The most common narrative structures include: Linear, Non-linear, Quest, and Viewpoint.
Types of Narrative Structure in Film
Narrative structure in film is used to share a story in infinite ways. While you may have a three-act structure that includes a beginning, a middle and an end, the way that you deliver this story can change infinitely.
If you tell the end of the story at the beginning, but you still then revert back to the beginning and share everything in between, you still have a beginning, a middle and an end, it was just ordered differently using narrative structure that was more suitable for your audience.
Knowing all the potential narrative structures that could be used to tell your story will help you to define the most effective way possible to share.
Common examples of narrative structure include:
Presenting the story in order of events how they occur. This is your typical beginning, middle and end, three-part or three-act structure.
Presenting your story events out of order, often using flashbacks or other means of bouncing back in time or forward to deliver the story.
Telling the story in a way such that the protagonist works constantly at achieving a goal which is all consuming and along the way seemingly impossible obstacles are faced.
Presenting the story based on points of view or subjective personal experiences that are exhibited by the main character or other characters of the story. Usually first-person or third-person narratives.
The Overarching Goal
As you can see, film structure can take many forms but the overall goal is always to share the story. There is still always a beginning, a middle and an end to the story.
But the methods upon which the narrative are delivered can vary greatly based on the structure that is chosen which is most closely connected with the target audience.