Script writing theories are a big cottage industry in itself. I have often wondered why writers accept it when someone says that the first major turning point of your story should happen in around 30 pages or that the hero should reach his obstacle in so and so page but no such rules exist for a novelist or a short story writer (at least no widely accepted rules like that in script writing). Probably reasons are the much more fixed nature of the commercial screenplay with duration clocking around 2-2.5 hours, the fact that the visual elements are much more definable and dividable (you don’t have to deal with a character thinking to himself for 5 pages) and also the strict ‘hit or miss’ nature of the results in terms of financial returns.
I have written an entire article on a film based on the structure format of Syd Field. It was not out of any devotion to him but to just mix with a creative product (whose major undoing was a lack of adherence to structural rules) a format of the extreme opposite. When I think about whatever little screenplay related books I have read, I realise that whatever I have read was not completely useless to me. It gives you a certain orientation if you don’t take those theories a little too literally. The scriptwriting gurus do help to focus your attention on certain creative aspects of the craft.
My major issue with the ‘formulas’ has been that most of the assumptions are arbitrary. And all these assumptions are retrospective. Continue reading