The Film Festival Structure: The movies for the Film Festival generally follow the same structure as a Hollywood script. However, since the movies we show are only 12 - 25 minutes long, some of the elements are combined. Short films are under five minutes; they have a different structure that combines some of these plot points. The Central Dramatic Question is what the audience is asking itself about your main character. It needs to be established within the first 3 pages of your screenplay. It should also be revisited throughout the second act (pages 5 - 15). In some cases it will get in the way and result in failure. The Big Opening is more important than it is in a feature length because there is so little time. So, therefore, your opening scenes must establish the characters and themes in the best and most complete way possible. Oftentimes, this may involve using voice over. The catalyst and the big event should probably be combined or occur consecutively. Your big event should happen between pages 3 - 5. The mid-point will be the difference between an okay script and a great script. If you can make the mid-point a twist or turn that is truly engaging, then you will have yourself a killer script. Oftentimes, the mid-point will be a new character, new information, or a new idea. Most times this will occur around page 10. The crisis should happen 3 to 4 pages before the end of your screenplay (around pages 15 - 17). Without a crisis, your screenplay will probably fall flat at the end. Remember, the crisis is when your character loses (or thinks he loses) everything that is important to him regarding the plot of the movie. The crisis will often be a direct result of the mid-point. The showdown and the realization should occur in the last 5 pages of the screenplay. The showdown will be a face-off with the antagonist, looming problem, or opposing forces keeping the main character from achieving his or her goal. The realization, if done properly, should answer the central dramatic question.
The key to a great script is the premise. When you read your premise to someone, they should immediately know that it will be a hit. Two students clown around during a chemistry lab and accidentally make the assistant principal, Mr. Imbusch, disappear. Now they have to be Mr. Imbusch before anyone realizes what they have done. When the Frisbee Club doesn’t get the respect it deserves, the captain takes matters into his own hands. Mr. Kim kicks out Mr. Jean’s Ping-Pong Club from the cafeteria to make more space for his Dance Company girls. To retaliate, Mr. Jean and his pongers challenge Mr. Kim and the dancers to a dance-off! A disorganized student ruins Mr. Mullaney’s prize-winning brownies during chemistry class. Now, with the help of the Career and Education, students he must learn how to get organized and bake a new batch before Mullaney knows they’re gone. A slacker student decides to bolster his resume by claiming he is the founder of a made-up birding club. He has to get serious as students decide to join the club. A student is hit off the head in a dodge ball game and wakes up with the ability to read teachers’ minds. A nerdy freshman is bullied by a ruthless senior and stuffed into a locker—where he is left there for 15 years! After finally being released, the student finds out that the bully is now his teacher. The class clown has the tables turned on him when his history teacher makes him teach the class in preparation for a big test. The Robotics teacher has his club shut down by the school. To retaliate, the teacher decides to replace the faculty with replica robots. A student is sick of his imaginary friend messing up his life, so he decides to try to end the friendship.