Our good friend, Ross Mahler, who is an extraordinary computer expert (and author of the blog Shares Dream World), has built a soon-to-be-famous screenwriting tool:
Here’s how it works. You type the number of pages in your script and Mahler’s Calculator will give you a guide (within a typical 3-act structure) of the page numbers by which the various “beats” in your story should be taking place.
So if, say, you have a 110-page script, this is the breakdown you would get.
Opening Image: pg 1
Establish Theme: pgs 1 – 5
Setup: pgs 1 – 10
Inciting Incident: 12
Debate - Half Commitment: pgs 12 – 25
Turn to Act II: 25
Subplot intro by: pg 30
Fun - Games - Puzzles: pgs 30 – 55
Tentpole - Midpoint - Reversal: pg 55
Enemy Closes In: pgs 55 – 75
Low Point: pg 75
Darkest Decision: pgs 75 – 85
Turn to Act III: pg 85
Finale - Confrontation: pgs 85 – 107
Aftermath: pgs 107 – 110
Final Image: pg 110
Hehehe… How cool is that?
Ross modeled his calculator after Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet.
I asked him “How did you arrive at the page number for the Inciting Incident?”
“I've always thought of this page as the page that it should happen by (as in no later than). It could, of course, occur earlier, if little character set up is required. But if you look at most movies, the opening minutes is showing the character in their status quo, then comes the inciting incident that upsets it. A few examples from some of your subtext films...
Raiders -- gov't officials want him to go after the ark
Groundhog Day - Phil has to go to Punksatawnee (sp?)
History of Violence -- the bad guys show up at the diner”
“What did you mean by ‘Fun - Games - Puzzles?’”
“Fun and Games is an awkward term, but I've always taken it to mean the part after the inciting incident, perhaps when a character is half-committed to the quest, but before things get really serious and the stakes are raised. For example:
Raiders -- trying to gather the clues (but before Marion supposedly dies)
Groundhog Day -- Dealing with the comical/ludicrous aspects of a never-ending day, before things look hopeless and he wants to kill himself.
History of Violence -- when Tom tries to deal with the attention and not get in too much trouble (but before he has to kill anyone or deal with the reality of his past with his wife)
“What did you mean by ‘Tentpole - Midpoint - Reversal?’”
“To me, this is that point where the goal shifts (or shifts in meaning). For example:
Raiders -- the goal doesn't shift, but when Marion dies(?), beating the Nazi's becomes personal
Groundhog Day -- when love and meaningfulness become the goal (instead of just getting to Feb. 3)
History of Violence -- when Tom realizes he'll have to confront his past to make it go away (can't just make it go away)”
What are your thoughts? Suggestions?