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Video Maker's Journey Introduction

Beyond Basics:  start | story development | pre-production | responding to criticism | editing refinements | transferring cine film to video | pace

The Videomaker's Journey: part twenty-two
Beyond the Basics: Story Development.

Use the links in the text to move between sections.


(1) Script writing The three act structure is shown with additional advice. In particular, note that adding problems and complications to obstruct the hero’s progress in Act Two are essential features to be included in longer stories.
(2) Synopsis which illustrate story writing This refers to three films: The Handyman, The Problem with Harry and Violets are Blue. You can see each film in the relevant chapter.
(3) Books to read


1. The Three Act Structure

Act One

The Set Up - the Beginning

Introduce the main characters. With a longer story, expand the characters visually, but keep the dialogue to a minimum.
Reveal the problem that has to be solved.
Make clear where the location is.
Begin the movie with a memorable image that will grab the attention of the audience. See note below.

For longer stories - use the following elements to structure the story:

The hero is confronted with a conflict.
The hero falters and steps back.
A mentor arrives to give advice and help.
The hero takes up the challenge.
Foreshadow more conflict. Introduce the villain - someone who looks like a trouble maker.  

Turn the action around in a new direction, raise the stakes, this will bring the story into Act Two.

Note: The memory of a good image will linger with the audience as the story unfolds. There are several ways to start the movie and display the title. Refer to “More Tips on How to Start a Movie.” This also includes links to several video clips.

Act Two

The Story Development - the Middle - the Confrontation.

Concentrate on keeping the story moving, maintain momentum.

For longer stories - use the following elements to develop the story:

Add problems and complications to obstruct the hero’s progress.
Add friends
Add trouble makers

Turn the action again, moving the story into Act Three.

Act Three

The Story rushes towards the Climax and Resolution - the End.

Try to provide an unexpected ending and evoke some emotion in an audience.

How to end the longer story - use appropriate elements:

  • The chase
  • The climax
  • The resolution, show the final effect on the main characters.
  • The celebration.
  • Foreshadowing future conflict at the end of a comedy can add amusement.

2. The Title

A first rate title is essential. Once the screenplay is written, look at the dialogue, it may suggest a very good title.

3. One Minute Movies

When planning One Minute Movies - design the plan so as to make a 45 second movie - this will allow the actors room to do their work. They will easily use up an extra 5 to 10 seconds of space - it is important to give them room to move and allow for changes to the dialogue.

4. Refer to

part 13 Story Writing - Screenplays - Copyright


These illustrate the story writing and include comments on various elements in storytelling.

THE HANDYMAN by Fay and Don Finlay and Ross Wilesmith

This movie was earlier referenced in part 18.

While Act Two provides the excellent entertaining slapstick - Act One sets the story up, and Act Three resolves the conflict, in a very clever manner, this enhances a very successful movie.

Act One The Set Up

Foreshadowing the conflict.

Fred (Ross Wilesmith) the handyman phones, Stella (Fay Finlay) answers. Fred wants to remind her husband Bob (Don Finlay) about going to the darts tournament. Stella says Bob won’t be home until one o’clock and that there will be no darts, because Bob has to fix the water heater. Fred, the handyman, says “No problem, I’m coming around now to fix it myself”. Stella is not very happy about this.

The Handyman

A comment by Fay - an actor’s interpretation of a character can be most important to the final result. Ross did this admirably in this movie, and I think the contrast in the three characters in this movie helped it no end. Stella was “long suffering”. Bob was the sort of bloke that “took the easy way out”. And Fred just “swept all before him in his desire to be a good bloke”.
Act Two Problem after Problem is introduced Fred arrives and proceeds to dismantle and wreck the water heater. Fred says he has to adjust the water pressure and the electrical power supply. He gets his head and shoulders under the kitchen sink. He removes some piping and electrical wiring, gets an electrical shock in the process with water squirting about. Stella is now in tears. Fred is steadily wrecking the house.

Fred now claims to adjust the water pressure by dismantling the pipe-work in the toilet. He throws heaps of stuff into the hallway. He now proceeds to the electrical meter box with electrical power cords draped over his shoulder, to by-pass the power supply. He connects to something in the meter box, hands the other end to Stella and tells her to take it inside and plug it into the water heater. Fred moves various switches about, at the same time calling out to Stella asking her “Does it work yet?”

Fred says “I gotta go to the toilet.” A great flood of water flows out under the door into the hallway. Fred steps out - takes his shorts off (he is wearing underpants) - he wrings the water out of them. As he puts them on, he says to Stella “Please excuse me.”  Bob arrives home. Fred and Bob leave abruptly to go to the darts. Stella calls out “What about the toilet?” Fred calls back “Don’t touch the wiring or anything else, use the toilet next door.”

Act Three The Resolution: Stella wins the battle Stella gets a plumber and electrician onto the job promptly so as to fix the mess.

Fred and Bob return. Bob gets into the house but Fred is grabbed by Stella and pushed back out the door. She says “Never you mind, you can just go home.” Stella shows the repair bill to Bob - but Bob ignores it all and staggers off to have a sleep.

Fred hasn’t given up yet, he foreshadows further problems. Fred phones to apologise for bringing Bob home in a bit of a mess. He also says the phone line is bad, he’ll be around in the morning to fix it for her. Stella is now horrified about this turn of events.


Act One The basic conflict. Harry (Maurice Cadogan), is a crabby old man, who lives with his daughter Sally (Sharon Henry) and her husband Joe (Toby Chittenden). Whenever they try to go away on holidays - Harry plays up and tries to stop them leaving.

The Problem With Harry

The mentor. A friend Ruth (Trisha Bromley), becomes the mentor and offers to help and look after Harry.

Foreshadowing involvement with the neighbours. Ruth arrives at Sally’s house - this is noticed by the neighbours, Helen (Wendy Kemp) and Bill (Jeff La Roche) - problems are foreshadowed. Helen reveals she fancies Harry. We learn that Bill is very attached to his MG Sports car.
Act Two The problem seems to be solved. Ruth becomes Harry's girlfriend, they go out together.

The celebration. Sally and Joe are on their holiday - they have a celebration dinner.

First obstacle. As Harry is about to walk out the door with a bag of golf clubs and a suitcase - the phone rings. Ruth is on the way to take him out. Harry protests - he says “I have to shave and shower, come in half an hour.”

Second obstacle. Harry charges out the door onto the footpath only to meet Sally and Joe who have arrived home a day early in a car driven by Joe’s Mate (Col Tretheway).
Act Three A car chase, with a sudden twist in the story. The reactions of all the characters are revealed. The car chase begins . Helen from next door arrives in the MG sports car - and leaves with Harry. Ruth arrives in her car, finds out that Harry has fled with Helen and takes off in pursuit. Helen’s husband Bill, arrives in his car. He then joins the chase because he wants his MG back. Harry and Helen escape to a seaside village. Helen dumps Harry for a lifeguard, Harry ends up back home with his daughter.

VIOLETS ARE BLUE by Arthur Bullock and Fay Finlay

Flowers play a role in this movie. Violet (Fay Finlay) was represented by blue violets. The violets changed to roses (in the car) when Kym (Maureen Bowra) and Andrew (David Corrie) finally got together. This was reinforced at the end when the blue violet petals blew away in the wind. Violet’s ghost solves the problem - also, Kym reads up on cars so as to chat up Andrew.

Act One The conflict. A very shy young man is unable to chat to girls. Violet, an elderly lady, is selling her Morris Minor car. Her grandson Andrew maintains the car for her. Kym, an attractive young lady is coming to look at the car, Andrew is to show her the car. Andrew is painfully shy - he is unable to chat to girls. Kym fancies Andrew and she is determined to capture Andrew’s heart.

When Kym and Andrew look at the car, they easily chat and laugh together. Kym decides to buy the car. While Violet is getting a receipt for the cash deposit, Kym tries to chat to Andrew. He abruptly runs to his car and flees. Andrew drives an old EH Holden that he has restored.

Violets Are Blue

Act Two Kym and Violet have a cup of tea as they discuss the situation. A few days later, Kym returns with a cheque and takes delivery of the car. Kym reveals that she likes Andrew and hopes to see him again. Kym realises that knowing something about cars is the key to getting Andrew’s attention, so she reads up on information about EH Holden cars.
Act Three Kym reads the funeral notices and discovers that Violet has passed away. The next time Kym gets into her car, Violet appears as a ghost. Violet tells Kym that something needs to be fixed on the car brakes and that she should take the car to Andrew so he can fix it. Kym takes the car to Andrew and he fixes it. Kym then chats to Andrew about EH Holden Cars. This goes particularly well. They both get into the car and drive off to a car swap meeting.

- a reading list

The following books are useful reading if you wish to advance your knowledge on the subject.

Illustration of the book cover.

The Writer's Journey - Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screen Writers
by Christopher Vogler
(Michael Wiese Production, 3rd edition paperback 2007, Amazon UK price in February 2010 £9.48)

There are common elements in all "Myths, Fairy-tales, Dreams and Movies" they are known collectively as the "Hero's Journey". Two elements from the Hero's Journey that I use regularly:

  • The "The Refusal of the Call" - the hero finds that the situation is too much for him - the hero is reluctant to take up the challenge.
  • Then introduce the "Mentor" - this is a wise person who gives advice and maybe assistance to the hero - this gives the hero a kick start, he now takes up the challenge.

The cover of the second edition of the book.

Making a Good Script Great
by Linda Seger
(Samuel French 1990 - prohibitively expensive new but Amazon UK marketplace second-hand price in February 2010 £10.14)

This is the definitive book on the "Three Act Structure" and the use of "Subplots" and "How to keep up the momentum in the story".

The cover of the book.

The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives
by Lajos Egri
(bnpublishing revised edition 2008, Amazon UK price in February 2010 £9.89)

This book has extensive advice on human nature and how to develop and continually adjust your character's attitude and behaviour so as to maintain audience interest throughout the movie.

Image of the book's cover.

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
by Syd Field.
(Delta, 2005, Amazon UK price in February 2010 £6.97)

This book covers all aspects of screenplay writing. Of particular interest is the information on turning points. The most useful advice in this book is - "first you must know the ending - next the beginning and finally the turning points - before you start writing."

If you are looking for further help to develop your writing skills -- you should consider attending a course on Script Writing.

Video Maker's Journey Introduction
Beyond Basics:  
start | story development | pre-production | responding to criticism | editing refinements | transferring cine film to video | pace

© copyright Arthur Bullock, 2010

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