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View Full Version : Screenwriters: How Many Beats?



Kyle R
March 23rd, 2012, 10:59 AM
How many specific beats do you use when writing your script?

Are you a "free and loose" writer who works with the basic tentpoles (Inciting Incident, First Plot Point, Midpoint, Second Plot Point, Finale)?

Or do you work with specific micro-beats ("the theme is stated here", "the antagonist is defined here", "a deflector pushes the hero away from his goal"... or for Romantic Comedies: "the meet cute", "the sexy complication", "joyful defeat"...)

Somewhere in between? Something else all together?

patrickjamieson
July 20th, 2012, 08:34 AM
I was always taught to be pretty vague when it comes to that due to the fact that as just a screenwriter, the director would take and alter the script as he pleased. If you're also the director, however, I don't see any reason why you couldn't be as liberal as you like with beats. After all, it's your script!

jmacky
August 1st, 2012, 09:51 PM
Hi, I'm new here. As far as beats, you can use as many as you want, I'm curious though, what you interpret as a beat? I always use beats to roughly structure my screenplays and then embellish a bit and then work strictly in the 3-Act format. Been good to me for 30 years and 19 movies. And as far as worrying about the director... never consider that, it'll hinder your story, write what you feel, not compromising for what comes after your finish, write your best script, if it's good it won't be altered much. I had 2 scripts that were first draft plus my polish and they were filmed exactly, except for budget or location or time of day issues.

TheNextShot
August 4th, 2012, 01:40 PM
I have to go with jmacky on the creative side of things. Let that creativity out. Of course on rewrites, you'll want to be very careful not to tell the director specific camera angles, movement or image composition, unless absolutely necessary. As far as I normally go with that might be to INSERT a shot to convey major significance.

In regards to what your describing as beats, for the past year I've been loosely studying an 8 reel style of writing. In a nutshell, you write 8 - fifteen page mini movies. Each with a purpose, propelling the story forward, such as the way you described. But that's what outlining does also.

So the end point is, do what works for you. Don't hold back. But remember, beginning-middle-end with lots of conflict.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

alister
September 10th, 2012, 06:52 PM
How many specific beats do you use when writing your script?

Are you a "free and loose" writer who works with the basic tentpoles (Inciting Incident, First Plot Point, Midpoint, Second Plot Point, Finale)?

Or do you work with specific micro-beats ("the theme is stated here", "the antagonist is defined here", "a deflector pushes the hero away from his goal"... or for Romantic Comedies: "the meet cute", "the sexy complication", "joyful defeat"...)

Somewhere in between? Something else all together?

Beats in a screenplay are action/reaction pairs. They are physical acts (including mannerisms and expressions) and/or dialogue. When one person does x, then the other person does y. That is a beat. A string of beats forms a scene. A scene is more or less a contiguous space and time where people have actions and reactions together. Scenes form a larger abstract group, sequences. Sequences have a story spine of their own: Inciting Incident, Progressive Complications, Climax, Resolution. Strings of sequences form Acts. And Acts form your entire story.

I've never counted the number of beats per page, but a screen play is about 90 to 120 pages. Each page is about a minute of screen time. I would break down the beats in a movies you especially like in your chosen genre. Count the beats per minute, or if you have the actual screenplay, then count the beats per page. That is your answer for the movie you like.