California State University, Monterey Bay held a screenwriting masterclass with Oscar winner, Kevin Willmott, in celebration of Black History Month. The event took place on Feb. 17 and discussed essential tips and guidelines for producing screen-worthy masterpieces.
Willmott, who co-wrote “BlacKkKlansman,” broke down the screenwriting process into three acts. The first act is where the setup begins. You give your audience all of the information for the film, talk about and introduce characters, and set the rules for the movie. The first act should be approximately 30 pages and upon page 10, the inciting incident occurs – captivating viewers to stay tuned. During the first act, a plot point should be revealed, where the direction of the movie takes a dramatic and unpredictable twist.
The second act takes place from pages 30-60. Willmott acknowledged the second act can be hard to write, where a linear structure is created and confrontation occurs. “Audiences like reluctant heroes and when characters declare something,” Willmott said.
Also seen in the second act is the midpoint, where the first and second act are linked together. Figuring out the best way to tell your story and knowing what your story consists of is crucial when creating screenplays.
The third act provides the audience with a resolution. The resolution includes the climax of the film and occurs from page 75 to the end of the movie. “If you make stuff up, you do so in the spirit of truth,” Willmott said. “If you don’t make it up, the audience won’t be satisfied.”
The controlling idea, which is the comment you are making about the film, should be clearly stated within the third act. The example Willmott gave was the movie “Parasite” and its theme of classism in South Korea.
Willmott gave helpful tips on creating character development for screenplays. “Start with the hero, beware of passive characters, and write about what you know and believe in,” Willmott said.
When imagining the star players of your movie, it is important to think about what traits you can give to characters to make them interesting. It’s not what they do, but how they do it.
Writing all the time, even when it leads to nowhere, is essential for forming ideas that can progress to masterpieces. Having a community of other writers to read your work is important to get productive feedback.
“Don’t wait for permission. Write and produce what you want,” Willmott said. “Believe in yourself, your work and take criticism.”