We have talked about how important having a great story is in previous posts. I’m currently going through Martin Scorsese master class and he talks about how you need to have a passion or a burning desire to tell your story as a motion picture. I honestly believe a critical element to getting the story right is the finale. It’s the last thing your audience will remember about your movie. It leaves a lasting impression. This is why the twist ending has always been so popular. For me that’s played out and lame. It’s been done plenty of times from Wizard of Oz to Six Sense. It’s a gimmick that you can sell me again just like the found footage stuff. It’s 2019 we have phones with 4k get with the program.
I always think of Steven Spielberg’s films and how they always seem to have a great ending. He was even the won who told the filmmakers of Paranormal Activity that they have a golden egg unless they change the ending. He’s so talents at that aspect of story telling that he even told them how it should end.
I always beat it out. I do this early when the story is starting to mesh. I do it for both screen plays and fiction novels. The problem with a beat sheet is that the last act only has one beat the finale. There are important beats in my opinion that lead up to the conclusion that make up the finale. Blake Snyder even add 5 extra beats to help his students. Unfortunately this was right before he died and it never made it into a new version of his book. Save the Cat. But I have them and I’m posting them here so you can have a copy.
1 – Opening Image
2 – Theme Stated
3 – The Set Up
4 – Catalyst (inciting incident)
5 – The Debate
6 – Break It Into Two (Second Act).
7 – B Story
8 – Fun And Games
9 – Midpoint
10 – The Bad Guys Close In
11 – All Is Lost
12 – Dark Night Of The Soul
13 – Break it into 3 (Act 3)
14 – Gather Team (Arrive Bad Guys Fort)
The hero, and the hero team, come up with a plan to “storm the castle” and “free the princess” who is “trapped in the tower.”
15 – Storm the Castle – (executing plan)
The plan begins. The wall of the castle is broached. The heroes enter the Bad Guys’ fort. All is going according to plan.
16 -High Tower Surprise (It’s a Trap)
Finally reaching the tower where the princess is being kept, the hero finds… she’s not there! And not only that, it’s a trap! It looks like the Bad Guy has won.
17 – Dig Deep Down
The hero now has to come up with a new plan. And it’s all part and parcel of the overall transformation of the hero and his need to “dig deep down” to find that last ounce of strength (i.e., faith in an unseen power) to win the day.
18 – New Plan
Thinking on the fly, and discovering his best self, the hero executes the new plan, and wins! Princess freed, friends avenged, Bad Guy sent back to wherever Bad Guys go when they are defeated (Two Bunch Palms?) — our hero has triumphed
19 – The Finale
20 – Closing Image
The thing I like about the 20 point beat sheet is that I feel most movies are about 40 scenes. At least a 90 minute movie which is the ideal length these days. If you are selling a spec script or trying to raise money to produce it yourself. That also translates into 2.5 pages per scene. This beat sheet gets you half way there. I think it also helps plot out a memorable ending that can save your story.
Also if you have those 5 extra steps plotted out in your mind when you do pitch your beats the finale will be all that much more impactful and make your pitch better. I’m not saying you need to detail out all 4 steps in the conclusion just that having this makes it easier to summarize your ending.
Note – I have no idea what two punch palms are