NOTE: THIS CLASS IS NOW FULL
“There’s a deep DNA structure for a good movie idea,” says screenwriter Terrel Seltzer. “Someone we care about wants something badly (Act One), and is having a terrible time getting it (Act Two).” So what about Act Three? “It’s the answer to the question: Will they get it… or not?” says Terrel, “and it’s crucial. A story’s ending needs to stick in the mind. It pretty much determines whether the audience likes the movie or not.” On script level, it’s also decisive. An otherwise great script will likely be passed on if it doesn’t end well. Luckily — and regardless of the type of story you’re telling — there are common elements in a successful third act.
“A screenwriter needs to know the ending of the story before they start writing,” says Terrel. “Every word in your script is building to the climatic battle scene.” In this seminar, we’ll analyze the structure of a compelling third act by using writing exercises that help clarify the question/answer nature of good, dramatic screenwriting, and by discussing and watching movie endings that worked, and some that didn’t. Students can prepare by watching films from this list: Good Will Hunting, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Thelma and Louise, Fatal Attraction, Million Dollar Baby, Lost in Translation, Diner, Rain Man, Road to Perdition.
Terrel Seltzer is a self-taught screenwriter. She learned the craft by watching and outlining literally hundreds of movies. Her career started in the Bay Area, working with SF director Wayne Wang, for whom she wrote the screenplays for the independent films Chan is Missing and Dim Sum. Her two produced Hollywood screenplays are How I Got into College (with Lara Flynn Boyle and Anthony Edwards) and One Fine Day (with Michelle Pfeiffer and George Cloony). Currently, she has two scripts in development: Magick written for director Robert Zemeckis at Dreamworks, and Foolproof, a spec script recently optioned by Warner Brother Classics.