A Mistake Screenwriters Make When Structuring Their Screenplays by Gary Goldstein

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: Is there a specific structure you use in your screenplays?

Gary Goldstein: Yeah. Generally I defer to the classic storytelling structure which is the 3-act structure, the different series of movements across the whole script, I break it down into 3 acts, 4 quarters, 12 sequences.

I try to mix it up a little. But I’m a big believer in drawing inside the lines and then messing it up. At least knowing that you’ve got your framework the way that most stories are told best and most effectively and you can kind of mess it up and smudge it up and put your stamp on it, you know.

I’m not such a big believer that what is supposed to happen on page 60, happens exactly on page 60. Well if it’s page 58 or 63 or if it’s based upon the length of the script, page 42. As long as the movements or the proportion of your story is right, the movements are kind of traditional…not traditional, classical storytelling. Because tradition always sounds like you’re in a box. That to me is important.

But I’m a big believer in structure. I believe you get really found out why your story isn’t working when you kind of don’t follow some kind of classic storytelling structure.

Film Courage: So going back to when you were at the writer’s bootcamp, how would you know if a story was great, but it just needed to have more structure infused in it?

Gary Goldstein: Well, I believe you can structure any story. You have to have enough of a way to expand that story into a full movie.

You know, sometimes you watch a movie and you go “Nothing happened in that movie.” Or “What a bunch of nothing.” It was really because there may not have been enough story.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

My very first screenplay, I had three different ideas for scripts and I ended up putting all three together and I found my story. Individually each story may not have been enough. Some how or another, all three of those ideas together just sort of fit like this puzzle and I was able to create this script. So there is that approach to it.

But basically, you know a good story when you hear it or you know the beginnings of a good story or a story that has potential or an interesting character.

A lot of stories are just set up. It’s like “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” “Well, that’s great. But what happens then?” Because that’s only taking me through the first act. The second act is always the most difficult act if you don’t know where you are going. And most anybody can write the first act of a script. But it’s where it goes from there that’s tricky.

Sometimes an idea might just be all set-up and there’s nothing beyond that. But if you take another idea and pair it and another idea and bring it in and kind of layer it, then you may have more of that story. It’s about finding the story.

Like I said, you can structure anything. You can create a structure as long as there’s enough story and finding that story, which is the challenge.

Question for the Viewers: Do you outline and structure your screenplays before writing them?



Gary Goldstein is an award winning writer for film, TV and the stage. He has written numerous films for Hallmark Channel and its sister network, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, including the comedies “The Wish List,” “Hitched for the Holidays,” “This Magic Moment” and “My Boyfriends’ Dogs,” and the first two films in the “Flower Shop Mystery” series: “Mum’s the Word” and “Snipped in the Bud,” starring Brooke Shields.

Gary’s feature film “Politics of Love,” a romantic comedy set during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, was released in theaters August 2011. He also wrote the feature romantic comedy, “If You Only Knew,” which starred Johnathon Schaech, Alison Eastwood and James LeGros.

In addition, Gary has sold or optioned a number of original screenplays, has a string of episodic TV credits and has sold half-hour comedy pilots to both NBC and Warner Bros Television.

On the L.A. stage, Gary has been represented with the comedies “Just Men,” “Parental Discretion” and “Three Grooms and a Bride.” His family drama “Curtain Call” premiered in late 2008 at Carmel, CA’s Pacific Repertory Theatre. His newest play, the three-sisters dramedy “April, May & June,” will have its World Premiere in March 2017 at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills, as part of its 2016-17 subscription season.

Gary is also a freelance film reviewer and feature writer for the Los Angeles Times.


Find out more about Gary Goldstein’s play APRIL, MAY and JUNE here.



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