The StoryAlity(TM) Screenplay Syntagm
So – in my empirical and scientific doctoral research study, I’ve identified (`discovered’ isn’t really the correct term for it) The Fibonacci Sequence, and therefore: The Golden Ratio (i.e. 1:1.618…etc), in the story-and-screenplay structure of The Top 20 RoI (Return on Investment) Films.
If you use this story-and-screenplay structure, your feature film will then be like the Top 20 RoI Films, structurally.
And: probability would therefore suggest that, your feature film is then: more likely to go viral.
(Than: say, if maybe, you don’t use it.)
This is, therefore, the `Universal Story Structure’ of The Top 20 ROI Films of the Last 70 Years, i.e. these 20 Films, right here:.
Note also that: These 20 films are – in fact – all essentially the same story.
(In the same way that, any film that uses the Hero’s Journey monomyth is: all the same story.)
Here it comes… (drum roll…)
Here it is:
THE STORYALITY™ SYNTAGM: THE 10-ACT SCREENPLAY STRUCTURE
And – here is exactly how the `page counts’ work:
THE STORYALITY™ SYNTAGM: PAGE COUNTS
And: here is how the above `page counts’ look, when graphed, showing the overall film percentage of each of the 10 Acts.
STORYALITY™ SYNTAGM STRUCTURAL GRAPH
The graph above shows the percentages of the Story (in duration, i.e. in pages/minutes) in each of the 10 Acts.
Note that: Acts 9 and 10 combined are the final 39% of the story.
And – here, just for the record, is how it matches The Fibonacci Sequence:
STORYALITY™ BREAKDOWN – THE FIBONACCI NUMBERS
This structure reflects The Fibonacci Sequence, which in fact was not discovered by Fibonacci but by some Indian mathematicians, much earlier.
Anyway, all that is not something that, as a screenwriter you need to know, or care about; but – just sayin’.
(Note however, that: Act 9 and Act 10, added together is: 34.)
Q: Hey – but, why is `the last Act’ split into two (Acts 9 and 10)? Shouldn’t it just all be `Act 9′, at 34 units? The Fibonacci maths seems to be `split’ at the end, there?
A: Great question – many people ask about that. Here’s the answer. The structure of the meme, the unit of culture, is the holon. Films are composed of memes, (ideas/beats/scenes/sequences) which are memes and which are holons. And, holons are fractal. That means, they are `self-similar’, on smaller and small scales.
So, think about this:
You can examine the Fibonacci sequence in this way, `zooming in’, closer and closer (i.e.: increasing the scale) and, in this way (see the diagram above), we can split `34′ (that `big Act 9′) into: Act 9: `21′, and Act 10: `13′. (Because: 21 + 13 = 34). (We can even split all the smaller parts into the Fibonacci sequence too – as in the diagram above, but it soon gets overwhelming, and, most people don’t seem to like maths too much, so – let’s not go there, for now.) The important thing is — there appears to be a common structural pattern in all top 20 RoI films, and that’s why the big Act at the end is indeed, split into two parts, and so, there’s the 10 Acts in total…
So – out of curiosity – I then looked at, exactly what is happening, storywise, in all Top 20 RoI films at: `13 units from the end’ (in that `last big Act’ – of 34 units). And – when examined, all 20 films appear to do the same thing, in their story structure at that point. See this StoryAlity post, for the details of the 10 Acts of all top 20 RoI (i.e. most-viral / biggest `cost-benefit ratio’) films… So, that last Act, Act 10, the `last 13 units’ turns out to be Act 10 – `The Climax and The Villain Triumphant.’
And – for more detail on memes and holons (in: film structure), see these posts: the key point being that the structure (and, laws) of both biology and culture – are holons.
On Holons and Holarchies
- StoryAlity #48 – On Film Holons and Holarchies – and How Holarchies Work
- StoryAlity #49 – On Movie Screenplays, Viral Memes, and Cultural Evolution
And for more detail, see also:
On the structure of the Meme (the unit of culture) – and, Towards a Science of Memetics:
- StoryAlity #100 – The Holonic Structure of the Meme – the unit of culture
- StoryAlity #101 – A Science of Memetic Culturology
And see this book chapter.
So, but wait… Do these 10 `Acts’ correlate to the “Classic `Hollywood’ 3-Act” Structure-?
Yes, they do.
In (much) the same way that M-Theory in theoretical physics used 11 dimensions to unite 5 disparate/competing string theories in 1995, the StoryAlity™ paradigm unifies all prior screenplay paradigms.
This is also why some “classical Hollywood films” (which typically have a low ROI) are described by the paradigm (i.e. Star Wars 1977, E.T. 1982, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2002.)
Classical “3-Act Hollywood structure” (as in, Syd Field’s Screenplay, 1979) – and “The 10-Act Structure” of the Top-20 RoI Films of All Time correlates, as follows:
(Side Note: You also do not need to know, or remember any of this – or, even remotely care about it, but – just sayin’, in case anyone is curious about it: this, is how it correlates):
- The “Inciting Incident” (page 10) takes place in the 10-Act Structure as “The Shape Of Things To Come” story beat, in Act 5 (which is pages 8 to 12, in the 10-Act Structure).
- Act 1 (p 25) of a Hollywood screenplay would end in Act 7 – “Paradise Lost”.
- The “midpoint” of a Hollywood screenplay (page 60 – of a typically 120-page Hollywood script) would occur at the end of Act 8 (The Descent Into Hell – page 54 of a 90-page high-ROI screenplay).
- The “End-of-Act-2/Start-of-Act-3 Turning-Point” in the Top 20 ROI films is Act 10 – The Battle Royale – and is a constant escalation of conflict – until the very end (i.e. – The Villain Triumphant).
So – the 10-Act StoryAlity™ structure is – quite clearly – a one-size-fits-all screenplay paradigm .
See here for 8 major screenplay guru structural templates, – which are actually probably all now scientifically and empirically falsified (in Sir Karl Popper’s terms) by the above StoryAlity paradigm, even while the StoryAlity syntagm also unifies and incorporates them all.
Also, given The Villain Triumphant story trope/meme, in all of the Top 20 RoI Films, films with this 10-Act Structure are very distinct from all the others in the very-crowded-marketplace of “classic Hollywood-structured” screenplays – as promoted by “Screenplay Gurus” (McKee, Hauge, Field, et al).
It could also be argued that, these 10-Act StoryAlity Stories deliver more surprises, twists, and reversals:
After all, “The Good Guys are supposed to always win” (…aren’t they…?)
The Long Answer: Yes, I guess in some `perfect world’, maybe the Good Guys (the `Heroes’) are probably supposed to win. But – in all of the Top 20 ROI Films, they actually don’t.
– The Top 20 RoI Films are all `Villain Triumphant’ Films. (Compare with The Bottom 20 RoI Films: which, are not all `Villain Triumphant’ films. In fact – very few of them are. Note also, that: both The Top 20 and Bottom 20 RoI films all actually have `3 Acts’. So – `3 Acts’ is therefore, not particularly useful, for screenwriters / filmmakers. See also John Truby’s sage advice on exactly why that is the case. )
So, but here’s the thing: with The Top 20 ROI Films – there is much, much more to it, than just the above StoryAlity Screenplay Structure.
`Pattern recognition’ tells us that: The Top 20 RoI Films of All Time – all, in fact, have at least 30 things in common. (That – very importantly – are not in all of The Bottom 20 RoI Films.)
And, so – If you’re a professional screenwriter / filmmaker (i.e. like I am too), then I expect, by about now you’d maybe be probably pretty interested, to know, exactly what they are.
Remembering that: 7 in 10 films lose money…
…And that only 2% of screenplays ever get made…
Or – when we combine these two problems:
StoryAlity #115 – The `Less-Than-1%’ Problem in the Domain of Film
And – coming up soon: The StoryAlity(TM) Film Story Checklist: 30 Things You Can Do In Your Story and Screenplay To Statistically Increase The Odds That Your Film May Go Viral, much like: all 20 of The Top 20 RoI Films of All Time.
…Thoughts, feedback, comments?
High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher
The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky
JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/
 In fact, the 10-Act StoryAlity™ Structure is actually not even a `paradigm’ at all, but is in fact: a syntagm. See this post here for why we should all probably maybe stop calling screenplay story templates `paradigms’, and instead, should maybe probably really call them `syntagms’. i.e. mainly because – that’s what they are.
(Don’t shoot the messenger/piano player… I don’t make up the facts, I just report ’em, etc etc…)