Sequences and Acts

By Michael Schilf · January 24, 2010

Generally speaking there are two (sometimes three) sequences in ACT I, four (sometimes five) in ACT II and two sequences in ACT III


Sequence 1 – Introduce Main Character/Status Quo

Plot Point #1: Inciting Incident/Point of Attack

Sequence 2 – Set Predicament/Establish Main Tension

Plot Point #2: The Lock In


Sequence 3 – First Obstacle/Raise the Stakes

Sequence 4 – Higher Obstacle

Plot Point #3: First Culmination

Sequence 5 – Subplot/Rising Action

Sequence 6 – Highest obstacle

Plot Point #4: Main Culmination


Sequence 7 – New Tension

Plot Point #5: 5. Twist

Sequence 8 – Resolution

But as always, there are exceptions and ways to mix the batch of dough in a different way. They might not be in chronological order, two separate sequences might be in parallel action, the first act of the story might be delivered in flashback during the second act of the film. This is why each story is a prototype, that it must be invented anew each time. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your story can only be unique if you mix the sequences into a bizarre order. Many (most) of the best, most compelling stories are also the simplest, the ones which find their uniqueness not in structural or plot machinations but in the uniqueness of their central characters and special insights of their approach to storytelling – the observations of the film makers, the humanity that they portray.