When editing a movie or organizing the story structure of a script, do the filmmakers follow a structural plan that includes 5 moments? What if they did? Do you want to know the 5 moments?
The next time you watch a good movie, watch what happens at 25 minutes into the movie, at 45 minutes into the movie, at 60 minutes into the movie, 45 minutes before the movie ends, and 25 minutes before to finish the movie: 25 45 60 – 45 -25. Calculate -45 and -25 when the story ends, not when the end credits end.
Notice how film professionals seem to place their most important moments at 25 45 60-45-25:
Within 25 minutes of The Bourne Ultimatum, the CIA finds Bourne and issues an order to kill him. 45 minutes straight time Dustin Hoffman steals a car and handcuffs his parole officer to a fence on the freeway. At 60 minutes of Iron Man, Tony Stark flies across the room and says “Yes, I can fly.” 45 minutes before Schindler’s List ends, Ben Kingsley’s character Itzhak Stern holds up the list and says, “The list is absolutely good. The list is life.” 25 minutes before Transformers ends, a Decepticon crashes into a bus on the freeway.
In previous films, 25 45 60 -45-25 are pivotal, inspiring, entertaining, emotionally turbulent moments that helped the screenwriter and filmmaker persuade the audience to care about their characters and what happens to them.
The 5 moments in Iron Man:
25: Tony Stark is in the cave, examining a metal ring used to create the mini arc reactor that will fit his chest. Soon, the light of the arc reactor comes on, his new source of energy is born. The birth of something new.
45: An emotionally intense Tony Stark tells the press that he never said goodbye to his father. He states that because his weapons have fallen into the wrong hands, he is shutting down his company’s arms production. Now that I am aware.
60: He’s flying across the room, struggling to control his power, and he succeeds: “Yes, I can fly.” He’s making great progress, there’s no going back to the drawing board. There is no turning back now.
-45 (1:57 – 45 = 1:12 in the movie) Tony receives new information about a besieged village from a reporter, learns more about the situation and escalates his action: he flies to the village and starts rescuing people. Discovery.
-25 (1:57 – 25 = 1:32 in the movie) Pepper discovers the video that proves that Obadiah Stane wants Tony dead. Final turning point.
In every good movie and script you will find these 5 moments:
25: The birth of something new.
45: Now that I’m aware.
60: There is no turning back now.
-25: The last turning point.
The symmetry of 25 45 60 -45 -25 obeys a dynamic truth of nature: what goes up, must come down. So it is at the beginning, so it is at the end: 25 45 60-45-25.
You will find all 5 moments in all your old favorites. Examine the following 5 moments in Romancing the Stone, and notice that -45 comes before 60 because Romancing the Stone lasts one hour and forty-three minutes: 1:43 subtracted by 45 means 58 comes before 60.
25: Joan is alone on a mountainous road, the antagonist enters the scene, draws a pistol and points it. Jack Colton arrives and unloads a burst of shots to scare off the antagonist. 25 is where the heroine faces the antagonist and where the love story begins. The birth of something new.
45: Joan and Jack sit in a wrecked cargo plane. Jack offers Joan a bottle of tequila and wants to know why Joan left New York for Columbia. Joan lies about why she is at Columbia. In two minutes, Jack finds the treasure map, a discovery that ignites future turmoil between Jack and Joan. Now that I am conscious.
-45: (1:43 – 45 minutes = 58 minutes of movie) The ally of the monster truck opens the door and asks: “Are you Joan Wilder, the novelist?” An almost unbelievable coincidence, but since we love Joan and Jack, we don’t care. As Juan (Alfonso Arau) finds out that Joan writes the books he loves, he lets them in. Discovery.
60: Joan and Jack tour Juan’s house and in a matter of minutes they are in a monster truck that jumps over a stream to escape the antagonists. There is no turning back now.
-25: (1:43 – 25 minutes = 1:18) Joan and Jack arrive at Mother’s Milk, a small pool where they find the green diamond. The final turning point.
Knowing where the 5 crucial moments in a script belong will fundamentally change how you watch movies and how you read and write scripts. The 5 moments will boost your confidence because they offer an objective formula that indicates exactly when the key moments happen. It is an accurate structural tool to enhance your ability to analyze and organize the structure of the story so that you can tell a better story.
If you have read many books on screenwriting, then you know certain approximations when it comes to the structure of the story (p. 10-20, p. 50-60, p. 80-90). If you’re looking for an accurate guide when it comes to the structure of the story, the 5 moments offer reliable, objective, and naturally strong structural dynamics.
When your topic means a lot to you, you owe it to yourself to know exactly where it’s all going. See what the pros are doing. They know exactly where everything is going, don’t they? You should not?