Here is our last entry in our movie structure series: how to create a successful Act Three. In case you’ve missed our previous columns on movie structure, you can find them on our blog.
The dark night of the soul is behind our protagonist. They’ve just managed to get out of a tight spot and learned an important lesson. They now use this lesson to go after their goal, to complete their mission, to finish the quest.
Here our protagonist will usually combine the best parts of the person they used to be with the lessons they’ve learned while this story was unfolding.
For example, the formerly meek bank teller will use their attention to detail gained from years of counting money in their new quest to defeat the card shark at the casino with their newly acquired blackjack expertise. Or the careerist will utilize the multi-tasking skills they’ve acquired while working 18-hour days in their quest to save the family farm while also raising five children. Or the former lone gunslinger will still use their ability of the quick draw, but now they’ve learned to ask their friends for help in defending the town.
Essentially, here we show our protagonist’s growth, and only because they have grown can they succeed in their quest.
Let’s take GROUNDHOG DAY as an example. Protagonist Phil Connors is a self-involved, self-serving but charming A-hole. Then he gets stuck in a time loop—he experiences the same day over and over and over again. Nothing he does (including killing himself several times) stops the loop. He’s still a talented, charismatic on-air personality, but it doesn’t do him any good. Only when he learns to be a (much) better person and care about other people does he succeed in breaking the cycle.
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