Lesson #17 Act Three: The art of relationships
Before we start exploring all of the stages of the second half of feature film, I would like to introduce you to the concept of acts as closed systems on the wheel, so that you can approach structuring in many different ways.
Every act is about one important element that the new world of the story is going to be built upon. Every element is represented by three different archetypes. It’s interesting to see how these elements gradually transform and progress through triplicities—from the first archetype to the third one within each act:
ACT 1: The birth of an idea of a new life shown through pure energy of creation (love and inspiration). Fire- Yang (masculine): I am, I create, I explore.
ACT 2: What needs to be manifested in order for this new life to be possible shown through the enjoying physical life and newly introduced pleasures (materialization of our desires). Earth – Yin (feminine): I have, I harvest, I rule.
ACT 3: Structure of a new life shown through relationships and communication with others (mental). Air – Yang (masculine): I communicate and learn, I relate, I know.
ACT 4: Paradise – the new life becomes reality (while the old life dies), shown through emotions and deep emotional connections. Water – Yin (feminine): I nurture, I transform, I love.
The third act (out of four) in the feature film wheel structure is about the structure of the world (or any story) and for me, this structure is all about relationships. I can even imagine a live installation of specific people standing on the shoulders of one another and building specific structures and shapes, and you have to admit that different people would build different shapes, and those shapes would have different properties and qualities. The life your character is going to live and your whole story depend on these structures.
There is no doubt that in the first and second act, the hero was bouncing off of others, but here in the third act, in order to have a sustainable (structured) story or life, the hero has to build something upon the relationships he has, which means that those relationships have to be meaningful. Suddenly who is around becomes really important.
The hero is growing and influencing others as well. Furthermore, meaningful communication usually occurs more often in the third act than in the other acts.
The hero is exploring who needs to stay and who needs to go in order for him to feel satisfied. He is playing with these options in his head. This act, more than any of the acts, is rational. Towards the end of the film, in act four, emotions are going to be much more important, but here reason plays a stronger role.
Let's take Sunset Boulevard as an example again. The hero faces a conflict between his needs and his desires, which is represented as Joe being torn between two women, Norma and Betty.
In the Fool stage,
which is the twin archetype, the hero explores his options. He can also pretend and lie a little bit and fake a little bit… without feeling any guilt, he just feels that it is his birthright to experience as many options as he can. Being a chameleon, he is actually still learning about himself and getting to know himself better. However, in order to really try as much as he needs to be sure what makes him happy, he actually stays on the surface of these relationships. He is a trickster, a seducer, a playboy, a playgirl… who can also trick himself, and situations usually in this part of the film can be tricky*.
Joe is with Norma. He now has the pool he always wanted, but he is actually lying to himself that he is satisfied. Whenever Norma realizes Joe is bored, she entertains him. The tricky* situation is when Norma goes to DeMille. She thinks he invited her because of her script, while Paramount was calling her because of her old car. At the same time, Betty offers Joe to write together. (55.00)
On the other hand, the Orphan stage
is about commitment. Sitting on two chairs at once is now really difficult. Orphan is afraid to be alone, so he will do anything to be with someone, but usually, he isn’t able to decide what the best solution is. He is going back and forth questioning whether he should do this or that? Should I leave Norma and be with Betty, or just forget about Betty…? Am I giving as much as I am taking – what about equality? Is this relationship a two-way street?
While Norma is preparing herself for the new film that is never going to happen, Joe is sneaking out during the night to write with Betty. Betty is engaged to be married, while Joe, in reality, doesn’t have true love. He lies to both women. (1.13.00)
In the Magician stage,
the hero always has insight into where he belongs – and with whom. He is well aware of all of the layers of society; he can be with kings but also with common people. He knows that common people also have power because they are many. He can see through deception and experience humanity.
Always ask yourself what kind of lightning has to strike my hero in order for him to finally realize where his place is in the world. Because only when we really know our place can we truly be satisfied. And what can be more surprising than when doors that you thought would never open in front you, suddenly open up.
Betty talks about how she made her way in business. She is a third generation in Hollywood trying to become somebody. She ‘fixed’ her nose because someone at the studios said her nose was not right for the role – but then her acting was not right… Later she begins reading scripts, and discovers that she is talented at writing – so then she just wants to be a writer.
All of this is preparation for the lightning to strike – Joe understands what Betty is talking about – they are from the same world.
The exact moment when the ‘lightning’ strikes is when Joe kisses Betty’s nose – and the revelation that comes along with this kiss: I belong with this pure young woman who smells like ‘a fresh linen handkerchief,’ ‘a brand-new automobile’ – all the things he can’t have with Norma.
Now he knows: ‘I belong with Betty, I belong writing with her…’ What’s even more important sometimes, he knows exactly where he doesn’t belong anymore! (1. 20.00)
When working on the third act, make an outline having in mind this development of a relationship perspective of the story.