Film School Friday – What’s most important about storytelling?

Storytelling Episode Summary

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about storytelling, the three act narrative and why it’s an important component of your next story.

Storytelling Episode Notes

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about storytelling, the three act narrative and why it’s an important component of your next story.

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Storytelling Transcript

Corey Allen  00:09

Welcome to film school Friday. I’m Corey,

Bill Cornelius  00:12

I’m Bill

Corey Allen  00:12

And together,

Bill Cornelius  00:14

we form Voltron already made that joke once, ignore me. together in focus podcast

Corey Allen  00:21

We host the infocus podcast. film school Friday is our special weekly episode, where I get to quiz bill to see how much knowledge he’s retained from film school and hopefully drop a few knowledge bombs. on all of you, yes, Bill today, I would love to talk about storytelling. And this time, not visually, but actually writing a story or maybe just script, a short script, a small screenplay, I have several ideas for some shorts that I would love to eventually get on camera. But I’m not really sure how to put that together in a screenplay format. What is important for me to know when it comes to writing a script?

Bill Cornelius  01:05

Yeah, so I also write, I’ve been doing it for many, many years, there are a few technical essentials, when it comes to writing a script that are always good to remember, of course, like everything, there are some exceptions to every rule, you like in music, everything doesn’t have to conform to the conventions, you might think same is true for story. But in the conventional storytelling sense, the thing that is kind of the the tried and true traditional way of doing it is the three act narrative. And that is in terms of story structure. That’s the beginning, the middle, and the end. And there are different elements contained within those three parts.

Corey Allen  01:51

So as long as I have a beginning, a middle and an end, I’m good to go.

Bill Cornelius  01:55

Not necessarily, it’s a little more complicated than that you’re off to a good start, I would say is you definitely don’t want to just have a film that’s a middle and has nothing else. Because then you’re making an art film that’s abstract. Which, again, there’s an exception to every rule, there’s a place for that. But if you’re doing straightforward narrative storytelling, the three act narrative is the traditional way that things are done. And this is, you know, this goes back to the old Greek storytelling techniques.

I mean, it’s existed since the dawn of humanity telling stories around the campfire. So it’s just, you know, you introduce the characters, the story, what is the conflict that the protagonist is facing. And then as you get into the second act, it’s what’s called the rising action, that conflict begins to rise and rise. And then by the third act, our protagonist is overcoming whatever the challenge was, that was presented in the first act, or failing at whatever the challenge is, and then you roll into your conclusion, very basic storytelling.

Again, exceptions to every rule, a lot of people like to turn that formula on its head, you know, for different creative reasons. And that’s fine. That totally works, too. But yeah, that’s, that’s the storytelling conventions that are ingrained. And I think every human being that, that sort of formula. And when it comes to like telling a good story, that’s completely subjective. I don’t think anybody does or should say to themselves, you know what, I’m going to write a good story today. You don’t know if you’re gonna write a good story, you just got to sit down and do it. Right. If it if it turns out being good, that’s great, if you But again, it’s subjective. But I think you’re off to a good start, if you’re at least adhering to storytelling formula in some way and have some structure around it.

Corey Allen  03:53

Yeah. So let me let me take that maybe a level deeper. Does, would that same approach apply? Maybe if you’re working on like a short documentary, like? Obviously, the screenplay scenario, maybe a little different, but the storytelling component? Does that still apply?

Bill Cornelius  04:09

I think it does. I see it very sometimes in documentary. But by and large, if you pay attention enough, when you watch a documentary, you’ll see that same arc happen. The beginning, the middle, and introduction to who these people are, what the situation is, what the conflict is the rising action, the information dump, you know, the interviews, what’s happening, and then where it’s going and how it’s concluding like it exists. It’s, it’s that art can be found in anything that you watch, quite honestly.

Corey Allen  04:43

Okay. I hadn’t really thought about that. Just with the number of documentaries and different things that I’ve watched in the past. I’ll definitely be observant of that now and try to maybe call out those performance.

Bill Cornelius  04:55

And I think personally as a writer, as a screenwriter, specifically, the The way that you don’t necessarily have to adhere to that structure. But that’s I have found that knowing of that structure helps me to not override something instead of a 200 page script, I could write an 80 page script, because I’m thinking about the structure. Yeah, it gives you those, it gives you guardrails, in a sense, to know when to wrap things up, and how to piecemeal a story out so that it’s structured and tempo properly.

Corey Allen  05:29

Do you think that approach limits whether it’s a creative process or limits, this type of story that you’re trying to tell?

Bill Cornelius  05:38

It depends on the story you’re trying to tell? I would say if you’re trying to write something that appeals to an audience, structure is good structure is your friend, because the regular audience member, they’re just looking for a treat, they’re looking for something to get them in, and, and wrap it up nice with a bow at the end. So structure is going to help you there. If If that’s not your intent, if you do want to have more creative freedom Have at it, you know, you don’t have to be beholden to that structure. If you want to be creative with it. It’s just you know, at the end of the day, you’re you are thinking about who your audience is going to be.

Corey Allen  06:14

It’s like Christopher Nolan just given the world a big giant middle finger with every other screenplay that is like forwards and backwards and like just thinking like memento or even Tennant. Where Yeah, it is somewhat shaped that way, but at the same time, the story is far from linear from that Act One, two to three.

Bill Cornelius  06:34

But still, even with a movie like Tennant, it still follows the 3x narrative. It’s true you think about it. It’s it’s the brilliance about that film is that it’s it’s it’s almost the three act narrative on top of a three act narrative that’s going in a different direction. So it’s it’s almost like an interesting loop structure, but it’s the same. It’s the structure, it’s there. It’s just he’s added a reversal loop to it.

Corey Allen  07:06


Bill Cornelius  07:07

Yeah, it’s it’s actually pretty brilliant.

Corey Allen  07:09

A guy’s smarter than anybody wants to give him credit for.

Bill Cornelius  07:13

He’s too popular. That’s why people shoot him. That’s true.

Corey Allen  07:16

That’s true. Well, fantastic job. As always, Bill, I feel much more enlightened. I’m ready to ready to tackle my next tiny screenplay.

Bill Cornelius  07:25

Would you say this is the third act of our film school Friday?

Corey Allen  07:29

of this particular episode? I would say so.

Bill Cornelius  07:31

Yeah. The conclusion.

Corey Allen  07:33

Yeah, well, actually, now this is the conclusion. This is

Bill Cornelius  07:35

our happy ending.

Corey Allen  07:36

Check us out on Instagram, @infocuspod or online at And if you like what you heard today, go ahead and subscribe. And if you’re on Apple podcast, please leave us a rating. It would help us out a ton. And until next time,

Bill Cornelius  07:54

fee your crew, feed your crew and follow that three act structure. if you so choose.

Corey Allen  08:01

Do it