What Happens in Act I

Act I comprises the first quarter of the screenplay. (For a two hour movie, Act I would last approximately 30 minutes.)

What happens in Act I (Setup)?

Exposition--The part of a story that introduces the characters, shows some of their interrelationships, and places them within a time and place.

This part of the story introduces the main character, the dramatic premise, and the dramatic situation.

Main character--the person in the story who has a need/objective to fulfill and whose actions drive the story

Dramatic premise--what the story's about

Dramatic situation--the circumstances surrounding the action

Inciting Incident--an event that sets the plot of the film in motion. It occurs approximately halfway through the first act.


The "Plot Point"--According to Field, the three acts are separated by two plot points. A plot point, often called a reversal, is an event that thrusts the plot in a new direction, leading into a new act of the screenplay. Later screenplay gurus have built on Field's theory by stating that Plot Point #1, which leads into Act II, is the moment when the hero takes on the problem.


Return to Three-Act Structure page

Go on to Act Two