Once I have an idea for my film, after I've written the scenes I see and any dialogue that I wanted to work on, I then use a structure guide to fill out the skeleton of my story using a Film Structure Guide.
This is a guide that I've made for you to use. It's designed to give you a simple straightforward structure you can follow to build your film's plot with.
The Pudding Film Structure Guide
The Current State of Affairs:
This is what your character’s life is like when your film starts. Introduce your character, what their current state of mind and life is like at the beginning of the story. This is the norm stated before you get into the story
Titanic - Rose is stuck in an oppressive relationship, with an oppressive mother, unable to escape the chains of her rich life
Sound of Music - Maria is a nun, though a bit of a rubbish one, living her life in the abbey
A Pudding Falls Out Of The Sky:
Something happens that changes the normal course of your character’s life. The reason I called this section ‘a pudding falls out of the sky’ is because when I was 15 we were asked to write a short story in English class and to make sure we wrote something that would immediately hook the audience. So the first sentence I wrote was “A pudding fell out of the sky.” This is where you want something or someone to come in and literally sweep your character off their feet.
Juno - Juno decides not to have an abortion after visiting a clinic and decides to put her baby up for adoption instead
Gone With the Wind - Civil war breaks out, disrupting and changing Scarlet’s rich, decadent world
Life With the Pudding:
This is where you get to write all the things you want to put in your film. The fun little discussions between characters, the trip to the seaside. These are the scenes of your character living with the pudding.
Jurassic Park - Large dinosaurs chase and hunt adults and children.
Sound of Music - Maria develops a great relationship with the Von Trapp children and they go singing all over the town
Kevin’s Nemesis: People Are Unhappy:
Kevin, my husband, always hates this part of every film. This is the part where things start to become unhappy and difficult for your character. They come up against obstacles and difficulties that start to crush them.
Allow your character to come up against obstacles.
Jurassic Park - T-rex attack, car in a tree…raptors in the kitchen!
Sound of Music - The Nazis are closing in and slowly taking over the pretty world of Austria
Nobody Likes Pudding:
Your character is despondent. They are questioning their choices and everything is now against them but this is the point where your character is so hard pressed that they make a decision to either carry on and push through, or be overwhelmed.
Titanic - Rose is told that Jack is a thief, Jack is locked up and Rose is being led to the lifeboat with her mother and fiancé, back to the life she detests.
Jurassic Park - The man who created Jurassic Park realises he was an idiot. More people get eaten by dinosaurs.
Indie Sees The Bridge:
If you have seen my favourite film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you will have seen the famous scene where Indiana Jones is trying to cross a huge crevice to reach the holy water that will save his dying father’s life. It seems impossible, until he realises that there is a bridge, cleverly hidden.
This is the moment in your plot where your character sees the bridge. They see their way forward. They begin to come out of the darkness. If you want a sad ending that doesn’t change, your character can still see the light and not be able to make it.
Joy - Joy figures out the nuances of her contract and finds some dirt on her supplier to enable her to leverage the situation to her advantage and get her money back and save her business
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Ironically, it’s the moment Indiana is hanging off the cliff and his dad calls him “Indiana” for the first time. He realises his dad does understand who he is and that effectively saves his life.
The Purpose of the Pudding:
The end of your film and the end of your character’s story. Your character realises the purpose of the pudding, how the entrance of the pudding in their life has changed their view and has changed them. There is often a revelation at this point and a sense of conclusion. That’s why we feel satisfied at the end of a good film. Things that were incomplete at the start are made complete at the end.
Coco - Through his journey, Miguel finally comes to understand how important his family really is to him
Gone With the Wind - Scarlett realises that she has not yet lost everything…as long as she’s got her Tara and her potatoes she’ll figure out how to get Rhett back in her clutches.
Here are downloadable links to the guide and a worksheet that you can fill out either on Pages, Word or print out (the good old fashioned way!)
If you're after more detail, watch the video for a walkthrough of how I apply this guide to a new film script I'm currently working on.
Using the guide I have created, start creating the skeleton for your film.
If you've found this helpful, make sure you subscribe to The Director's Logbook for the next episode where we focus on Elements of the Screenplay, also known as formatting.