Learn the art of scripting a classic film! Michael Arndt of Pixar explains it all

By Bindu Nair. Posted on July 08, 2014

What’s the secret to writing a strong script? According to Pixar, the key lies in the first act. Oscar-winning writer Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) narrates this cute animation about his experience writing Toy Story 3.

He breaks down the Pixar approach into simple steps that can apply to any screenplay, such as establishing your main character’s grand passion, setting and their hidden flaw. While it doesn’t have to apply to all story arcs, the structure is good to keep in mind when writing a screenplay, whether it’s a drama or a comedy. Arndt himself said this about the structure:

“I’m aware the model I set up here applies imperfectly to TS3 itself. (It applies much more cleanly [for example] to TOOTSIE, which I consider one of the best comedy first acts of all time.) The broader point is that the emotional fuel for your first act break is largely set up in your inciting incident — and that is something that does apply to TS3.”

For more discussions on story structure, check out this hour long Q&A with Arndt where he talks about his experience writing Little Miss Sunshine. It’s an in-depth look at his struggles writing the script as an unknown writer, avoiding comedy clichés, the themes and character motivations of the movie and working the Hollywood system (he was even fired at one point!).

So is Pixar’s approach to story structure too formulaic or a perfect starting point? Let us know in the comments below!


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