I know, I know, I am talking about movies on a site about books! Well, just in case you didn’t know, I also write and produce screenplays. I also feel that there is a lot of overlap in storytelling mediums, and novelists can learn from screenwriters and vice-versa.
One of the more unique and lesser known methods of screenwriting is Chris Soth’s Mini-Movie Method. Back when I wrote nothing but screenplays, I found out a lot of information about a variety of methods of writing feature films. I don’t recall exactly how I found him, but he offered a lot of good advice.
Like Blake Snyder, author of the Save The Cat Series, Chris had one notable film under his belt: Firestorm, the firefighter movie starring NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long.
He did offer good advice and one day, had a special deal: the first twenty-five people to reply to his email got a free copy of his Mini-Movie Method book along with a free fifteen minute phone call. I was overjoyed, as everyone else: Sid Field, Blake Snyder and Robert McKee all charged hundreds for this. So I jumped and replied right away,
The next morning, I had an email waiting for me from his assistant. I was one of the twenty-five! I picked a time (on Sunday afternoon) and got the book. The call wasn’t great. Chris was on a hike and very distracted, and it was nothing more than a sales pitch for his courses and other books (this was my late 20s, when I didn’t know better).
The book, however, was a gold mine.
I won’t give it all away here, but the gist is you break a movie down into eight distinct parts. Since most films are near the 2 hour mark, and a page of script equals a minute of screen time, you have a 120-page script separated into 15 page chunks – or mini-movies, to Chris.
I loved this because, like Save the Cat’s beat sheet, it broke the story down into chunks. And not only that, but certain section of Chris Soth’s mini-movies had multiple functions. For example, the third mini-movie could serve as the hero gathering the team for a heist, battle or mission.
This can work with the three act structure, because it takes the components of said structure and drills it down even further.
I find that this can be helpful when plotting your novels out. While books don’t have typical page guidelines like movies, it can still be helpful when outlining. In fact, for my current WIP, I find that using the the mini-movie method, along Derek Murphy’s 25-chapter plot outline , is making my outline come together nicely. (CAVEAT: this story is an adaptation of a screenplay will likely be too expensive to make, but I love the story and I need to tell it, so here we are).
So check out Chris Soth’s mini-movie method. I will admit, it won’t work for every story, but if you have many characters and need ways to bring them together, or you feel you need to focus your outline to drill down the plot, the mini-movie method is worth a try.