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What can a movie tell you about songwriting?
In film school we learned about the structure of a film. How does one write a screenplay? First we need to learn story structure. No story is the same. Every story is from another story in the past but it has a twist to it. Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story are the same story(Forbidden Romance), just in different settings, and time. Songwriting is storytelling too and a lot of songs have the same themes.
Screenplay structure is split up into 3 Acts.
Here is the structure of a screenplay:
Act I-Sets up the story
When a film starts out, it most always shows the main character or one of the main characters living their normal day-to-day life. Their alarm clock might go off and they will get up, go to work and move throughout their day until, The Catalyst.
The Catalyst (Act I)—causes the BIG EVENT to happen. It can be anything. (Say, the character flicks his cigarette out the window of his car…it causes a spark and the spark grows(Big Event))
Big Event (Act I) – It is a plot point in the story that changes the character and creates a problem (The spark causes a fire)
Pinch (Act II) This is a plot twist which your character cannot return, a obstacle from the big event.
Crisis (Act II) The Character is then in trouble and needs to find a resolution
Showdown (Act II/III) There are obstacles in the way to solve the problem and crisis
Realization (Act III) The character is changed forever, he will never be the same, the problem is resolved.
As you can see, movies are created because of plot twists in a story structure and it is very well planned out in a visual way but what does the viewer get out of it?
People like resolutions and even though we know how a story may end (With the good guy always winning) we like to see how it pans out in the moments of the movie, what are the obstacles, how can one relate? This is the way most movies are thought out.
What does this have to do with songwriting? Song are a series of moments.
Songs are stories. Songs are not visual, they are audible but the structures are a lot like a movie, if you are a visual person like me then I tend to see songs in visual form and create a story as if it was a movie… within a movie the story keeps building until the Showdown then it tapers off. Songs generally have a lyrical structure of this:
The music can be structured differently; it can be the same chords throughout the whole song however the melody will be different. Suppose a song is about love, the lyrics might start talking about two people and their life together, then there may be a problem in the pre-chorus and the main issue is in the chorus. The second verse might tell about where the couple exists currently, the bridge might tell of some kind of “resolution”. I like to look at each part of a song as a scene in a movie. Either way, the song has a story structure, all stories do and we can take that structure and apply it to many different types of media to help create and formulate a story. Tell me about your songwriting process.