Posted by: steveonfilm | June 17, 2009

Method To The Madness

With act one of Served Cold in the can, I’ve been laying the formal ground work for act two. Many people I know agree that act two is the toughest act to structure and/or write. I’m not going to go into reasons why this is, but what I will do is talk a bit about how I’m going about writing it for Served Cold.

Free screenwriting has been a real godsend for me in regard to exploring what parts of the story to set in act two. I’ve already explored all of the plot points that will occur in act two while doing my free screenwriting. So for me, it’s really just filling in the blanks.

What I’ve done is take the core elements and placed them in some what of a beat sheet. I set up a textpad file with 14 points, and start plugging them in. From there I will flesh them out and rearrange them accordingly. This allows me to start to put together a really high level view of what I want to do for the act.

Using Syd Fields “Three Act Screenplay” methodology, I split act two into part A and part B, which means I actually have two files I’m working within. So that’s a total of 28 beats I’m roughing out.

Currently, and this is subject to change, act two A breaks down like this:

1. Meet the bad guys. Garnier’s filled in that the money is missing. We end with him saying “Un–fucking–” and cut to…

2. Flashback to the money in the vault, coming in with Fisher saying “–believable.” Fisher is hesitant, it’s way more than they planned on, but they grab the money and we see their escape.

3. Koteric meets Lim at the scene. We get back story on who the money really belonged to, and that the FBI is after Garnier. This is a chance for us to really get an understand of who Garnier is, and what his organization is doing without someone having to spell it out to us directly in dialog.

4. Quick call of Fisher making a wire transfer to pay off the medical bill before he and Adele go out on their date. While they nab Fisher, he manages to really hurt two of them (Bruno and Issac), and does his best allow Adele to escape.

5. Fisher is tied to a chair. We see they’ve got his whole crew. Quinn is tossed down in front of them dead. The stakes are laid out. They’re going to do jobs for Garnier. They stop, or they fail, and they die. End of story.

6. Fisher calls Adele. Let’s him know he’s alright, and that he won’t be able to see her for a while. No he’s not in jail, just in some trouble he’s got to figure out how to get out of.

7. Planning of the ice heist. It’s at a big mansion on Jefferson. It’s the Hecker-Smiley Mansion, law offices… specifically, law offices that Gambini and the Detroit Partnership uses (though Fisher doesn’t know this, and neither do we). There is a big party Friday night. Fisher and the crew plan a con to get in, and make their way to the top floor to get the diamonds out of a safe that Worm has to crack. Escape is smooth after that, they just leave in the workvan. No one will even know they were there.

8. PINCH 1 – Diamond Heist – The crew hits up the Hecker-Smiley Mansion and steals the gems in an elaborate heist. However, things don’t go as perfect as they should. Private security on the lawn notices a light on in the top floor, wants someone to check it out. Probably some of the guests up there getting fresh. Go shoo them out. The guard goes up and discovers the heist. Worm and the guard struggle, and Worm is tossed down a flight of stairs. The guard gets one round off at Biggs, hitting him in the leg. Carter and Fisher have their sites on the guard, mexican standoff. Finally, Fisher puts a bullet in the guards forehead. Ultimately, they get away, with the gems.

9. Fisher and the crew crash a doctor’s office. Biggs gets stitched up (including a hot iron to cauterize the wound) and Worm get’s an ankle brace (mild fracture). Fisher leaves the doctor with some dough, but the doc says to keep it, and that he can’t do this anymore. It’s not like five years ago, he’s got a family, a practice, he just can’t risk it…and maybe it’s time for Fisher to do the same. Fisher forces the money on the Doc, no hard feelings, and walks.

10. Fisher tosses the ice on Garnier’s desk. Garnier tells them of the next job. They’re going to hit Detroit Metro Bank and Trust. Fisher flips out, says that’s the Partnership’s bank. Garnier is aware of that. Fisher finds out the diamonds also belonged to the partnership. The money will be there Thursday night. Fisher get’s the plans and whatever else Garnier’s team has (and they have EVERYTHING).

11. Fisher breaks it down for his team. All of them look upset. Fisher keeps them focused. They go over a rough outline of possible routes. Duties are split up.

12. Fisher doing recon on the bank, looks frustrated. Get’s a call from his mother. It’s Shawn. Fisher heads over. Stopping at the comic store first.

13. Fisher talks to Shawn. Rough day at school. Picked on. Shoved to the floor. Fisher gives him the comic books he picked up. On the way out he leaves an envelope of money on the counter. Tells his mother he wants him out of the school, and into a private school before the end of the semester. And that this is not up for debate.

14. MIDPOINT – Fisher talks to Manny. Fisher isn’t sure what to do. Manny tells him to play the only card he’s got. And that’s Koteric and the FBI.

Now, some of these are pretty detailed, some are really simple, but you can see my thought process as I go about fleshing things out. When I feel satisfied, I’ll boil each beat down to one or two lines, and then move into notecard planning in Final Draft.

However, before I do that I want to make sure I have act two B fleshed out as well. This way I can see the pacing over the whole act before I actually start writing. Now, I’m not done with this yet, but I’ll post up what I’ve got so you can see how it grows:

1. Fisher asks Koteric for help.

2. More planning. They’ve got a get a seucirty scan of the security system. Everything runs through a junction box in a utility building across the street. Fisher and Carter hit it up, do the scan while avoiding security, and get out.

3. Surprise visit with Adele. They go back to Fisher’s place.


5. Koteric and joint FBI/DPD team set up sting.


7. PINCH TWO Start of Heist.

8. Heist goes to hell. Firefight. Fisher owns a couple of guys.

9. Hand off goes to shit. Everyone dies.

10. Funeral.

11. Fisher at the dock. We’re lead to believe Fisher is killed.

12. A surprise visit to Manny.

13. Guns and more guns.

14. PLOT POINT TWO – Fisher meets with Gambini.

Lots of these beats are really bare. Some of them are blank. I’ve shuffled certain points between the acts, but all in all, you can start to get a feeling for the peaks and valleys of act two.

Now, a lot of the beats I’ve got in my two lists came from the stuff I fiddled with while I was doing my free screenwriting. And this has helped my development IMMENSELY. I’ve been able to see visually in my head how things will look. I’ve been able to see on paper how things will work. But most importantly, I know how some things already work. The pressure to develop is gone. If anything, I’m almost too relaxed while I work on act two.

It’s going to take me a few more days, likely through the weekend, to finish fleshing out act two, but when I complete it I will post it up. This way, if anyone is interested, they can see how the beats translate into the actual screenplay.

Until then…




  1. I’m gonna read Bystander tonight….will send you notes.

    Be well.

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