Screenwriting : Act Breaks or Bust? by Timothy Fasano

Timothy Fasano

Act Breaks or Bust?

Hey all, Very excited to engage with what seems like an awesome community! I've written three pilots (two dramas and a dramedy) and included act breaks in all of them. I did this just as a matter of formatting, not for any particular creative purpose. I was told that the breaks got in the way, and I should remove them. Do you consider act breaks essential if a piece is intended for premium cable? Should a new writer always include them? Thanks!

Matt Hurd

Timothy! Good to see you on the boards! I do think that act breaks are essential from a structural standpoint. Even the stories of premium cable shows like Game Of Thrones are structured with them in mind (regardless of the fact that they're commercial-free). So if you heard that "the breaks got in the way" from a premium cable exec, it might be as simple as removing the "End of Act"/"New Act" notations in the script. If the story's got that natural flow/standard set of beats anyway, a reader will be able to recognize them. Granted, other cable nets like FX, AMC, and the like will still be looking for delineated act breaks - so maybe your catchall solution is just to have two versions of the script - one for premium (commercial-free) cable, one not.

Craig D Griffiths

If you are talking notation, I agree just remove it.

Richard Gustason

I like what Matt Hurd said. Have two versions of it. However if you feel like, for your sake, you want to put them in then so be it. I would worry about writing it and then let the exec tell you to keep or remove it. Because like Matt said, the exec will tell you simply "the breaks got in the way" and you can simply remove them.

Dan Guardino

Timothy. Who told you that? A one-hour shows are formatted like features, except for the act breaks. It doesn't sound like the person that said that knows the difference between a feature film script and a one-hour format. Don't changes script based on someone's advice without checking it out like you are doing here. Best of luck with your projects.

Aray Brown

Act breaks are necessary

Timothy Fasano

Thanks, everybody! I've stuck with including clearly marked Act Breaks, and I think that will help me avoid formatting quibbles.

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