Syd Fields framework is basically Aristotle’s framework but built specifically for film. It is technically a 4 act structure, but as you’ll see, it is merely a 3 act structure in disguise.
ACT 1: SET-UP
The “opening image” sets the tone of the story that will be told. The “Inciting Incident” introduces a situation that is forced onto the protagonist. The protagonist must now deal with the consequences. Plot point 1: The turning point of Act 1, the protagonist embarks on their journey, figuratively or literally.
ACT 2: CONFRONTATION
Pinch 1: The first major set of challenges. Midpoint: The protagonist survives the challenges of the first pinch. As a result he has gained new insights and is a bit closer to his goal. Pinch 2: The challenge is now harder to overcome, they are defeated by the complications. The end of Act 2.
ACT 3: RESOLUTION
Plot Point 2: The protagonist realizes his strength, with his new insight he is ready to face his challenge. Climax: The challenge is overcome, a balance is restored. Resolution: After effects of the climax. Resolving of subplots.
TWISTS AND TURNS
Syd calls the catalysts for change or turning points: “plot points” or “pinches”. A story moves from act to act by the force of turning points, the important events that complicate, resolve or turn the story upside down, surprising the audience. These turning points are also known as cliffhangers or revelations.
Syd Field actually recommends you write the ending first, then the beginning, then the midpoint, then the plot/pinch points. This is in keeping with with Peter Dunne’s emotional structure which we will hear about later.