Here’s the problem you’re confronted with: Act Three isn’t gelling.

There doesn’t seem to be enough oomph in your big finish, and the hero doesn’t really seem to be learning a lesson — or applying it. That big, emotional uplift you’ve wanted to put in here at the end is missing. Looks like it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start re-working that finale, right?


But maybe the real problem lies back in Act One?

In a lot of scripts I’ve been reading lately, finding what’s wrong with the hero’s story starts with how we meet him, and what his problems are up front.

And most of the time, we haven’t given him enough problems to make the trip worthwhile, and the finale worthy of someone who’s come so far.

The fix is to take the hero “All the Way Back” — meaning to load him up with lots of problems, both individual and systemic.

What’s stopping us many times is we are our hero! And we don’t like to look anything less than evolved. And like our hero, we don’t want to show ourselves to seem ignorant, or problem plagued, or deficient in any way.

But we must.

This is partly about showing a complete change, and an Opening Image and Final Image that are opposites. And the pros know how to make those hero arcs big.  In the Oscar nominated screenplay for The Savages, we start Laura Linney off lost in her professional life, having a tacky affair, and under the thumb of her brother, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. By the end of that movie, Laura has a play she wrote being staged, has made peace with Phillip, and traded in her lover… for his dog.

But if the screenwriter hadn’t taken Laura “all the way back” to a point of desperation, and even humiliation, the finale would not be nearly as satisfying.

All we’re saying is, this is about the constant adjustment of the Alpha-Omega, the change a hero undergoes. And if you’re not feelin’ it at the end, maybe the end isn’t the problem.

p.s. Take a look at the review of Funny People by Dennis Willis in the San Francisco Examiner!