Updated: May 15
In Directing Actors, Judith Weston recommends directors take acting lessons to see scenes and stories in a different way. We are enriched by different points of view. Embracing this principle means seeing characters in a screenplay as an actor or director would. It means studying a screenplay not just from start to finish, but from the end to the beginning.
Learn more about 12 pages to improve how you evaluate and write screenplays.
THE 12 PAGES
Page 12: An emotional event.
Page 25: The birth of something new.
Page 27-41: Good-bye, hello, questions.
Page 45: Now that I'm aware.
Page 52: A deeper emotional event.
Page 60: There's no going back.
Page 67: Good-bye, hello again.
45 pages before end: Discovery.
40 pages before end: Very emotional event.
27-41 pages before end: Good-bye, hello, questions again.
25 pages before end: Final turning point.
12 pages before end: Intense emotional event.
Thanks to Blake Snyder's Save The Cat, screenwriters and readers know about pages 12, 25, and 30, and have a general idea of when important moments happen later in the story.
What's new: The 12 pages offer specific pages that pinpoint when key moments happen, just start at the screenplay or movie's endpoint and move back. Customizing your analysis and evaluation will result in you better understanding a story's entire structural spine.
The 12 pages: 12, 25, 27, 45, 52, 60, 67, -45, -40, -27, -25, -12.
-45, -40, -27, -25, -12 mean 45, 40, 27, 25, 12 pages before the last page of the script.
Clarifying 12 structural moments and when they occur won't make characters riveting, story ideas intriguing, or offer a formula that guarantees something, but knowing how these 12 pages differ and are connected sheds light on what goes where and why.
The 12 pages help you verify (is it structured right?) and validate (is it how I want it structured?). Sequences happen, but when and for how long?
Using these 12 pages, let's look at Reservoir Dogs and Iron Man and see what patterns emerge.
Reservoir Dogs is an hour and forty minutes. 100 pages. Page -45 is 55 (100-45 = 55), page -27 is 73 (100-27 = 73), page -25 is 75 (100-25 = 75), and page -12 is 88 (100-12 = 88).
Click here for Reservoir Dogs screenplay.
12 pages in Reservoir Dogs:
12: The 8 men finish their meal, we see the movie title and hear someone screaming. Mr. Orange and Mr. White in the getaway car. The undercover cop Mr. Orange has been shot. An emotional event.
25: Mr. White says, "...we discovered one of the team was an undercover cop." The mystery of the movie is about identifying who is the undercover cop. Something very wrong happened during a robbery, and the idea an undercover cop is to blame is on page 25. The birth of something new.
27-41: On pages 27-41, a sequence begins that involves several good-byes and hellos. On page 27, Mr. White and Mr. Pink argue about how to say good-bye to Mr. Orange. Mr. White wants to take Mr. Orange to the hospital but Mr. Pink doesn't. Mr. Pink discovers Mr. White told Mr. Orange his name. They fight. Hello conflict. On page 32, Mr. Blonde says hello to Mr. White and Mr. Pink. On Page 40, Joe asks Mr. Blonde several questions, including: "What're your plans?" On page 41, Mr. Blonde says hello to his friend Eddie. Good-bye, hello, questions.
45: Eddie says to his father Joe, who leads the heist, that Mr. Blonde can be trusted. Joe the boss is now aware of his son's idea about Mr. Blonde being involved in the robbery. Now that I'm aware.
52: 40 minutes after their first emotional event, Mr. White yells at Eddie, arguing that Mr. Blonde should not have been trusted. Mr. White shows Eddie what Mr. Blonde was doing. A deeper emotional event.
60: Holdaway advises Mr. Orange. We know Mr. Orange is an undercover cop, now we discover who Mr. Orange is working with: Holdaway. Mr. Orange is excited that he will participate in a robbery; he won't be going back to the police station anytime soon. There's no going back.
67: Mr. Orange is in the middle of telling the story about the cops and the dog. Page 67 is the moment when the cops turn and say hello to Mr. Orange, who says hello to the dog. Good-bye, hello, questions again.
What scene comes to mind when you think of Reservoir Dogs? Did it involve an ear?
-45: 45 minutes before the movie ends, Vic cuts off the cop's ear. Vic goes to the car, gets gasoline, and pours it over the cop. Vic lights a match. On page 55, we realize he wasn't worthy of trust and shouldn't have been involved in the heist. On page 56, Mr. Orange shoots him dead, and we discover he is the undercover cop. Note how -45 bookends 45. Discovery.
-40 (1:00 - 40 = 60 into the film) Page 60 is also the There's no going back scene. This is when Mr. Orange and Holdaway talk about a pivotal character, Mr. White, who fastens an emotional attachment to Mr. Orange because he's shot. Holdaway wants Mr. Orange to find out Mr. White's real identity. Now we know why Mr. Orange asked Mr. White his name. Very emotional event.
-27 to -41: 27-41 pages before the movie ends, a sequence begins that involves several good-byes and hellos. Mr. Orange begins to tell the story about the barking dog and the cops in the bathroom. We see Mr. Orange rehearsing lines and why they trust him. There are 4 questions on page 59, and Mr. Orange tells Holdaway that Joe wants to say hello. Good-bye, hello, questions again.
-25: Cop #2 says, "I swear, a guy has to have rocks in his head the size of Gibraltar to work undercover." Two cops observe and disparage the undercover cop. Will Mr. Orange live through this ordeal? On page 75 we see cops following him. Note how -25 bookends 25. Final turning point.
-12: Mr. Brown screams he's blind. Mr. White massacres cops. Mr. Orange is in shock. Mr. Brown dies. Mr. White says, "Snap out of it!" The last line of page 88 bookends page 12. Intense emotional event.
The 12 pages in Iron Man often bookend and involve aspects of discovery:
12: Tony Stark discovers that Pepper Potts just celebrated her birthday. They work together but relate to each other emotionally, possibly romantically. In the same minute, Hogan hurries to keep up with Tony. Rhodes is upset that he's been waiting three hours. An emotional event.
25: Tony Stark is in a cave, examining a metal ring used to create the mini arc reactor that will fit in his chest. The light of the arc reactor turns on; he discovers a new power source. The birth of something new.
27-41: On pages 27-41, a sequence begins that involves several good-byes and hellos. Yinsen wants to say hello to his family. Tony says hello to Raza, who wants to say good-bye to Yinsen. Everyone discovers what Tony's suit can do. Tony says good-bye to Yinsen. On page 40, Tony says good-bye to his captors, and we ask: Will Tony survive the launch, landing, desert? Page 41: Tony waves hello to copters. Rhodes: "How was the fun-vee?" Good-bye, hello, questions.
45: Tony Stark talks about his father, then tells the press that he discovered his weapons have fallen into the wrong hands. He's shutting down his company's weapons production. Now that I'm aware.
52: 40 minutes after their first emotional event, Tony and Pepper have a deeper emotional event, a disagreement about what to do with Tony's old heart. Tony wants to incinerate it, but Pepper wants to keep it. Tony mentions there is no one else but her. Later he mentions his father. Tony and Pepper, a family? Later, the heart saves Tony's life.
A deeper emotional event.
60: While flying, Tony says "Yeah, I can fly." He discovers that he can control his powerful new suit. He has made real progress and there's no going back to the drawing board. There's no going back.
67: 40 minutes after the first good-bye, hello on pages 27-41, Tony says hello and good-bye to Shield agent Coulson, then hello to Pepper in a new, romantic way. They dance.
Good-bye, hello again.
-45 (1:57 - 45 = 1:12 into the film) Tony receives photos from a reporter he met earlier and discovers an atrocity occurred using his weapons. Later, Tony watches a report about the besieged village and decides he will fight those with his weapons. Bookends page 45. Discovery.
-40 (1:57 - 40 = 1:17 into the film) On page 1:17, 40 minutes before the movie ends, Tony flies in, lands, and says hello again to his former captor, Bakaar. Tony uses his suit to say good-bye to Bakaar and others who are destroying lives. Tony saves a father and his son. Very emotional event.
-27 to -41 (1:57 - 27 = 1:30, 1:57 - 41 = 1:16) A sequence begins 27-41 pages before the movie ends that involves several good-byes, hellos, and questions. At -41, Stark missiles say hello to a mountain and villagers say good-bye to homes. At 1:24, Tony says good-bye to a pilot he saved. At 1:25, Stane says good-bye to Raza and we discover he's the villain. Stane takes the suit to bookend pages 27-41. At -27, Pepper and Tony ask 5 questions.
Good-bye, hello, questions again.
-25 (1:57 - 25 = 1:32 into the film) Pepper sits at a work computer and discovers the video proving Obadiah Stane wants Tony dead. The building has the arc reactor to bookend 25. Final turning point.
-12 (1:57 - 12 = 1:45 into the film) Pepper is about to be killed. Stane: "Your services are no longer required." Stane's working relationship line bookends page 12. Tony flies in, saving Pepper. Stane and Tony fight, land on a road. A mother with children in the car scream. Intense emotional event.
Characters have external wants and internal needs. On what page do these internal need moments happen? Watch Prisoners. At 1:45, 40 pages before the movie ends, Keller says "forgive" and almost says the word again. He doesn't want to forgive, but he needs to forgive.
THE 12 PAGES: Keep them in mind to help you make great movies.