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3-Act Structure and the Hero's Journey


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This PPT was designed to help teach the concepts of Aristotelian 3-Act structure to high school students. Since the 1980's the writings of Joseph Campbell have been cited as the inspiration for the structure behind many successful films including Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Star Wars franchise as well as many of the popular comic book inspired films of today. For the classroom, The Wizard of Oz makes an excellent example of a film that fits the Hero's Journey model.

  • You're better off looking at Kal Bashir's 2000+ stage Hero's Journey And Transformation Through A New World / State, which shows you that it's a cycle and not linear - at the beginning of all his youtube videos.
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3-Act Structure and the Hero's Journey

  1. 1. Three Act Structure  Most narrative films – both comedy and drama – share several common characteristics.
  2. 2.  These common characteristics were first described by Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and playwright.  According to Aristotle, each act contains predictable elements common to all stories.
  3. 3.  They both usually take place in Three Acts.  They both have a Protagonist (the person we are rooting for) and an Antagonist (whoever or whatever is in conflict with the protagonist)
  4. 4.  Act One contains Exposition or a summary of who the main characters are (players), where they are from (setting) and what they want (motivation).  It also contains a Call to Action (inciting incident) that leads the protagonist to leave the security of home.
  5. 5.  Act Two contains the Rising Action or a series of challenges and obstacles that prevent the protagonist from easily achieving his goal.  It also leads to some sort of a final conflict or Climax. Which pits the protagonist and antagonist against one-another.
  6. 6.  Act Three contains the falling action which leads to the Resolution (or denouement) when the loose ends are all neatly tied up.
  7. 7. TITANIC Jack admires Rose from afar They board the ship Jack gets “lucky” pass Rose is unhappy Titanic referred to as “unsinkable” by builder
  8. 8. The Hero’s Journey  The Hero’s Journey is a series of common characteristics in drama first observed by Joseph Campbell.
  9. 9.  The Hero takes a journey (physical, emotional, etc.) in search of identity and wholeness or to correct an injustice.  The Hero is commonly an average person who is driven to extreme acts of bravery to reach this goal.
  10. 10. All heroes, regardless of their personalities, will demonstrate some or all of these characteristics: 1. Has human flaws 2. Learns and grows 3. Takes risks 4. Overcomes obstacles 5. Makes sacrifices
  11. 11. Heroes share the listed characteristics regardless of: The culture or environment in which their story is set. The time period in which their story takes place. Ancient Modern Future
  12. 12.  A pattern of characteristics that is common to all literary characters is called an ArchetypeArchetype.  Common Archetypes include:  Mentor - a wise old man/woman  Herald - someone who predicts the future for the Hero.  Shapeshifter, Shadow and Trickster attempt to impede the Hero from reaching his goal.
  13. 13. The Hero’s Journey Birth/Home Tests Helpers Climax/Final Battle
  14. 14. The Hero’s Journey