First Plot Point and Inciting Incident

We examine the First Plot Point and Inciting Incident in the First Act

As mentioned in previous videos, the First Act in Filmmaking is the exposition of the film and in this Act certain things are established, such as: the protagonist, the setting, and the main conflict of the film, to just mention a few.

Two important parts of the First Act found in many scripts are the Inciting Incident and the First Plot Point.

Inciting Incident

The Inciting Incident is the first disruption in the original world of our protagonist. Something unusual happens to our protagonist that hints to the main conflict of our story. Our main character(s) have still not embarked on the journey ahead of them, but perhaps the protagonist now has a sense of what that journey may be.

The old saying is that if you have a 90-page screenplay then your Inciting Incident will be around page 10, give or take a few pages. Remember, one page of screenplay translates roughly into one minute of screentime.

First Plot Point

Another important component to the First Act in Filmmaking which comes after the Inciting Incident is the First Plot Point. The First Plot Point is also known as the “Lock-In”. This is the moment where the main character is locked into the story, choosing to embark on the journey. It’s the First Plot point which initiates the Second Act in Filmmaking.

The old saying goes that if you have a 90-page screenplay then the First Plot Point will usually be found around the 25-30 page mark, give or take a few pages.

Good Will Hunting

The main character of the film is Will Hunting who’s a janitor at the prestigious school MIT, while in actuality Will’s a kid-genius sweeping the hallways. A famous math professor at MIT puts up really hard math problems up in the halls that only a few in the world have ever solved. Will Hunting decides to solve it, as he usually does, but this time the professor catches him doing it. Will runs away and the Professor is intrigued to find out who this mysterious genius is.

This is our Inciting Incident.

Now, have the characters embarked on a journey? Not really. Do we know what the protagonists’ main goal or desires are? Not really. But we do have a hint that they’re going to run into each other.

Now let’s look at the First Plot Point in the film. At first Will wants nothing to do with the MIT professor who notices his talent. So, after the Inciting Incident, Will essentially refuses to go on the journey with the Professor, in this case the “journey” is the relationship that they can build with each other. Still in the First Act, Will Hunting goes to prison after being charged with assault. The MIT Professor tracks him down and visits him in prison and gives him the option to study with him and take some therapy classes on the side and in return the MIT professor will get Will out of prison. Even at this point, Will agrees to the studying, but refuses to do the therapy. Will refuses the “call to adventure”, but the professor points out that doing therapy is surely better than prison, and at that moment Will concedes and we’ve entered the Second Act of the film.

The prison scene between Will and the MIT Professor constitutes the First Plot Point in the film Good WIll Hunting.

See if you can identify the Inciting Incident and the First Plot Point in the upcoming films that you watch and try to see how it varies from film to film.

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