“Finding Nemo” Analysis

“Finding Nemo” demonstrates the distinct parts of a typical movie based on the 15 Minute Movie Method.

“Finding Nemo,” like all good movies, consists of approximately eight distinct mini-stories that all tie together. First, break up an entire story into four acts.\r\n\r\nAct I provides the exposition.

Act IIa provides rising action, typically positive.

Act IIb provides more rising action, typically going against the hero.

Act III provides the conclusion that shows whether the hero wins or loses.

Divide each act into separate 15 minute segments. (Don’t take this 15 minute time interval as written in stone. It’s just a handy guideline for dividing a typical 30 minute act into two parts.)

Act I — Exposition

In the first half of Act I, we meet Nemo with his wife at their new home (Inciting Incident). They’re soon threatened by a barracuda (Rising Action), and Nemo’s dad wakes up after trying to save his family to find a single egg left (Climax).

In the second half of Act I, Nemo wakes up his dad for his first day of school (Inciting Incident), Nemo’s dad is reluctant to let him go (Rising Action), and the diver snatches Nemo away (Climax).

Act IIa — Positive Rising Action

In the first half of Act IIa, Nemo’s dad chases after the boat that captured Nemo (Inciting Incident), loses the boat but finds Dory, who can’t seem to help him (Rising Action), and they’re captured by a shark (Climax).

Next, the shark takes them to his home (Inciting INcident), Nemo’s dad and Dory escape from the sharks (Rising Action), and finally get away by accidentally setting off the minefield (Climax).

Act IIb — Negative Rising Action

Nemo’s dad loses the diver’s mask (Inciting Incident), they fight to find it while avoiding the vicious fish in the dark waters (Rising Action), Dory finds that Nemo’s in Sydney and they escape from the fish (Climax).

Lost, they ask a school of fish for directions, who tell them to go through a channel (Inciting INcident), Nemo’s dad and Dory go through a jellyfish swarm (Rising Action), and Nemo’s dad rescues Dory from the jellyfish (Climax).

Nemo’s dad finds himself being helped by turtles (Inciting Incident), they get swallowed by a whale (Rising Action), and the whale spits them out in Sydney (Climax).

Act III — Climax

They get swallowed by a pelican (Inciting Incident), fight to avoid the seagulls (Rising Action), and make it to the dentist’s office (Climax).

They try to rescue Nemo (Inciting Incident), they think Nemo is dead (Rising Action), and Nemo’s dad leaves Dory who finds Nemo (Climax).

Dory brings Nemo to his dad (Inciting INcident), the fisherman’s net catches dory (Rising Action), and the fish work together to free themselves (Climax).

Although “Finding Nemo” doesn’t break into eight distinct parts, the important part to realize is that it consists of multiple mini-stories that act as cliffhangers, leading directly into the next mini-story. If you end each mini-story with a cliffhanger and start your next mini-story by answering that cliffhanger, you pull your audience along and they’ll gladly watch the rest of your movie to see how everything turns out in the end.

The two keys are to divide your story into distinct mini-story segments and to end with a cliffhanger that pulls the audience logically into the next mini-story. Simple, in theory. Now you just have to put it down on paper in your screenplay.

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