Pick any movie and divide its running time in half. In a two hour movie, the midpoint scene occurs at the 60 minute mark. This midpoint scene represents a crucial turning point in any story in three ways:
- The hero reaches a goal related to a Symbol of Hope.
- Life immediately starts getting worse for the hero.
- The villain’s true goal suddenly gets revealed.
Perhaps the most famous midpoint scene in movie history occurred in “The Crying Game.” That’s where the hero finally falls in love with the girlfriend of a British soldier he befriended after kidnapping him earlier.
At that moment, the hero finally wins this woman’s love as they’re about to have sex. Such a moment creates a False Victory because it appears the hero has won but they really haven’t. In “The Crying Game,” the hero thinks he’s finally won over this woman, only to suddenly realize she’s actually a man who dresses up as a woman.
That’s a False Victory moment and reveals the true story. This occurs in every midpoint scene and represents a serious shift in the story. In “Alien,” this is how the midpoint scene works:
- The face hugger alien has fallen off the face of a crew member and he appears okay, talking and eating with the other crew members. (False Victory)
- Suddenly, the alien bursts out of the crew member’s chest.
- The existence of the alien as it escapes in the starship reveals the true problem, which is that the corporation has deemed the crew expendable in its efforts to bring the alien back to Earth to study.
The False Victory moment plays a huge role in pivoting any story. In the first half, the story appears to be something much tamer, then in the second half, the story suddenly reveals its darker nature.
In “Avatar,” the hero finally makes love to a female alien (False Victory). Then bulldozers arrive and start tearing up the landscape. However, the real problem appears when the hero realizes the humans have no intention of negotiating with the aliens but simply want to take what they want from them. This foreshadows the eventual conflict.
Watch this midpoint scene from “The Greatest Showman” and you’ll see how the midpoint scene changes the story for so many characters.
First, the hero (P.T. Barnum) has been struggling for acceptance among his harshest critic who makes the hero believe he can only succeed by parading freaks in a show. However, at the midpoint scene, the hero has introduced a singer into his show and unlike his parade of freaks, this singer is a beautiful woman who sings marvelously, charming the entire crowd. For the first time, the hero finally realizes he’s won over his critics and can be a success without relying on freaks.
However, the hero’s life is about to fall apart. The singer in his show has brought him success, but also begins showing romantic feelings towards him, threatening the hero’s marriage with his wife. In a related subplot, the hero’s partner has been dating an acrobat, but since he comes from a rich family, his parents don’t approve of her.
Just as he holds her hand to show his affection, his parents spot him, causing him to let go of her hand. Now all his efforts in trying to win over this acrobat has fallen apart. He’s gone from finally acknowledging his feelings towards her (and making her happy) to suddenly letting his parents keep him from continuing to show his affections to the acrobat.
The midpoint, False Victory scene is a crucial scene in any story that radically shifts the story to the real conflict. Before writing the rest of your screenplay, outline how it starts, how it ends, and how the midpoint radically shifts the story by creating a False Victory for the hero that rapidly attacks the hero’s life and defines the start of the real conflict.
The False Victory midpoint scene is a pivotal scene in any story so make sure you define it before writing anything else. Just creating this False Victory midpoint scene can help shape your story to make it much easier to write.