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The Three by Five Card Index System

Here's another approach to writing your screenplay. The screenwriter's friend. Introducing the infamous Three by Five Card Index System.

Wow! How can I get one?

In my case - I made it. What it amounts to is this: Three 90cm x 40cm sheets of chipboard hinged together so that the whole thing stands like a concertina on a table or floor.

Every 5cm or so down, I have drawing-pinned small cardboard hinges (triangles if you will) made from old file dividers. These become placeholders for your cards.

A couple of bunches of 3 inch by 5 inch index cards (available in packs of 100 at any newsagency) and there you have it. A sure fire way to make your screenplay bubble to the top of the pile . . . Not. But it's a tool and writers need their tools.

Cool. How does it work?

As you can see - each act has three mini-acts in it (fitting in with Australian script theorist Linda Heys' Second Act Story). Or rather - going one step further and suggesting that all three acts have a beginning, middle and end. You can see from our picture, that we have yet to rewrite our 3rd act. The 3 x 5 card system will only work if you already have a screenplay - even a rough one. Each card represents a scene. We write the scene heading with any rewrite notes underneath. If we feel that there's too much of one character or we want to move to another location (often a hunch thing) we leave a space in the cards so we can go back and fill it in - or at least identify and fix the problem.

Tomorrow we approach our screenplay with trepidation because the third act is a doozy.

Our synopsis is in and we meet with the Film Finance Corporation late July. Nobody will even read our new screenplay for a few months yet. The FFC just want to talk about marketing, casting, ideas - that sort of thing.

I write 2 days per week with Phil. We've given up on the idea of three because life is just too - well - busy. So I just bought a laptop and today I pick up Viki King's 21 Days to Write a Screenplay. I'm, hopefully, about to start a speed draft of a genre screenplay Phil and I have mapped out.

Once the rough draft is done, the three by five card system will come out again and Phil will rip into my draft as I stand there pumping iron and shifting cards around on the board. Feeling irritable because - even though we've worked together for years - when anyone criticises my work, it always feels like someone is tugging an unborn child from my writer's womb.

Am I helping, kids?


Wow! Love your index card board! I use my own 4 Act Structure so I would need a 4 Act board but I love this thing...

Got any detailed pictures of it so we can see how you did it?

You should sell these things... LOL.



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