Syd Field came up with the 30/60/30 model years ago and being the only guy to come up with a description of structure, his structure concept stuck. It was in all the books. It was in all the lectures. It’s used pretty regularly in film circles to this day to estimate where in the course of a script a story event is happening. For example, if a studio exec asks you where something is happening in the course of a story during a pitch, the studio exec is basing page count on the Field model and the question, though often termed “are we in the second act now?,” or, “are we still in the first act?,” is really, what page does this story event happen on?
The biggest problem with the Field model is it doesn’t actually work. It is pretty simple in concept: Stories have a beginning, middle, and ending. This is so simple, someone probably should have laughed at it being put forward as “wisdom” when it was first introduced, but nobody did, people adopted it and the 30/60/30 page breakdown has been in play ever since. Even though it doesn’t work. People have been trying to find ways to make Field structure work. One of those ways is to insert a turning point into the first and second acts. In other words, to break up the first and second acts into smaller acts while pretending to still use the Field structure. That helps but doesn’t actually fix the Field problem because it doesn’t break up the middle of the story into enough acts and it still leaves a too long final act clinging to the tail of the story. And implies a writer has 30 pages (read thirty minutes) to introduce the suggestion of a story dilemma in a script’s opening. And this blows film and writing students out of the water all the time.
*Excerpted from the lecture How to Kill a Script in Thirty Pages or Less, AFW course lectures from Structural Writing by Max Adams.