Download Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need PDF

TitleSave The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need
PublisherMichael Wiese Productions
ISBN 139781932907001
CategoryArts - Film
File Size9.6 MB
Total Pages105
Document Text Contents
Page 1

The Last Book on Screenwritin You'll Ever Need

Page 2



The importance of "the idea" - What is a "logline" and

what are the four requirements to creating a better one? - What
is "high concept" and why is it still relevant? - Test pitching
your movie for fun andprofit - Plus five games to jump-start
your idea--creating skills.

The official stamp of approval of the Save the Cat method
from Sheila Hanahan Taylor, producer and development executive
for Zide/Perry (Amerzcan Pie, Final Destination, Hellbqy)

Why another screenwriting book? - Some background
on the author and the reason for the book - And what does the
phrase "Save the Cat" mean anyway?

All about genre - The 10 genres that every movie ever made can
be categorized by - How genre is important to you and your
movie - Plus ways to peg every movie's type.

A WHO...
The subject is the hero - Why the hero must serve the

idea - How to adjust the hero to make your movie idea work
better - The myth of casting your movie - Jungian archetypes
and why we need 'em.

The beats of a movie as defined by the official "Blake

Snyder Beat Sheet" a.k.a. the BS~ - An in-depth discussion of
each of the 15 beats found in a successful movie as found in the
BS~ - How the beats apply to Miss Congenzaliry.

Cert no.

© 1996 Forest Stewardship Council


Mixed Sources
Product group from well-managec

forests and other controlled sourCE

Design: Michael Wiese Productions

.L..>Uy'-' .... ~. Gina Mansfield

Brett Jay Markel

Snyder, Blake, 1957-
Save the cat! : the last book on screenwriting you'll ever need /

Blake Snyder.

p. cm.

Includes index.

ISBN 10: 193290 7009

ISBN 13: 9781932907001
1. Motion picture plays--Technique. 2. Motion picture

authorship. I. Title: Last book on screenwriting you'll ever

need. II. Title.


808.2'3--dc2 2

All rights reserved. No part of this book may ~e rep~~ducedin any

form or by any means without permission In W~ItIn~ from. the

publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotatIons In a reVIew.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in- Publication Data

© 2005 Blake Snyder

Printed by McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., Saline, Michigan
Manufactured in the United States of America

Published by Michael Wiese Productions

Laurel Canyon Blvd. # lIIl

Studio City, CA 91604

(818) 379-8799

(818) 986-3408

[email protected]

SAVE THE CAT", blake srryderiv

Page 52

88 SAVE THE CAT", blake srryder

In thatstory, abouta human(Will) raisedasanelfin SantaClaus's

North Pole,Will comesto NewYork to find his "real dad,"James

Caan. The hilarious upside-downworld of Act Two includes a

classicanti-thesischaracter,Will's love interest,who is working as

a "fake" elf in a departmentstore at Christmastime. But later,

when it all goes to hell one night for poor Will, when his real

father rejects him and the world gets too complicated,we even

havea deathmomentat page75. Will pauseson a city bridgeand,

looking out at thewaterwaaaaybelow, clearlycontemplatessuicide.

When I saw this film in the theaterI practicallyyelled out "See!

Whiff of death!"but managedto restrainmyself. And yet, thereit

was, plain as day.

Take a look at your dozenmoviesyou'vescreenedandfind theAll

Is Lost point. Doesit havethewhiff of deathin someaspect?Most

certainlyit will. All good,primal storiesmusthavethis. It resonates

for a reason.

So now you're in the middle of a deathmomentat theAll Is Lost

point, but how doesyour characterexperiencingthis momentfeel

about it? This questionis answeredin a sectionof the screenplay

I call DarkNight of the Soul. It canlast five secondsor five minutes.

But it's in there.And it's vital. It's thepoint, as the namesuggests,

that is the darknessright before the dawn. It is the point just

beforetheheroreachesway, deepdo,,¥nandpulls out that last, best

idea that will save himself and everyonearoundhim. But at the

moment,that idea is nowherein sight.

I don't know why we have to seethis moment,but we do. It's the

"Oh Lord, why hast thou forsakenme?" beat. I think it works

because,onceagain, it's primal. We've all beenthere- hopeless,

clueless,drunk, andstupid- sitting on the sideof the roadwith a


flat tire andfour cents,late for the big appointmentthatwill save

our lives. Then and only then, when we admit our humility and

our humanity,andyield our control of eventsover to Fate, do we

find the solution.We mustbe beatenand know it to get the lesson.

The Dark Night of the Soul is that point. It's in comediesand

dramasbecauseit's real andwe all identify. And in a good,well-

structuredscreenplay,it's in there betweenpages75 and 85.

And thankGod, becauseby page85, whentheherofinally figures
it out, we get to seehim realize...

. .. Hazzah!The solution!

Thanks to the charactersfound in the B story (the love story),

thanksto all the conversationsdiscussingthemein the B story, and

thanksto the hero'slast besteffort to discovera solution to beat

thebadguyswho'vebeenclosingin andwinning in theA story, lo!
the answeris found!!

Both in the externalstory (theA story) andthe internalstory (the

B story), which now meetand intertwine, the hero hasprevailed,

passedeverytest, anddugdeepto find thesolution.Now all hehas
to do is apply it.

The classicfusion ofA andB is theherogettingthe clue from "the

girl" that makeshim realize how to solve both - beatingthe bad

guys and winning the heartof his beloved.

An ideato solve the problemhasemerged.

Theworld of synthesisis at hand.

Page 53

90 SAVE THE CAT,..., blake srryder

The finale is Act Three.This is wherewe wrap it up. It's wherethe

lessonslearnedare applied. It's where the charactertics are mas-

tered. It's whereA story and B story endin triumph for our hero.

It's the turningover of the old world anda creationof a newworld

order- all thanksto the hero, who leadsthe way basedon what he

experiencedin the upside-down,antitheticalworld ofAct Two.

The finale entails the dispatchingof all the badguys, in ascending

order.Lieutenantsandhenchmandie first, thentheboss.Thechief

sourceof "the problem"- a personor thing - mustbe dispatched

completelyfor the newworld orderto exist. And again, think of all

the examplesin the moviesyou'vescreenedof how this is true. The

finale is wherea newsocietyis born. It's not enoughfor the heroto

triumph, he mustchangethe world. The finale is whereit happens.

And it mustbe donein anemotionallysatisfyingway.

As statedearlier, the final imagein a movie is the oppositeof the
openingimage. It is your proofthat changehasoccurredandthat

it's real. If you don't havethat final image,or you can'tseehow it

applies, go back and checkyour math - there is somethingnot

addingup in Act Two.


So now that I've laid out these15 beatsfor you, andusedexamples

like What's Up, Doc?, I'm sure all you hip, young screenwriting
whipper-snappersare saying, yeah, right old man. Maybe this

appliedin your day, but we don't needit anymore.We eschewthe

needto "like" a hero (we dig Lara Croft!! 1) and thoseboring old
storybeatsare passe.Who needs'ern?What aboutMemento!!

Have I graspedthe basicgestaltof your objection?

Existential dilemmas are what close on Saturday night, as the low-performing
art house gem Memento proves. Gimmick or really dull movie? You decide.

If so, and though I've tried to peppermy exampleswith many

newer movies, like LegallY Blonde, you still may not believe me
whenI say this stuff applies.Still. Always.

So for you nay-sayers,who saynay, let me usean examplefrom my

genre,PGComedy,that showshow thesebeatsapply in the modern

world you needto master.

Oh, andbtw, screwMemento!

Page 104

192 SAVE THE CAT", blake srryder GLOSSARY

WHIFF OF - The addedextra bonusfound in the All Is
Lost point on page 75 of a well-structuredscreenplay.It is that
very specialmomentwheresomethingmetaphorically,or actually,

dies. And since this is the place where the mentorbites the big

one, the momentwhenbestfriends andallies you thoughtlooked

sick now kick the bucket,andthe spotwhereSpot is removed,this

is the perfectplaceto put suchstorybeats.TheAll Is Lost point is

rife with the whiff of deathbecauseit marksthe end of the world

as is and the beginningof a new world the hero will createfrom

this seemingend.

't..I""A'Y'!r"-U·'II"-"'!I - If you have a hot script, either on its way out to the

town or about to be, oddsare it will be "tracked" by development

executiveswho closelyfollow its progress.Theyhaveevensetup an

inter-studio Intranet to talk to each other about scripts and

whether or not the script is worth the effort of pursuingfor

purchase.Basedon the concept,track recordof the writer, and

word of mouth, the script will be consideredeither hot or not.

Sometimes,executiveswill try to outfox eachotherwith mis-

informationon a hot script, but this sortof maneuvercanbackfire

on themnext time. This currenttrackingsystemis oneof several

reasons,mostly economic,that the specsale frenzy has endedin

Hollywood. Trackingscripts in this way cuts down on the chances

of any of the studiosor their buyersgettingburned.

a.k.a.Act One,Act Two, and

Act Three- Thesis,antithesis,andsynthesisdescribethe thematic

progressionof the hero'sjourney. In Act One, the hero'sworld is

setup. In Act Two thatworld is turnedon its head;it is the upside

downversionof what he left behind.But by masteringthis surreal

newworld, the herogainsthe knowledgeto combinewhatwasand

its oppositeto form a synthesisof everythinghe haslearned.That

synthesisoccursin Act Three. It is not enoughfor the hero to
survive thejourney; he must transformhis world in orderto truly

be great.

�l�'�t�.�I�I�.�~�I�l�i�'�I�I�I�"�"�"�h - What is this I!10vie about?Yes, even the

silliest monstermovie or most spasticcomedyhas to be "about

something." If it's not, it's not a good movie. In essenceevery

goodmovie is a debateaboutthe prosandthe consof a particular

point of view. It is a questionraisedand answeredby the movie.
The place to stick that questionis up front, loud and clear. It is
frequentlyspokenby a minor characterto the hero in the form of

a questionearlyon, like onpage5, andsetsthe debateinto motion
that will be proven, one way or the other, in the courseof the

movie. This questionanddebateis the movie'sthematicpremise.

- Thatpart of a scene,sequence,or screenplaythat lies

beneaththe surfaceand is in fact its real meaning.The subtextof

anargumentbetweena soon-to-be-divorcedcoupleaboutbuying

applesis not whetherthey chooseMacintoshor Pink Lady but the

fact that the couple is havingproblems- andan argumentabout

produceproves it! Do not hit us over the headwith what's really

going on, it's much more subtle andbetterscreenwritin'- to

hide the meaning. It's not what they're talking about, it's what

they'renot talking aboutthat makesthesemomentsso rich.

- Mter "concept,"the single most importantquality

of a good screenplayis its structure.Very often a produceror

executivewill applaudthe idea, love the writing, and tossout the

script becausethe structureis a mess. They cannotsee how the

movie is organized.And without that, they often don'tknowwhat

it is. Goodstructureis oneof severalprime componentsthatwill

help sell your script - and is the easiestto learn. So learnit! It is
part of the languagewe use to communicatewith each other in

developmentmeetings,so you mustbe fluent.

Suddenlyfrom out of nowhereat the midpoint, somenewthing-

an evenbiggerandmoreunexpectedthing thanwe'veseenbefore,

andonethat seemsinsurmountable- becomesa problemfor our

hero.You mustbesurethe stakesareraisedat themidpoint to give

the hero new challengesandleadhim to his ultimatewin.

Page 105

194 SAVE THE CAT", blake srryder

This symbolindicatestheemotionalchangeof a goodscene.

I first heardaboutthis from RobertMcKee. He believesthat every

sceneshould Illark a seachangelike this, going from one emo-

tional extremeto another.And he's right. If you think of each

sceneasa mini-movie,you musthavea beforesnapshotandanafter
snapshotto showthis change.Decidingwhat the emotionalshift

in eachof your scenesinvolves is the key elementin makingthat

scenea success.WhenI amusingindexcardsandmy corkboardto

work out the structureof a movie, I markeachcardwith this sym-

bol and make sure I know what the emotionalchangeis in each


>< - This symbol representsthe conflict in eachscene.Whenthe
scenestarts, who has a goal, who's in the way, who wins? These

questionscan be boiled down into one neat statementusing this

symbolto denotewho'sup againstwhom. Don't starta sceneunless

you havefigured out who your playersareandwhat theywant.

Blake Snyderjoined the family businessat age 8,

working as a voice talentfor his father, EmIlly-winning

TV producer,KenSnyder(RogerRamjet,Big BlueMarble).

Blake beganhis careerwriting for the Disney TV series, Kids
Incorporated,penning13 episodesbeforeturning to writing spec
screenplaysfull time. Before long, a trade journal noted that

Blake had become "one of Hollywood's most successfulspec


Blake has sold many original scripts and pitches to the major

studios, including two million-dollar sales (one to Steven

Spielberg), and has had two films produced.Stop! Or My Mom
Will Shoot,Third Grade, andNuclearFamilY sold to Universal;Poker
Night, Drips, Blank Check,andHerbie ComesHome for Disney; How
I Joined the CIA and Big, UglY Baby! sold to Fox Family TV; and
Alienatorsto Total Film Group.

Blake madehis 13th specscript sale, Gran19, in 2004 and is cur-
rently working with productionpartner, Classic Media, to get

RogerRamjetmadeinto a major motion picture.

He lives in Beverly Hills, California.

For informationaboutBlake'sseminars,script coachingandthe

latest news about his forthcoming sequel,Savethe Cat! Goesto the
Movies, checkout www.blakes19der.comor contactBlake directly at
[email protected]

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