Save the Cat!, by Blake SnyderComplications Ensue
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Blake Snyder has an interesting approach to feature film formula. He breaks all successful movies into a series of steps, such as "Opening Image" (page 1), "Theme Stated" (by page 5), " "Setup" (page 10), "Catalyst" (page 12), "Debate" (pages 12-25) and so forth.

Normally I would reject anything this formulaic, but (a) Blake has sold a bunch of screenplays for big money; and (b) my showrunner friend Shelley uses his system to arc out features she's hired to write. So something's working there. Any time a professional screenwriter uses a system, and is willing to tell it to you, it's worth listening, eh?

Moreover, the steps make sense. Blake goes through quite a few hit movies in different genres and shows how the beats apply to them. So while most pro screenwriters probably haven't read his book, he may have discovered a basic structure that we have unconsciously internalized. I will probably try his steps out the next time I write a feature -- or next time I try to figure out if a feature I'm writing is working as well as it should.

Blake also takes a shot at defining different genres, such as "Dude with a Problem" and "Buddy Love," and picks out the essential structural elements of each. That's useful if you're trying to figure out what genre you're in, which defines what goods you need to deliver.

If you like the SAVE THE CAT! method, Blake has written a second book, SAVE THE CAT! GOES TO THE MOVIES, in which he goes through lots and lots of films and breaks them down into his steps. Handy. If you are writing a horror movies, it's good to analyze other horror movies to see how they do it. Likewise if you're writing a romantic comedy.

Check'em out.

UPDATE: Here's John Rogers' review.

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I run a fansite for Hulu, and I was wondering if you would like to be a member of a panel for our Hulu Awards Ceremony.

You would be one of 20 panel members who would be asked to suggest and vote on the best Hulu content in a variety of categories.

Please let me know if you are interested. Either email me at, or leave me a comment here:

Be sure to include your name, website, and email address if and when you respond (and I really hope you do).
Matt "The.Hulu.Man"

By Blogger The Hulu Man, at 12:10 PM  

I've been hearing good things about Synder's book. I'll have to check it out.

By Blogger SolShine7, at 6:25 PM  

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