By Blake Snyder Save the cat! It might be the most dangerous book out there for writers.
And you should read it.
But first, you must recognize how to leverage what is valuable in Save the cat!, while understanding the principles that make it so potentially destructive.
Blake Snyder is not dangerous because he is wrong. He is not. It’s not dangerous because your ideas on how to build a script around a great premise aren’t brilliant. They are.
Blake Snyder is dangerous because he doesn’t teach you to be a writer. It teaches you to be a salesperson.
What is correct in Save the Cat?
You are going to need a lot of money to turn your script into a movie. That’s true if you’re writing a little indie movie that you’re going to shoot in your backyard. Or the next incarnation of Avatar.
Unless you’re ridiculously rich or have a generous uncle waiting for you with a check in hand, making your movie will likely cost you more money than you have. And that means you’ll have to convince people that they should put their own hard-earned money behind your production.
We call these people producers. They tend to piss off writers quite a bit. That’s because they don’t give a damn about your artistic vision, the integrity of your writing, or how your script is going to change the world.
When a producer invests in your film, he is investing in one thing: the possibility of your film putting butts in the seats.
Without butts on the seats, your movie will lose money. And no matter how brilliant your artistic vision is, it’s not going to change the world – it won’t make anyone laugh, cry, or buy a barrel of expensive popcorn. Because no one will ever see it.
And that’s where Blake Snyder is right. No one will go to see your movie unless the producer knows how to sell it. That means you need a great premise, one that grabs the audience’s attention and makes them want to see your movie. And once they’re at the movies, you have to keep the promise you made to your audience, so they can go and talk to their friends about how great your movie was and drive even more ass to the theater.
Save the cat! The approach is basically to turn your script into a giant sales pitch. A living advertising device that seems so compelling that audiences can’t help but see it and producers can’t help but buy it, good or not.
Sounds quite a good idea, right?
Except it’s not going to work for you.
That’s because unless you’re born into a Hollywood family (Snyder’s father was producer Kenneth Snyder) or already have a multi-million dollar hit in your back pocket, no one who is no one will take a chance on your shitty script. It doesn’t matter how good the premise is.
Selling is for professionals
It’s true. Hollywood is full of writers who sell bad scripts with great premises and make a lot of money doing it.
And you can too.
That is, if you are already a great writer.
The problem is, if you’re like most writers, it probably means you don’t have a multi-million dollar hit in your back pocket. And in that case, nobody who is nobody will take risks with your bad script.
This may seem like an unfair double standard. But is not. And if you don’t believe me, just answer this question:
Whose next script is most likely to make you money on your investment: Quentin Tarantino’s or Joe Smith’s?
You don’t even know what the script is about, but you already know the answer. Tarantino has a complete track record to point to. Joe only has his script.
If Joe is going to convince someone to take a chance with him, that script better be a good one. Very good. It would be better to make them believe in him so strongly that they would put their own reputations and hard-earned money at stake to achieve it.
The truth is, “big ideas” in Hollywood cost a penny a dozen. And so are writers with an impressive track record.
But really good scripts are incredibly rare.
A good script is gold in Hollywood. And you can write one.
Blake Snyder can show you how to sell it. But it can’t show you how to write it.
There’s a reason Blake Snyder’s masterpiece was Stop or my mama will shoot.
Whether the movie you’re writing is a deeply moving drama, a popcorn action movie, or a teen sex comedy, there are no shortcuts in the writing process. At least not if you want to write a good movie.
The four phases of writing
In my classes, I divide the writing process into four phases. I will detail them more in future newsletters, but for now, here is a short description:
1. The draft of ME
2. The draft of the HEARING
3. Producer’s draft
4. The draft of the READER
What Blake Snyder is describing in Save The Cat! It’s actually simply the PRODUCER phase of this process – the adaptation and revision stage that focuses on amplifying the most marketable elements of your script to make it a sweet tooth for producers.
It is a great place to finish. But it’s a lousy place to start.
Don’t spend your life writing feeling like a used car salesman
No offense to any used car dealership, but you’re not going to get into an industry as competitive as the movie industry by selling a broken-down junk with a fancy paint job.
You can cheat on your Aunt Ida. But a true producer can tell when an engine is not running.
Open yourself to the process
If you allow yourself to be seduced into thinking about the pitch even before you have something worth selling, you won’t get where you want to go.
Like the kid who talks the most on the basketball court, he probably won’t go to the NBA. At least not until you learn to shoot.
Learning to film in the world of screenwriting begins with discovering your character and taking him on a deep journey.
It means getting in touch with your subconscious creative mind, which might care less about marketability and sales pitches, and creating a story that exceeds your own plans and expectations.
Then when you decide to “Save the Cat,” you’re doing it for the right reasons: to amplify and focus on what already makes your script great, and to shape it in a way that the producer can salivate.
Don’t worry, you will have plenty of time to sell later. But first you have to become a writer.
Learn to understand the four phases of writing
Curious to learn a more effective way to “Save the Cat” in your own writing? Come see my next screenwriting workshop: Adaptation and Review.
Rather than imposing a cheesy sales pitch from the outside, you’ll learn to identify the underlying hook that already exists in your work and focus your writing to bring it to the surface, intensify your character’s journey, and shape a story that engages your job. audience and won’t let them go.
Register now and watch the first session for only $ 20!