Blake Snyder was an American screenwriter based in Los Angeles, who through the authorship of three books on screenwriting and story structures became one of the most popular writing mentors in the film industry.
Snyder led international seminars and workshops for writers in various disciplines, as well as consultation sessions for some of Hollywood’s largest studios. Snyder died unexpectedly August 4, 2009, of a pulmonary embolism.
Snyder’s first spec screenplay sale was in 1989 for the script Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, which sold for $500,000 in a bidding war. He went on to sell 12 more original screenplays and was named “one of Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriters” by Hollywoodlitsales.com. His million dollar script sales include Blank Check, co-written with Colby Carr for Walt Disney Pictures, and Nuclear Family, co-written with James Haggin for Steven Spielberg/Amblin Entertainment
Blake’s nonfiction book Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need the no-nonsense and conversational tone of which has resonated with both seasoned and novice screenwriters, made it the number one selling book among screenwriting manuals on Amazon.com.
The Save the Cat! Screenplay Structure Theory
The title Save the Cat! is a term coined by Snyder and describes the scene where the audience meets the hero of a movie for the first time. The hero does something nice — e.g. saving a cat — that makes the audience like the hero and root for him. According to Snyder, it is a simple scene that helps the audience invest themselves in the character and the story, but is often lacking in many of today’s movies.
In his book, Snyder gave greatest emphasis on the importance of structure through his Blake Snyder Beat Sheet or the “BS2″ which includes the 15 essential “beats” or plot points that all stories should contain.
Snyder’s method expanded the 15 beats further into 40 beats, which are laid out on “The Board.” The Board is divided into 4 rows, with each row representing a quarter of the story, namely the 1st Act, the 1st half of the 2nd Act, the 2nd half of the 2nd Act, and the 3rd Act.
Snyder also introduced 10 genres in his book that distinguished how stories are structured. According to Snyder, standard genre types such as Romantic Comedy, Epic, or Biography did not say much about the story, only the type of movie it is. Snyder’s system explored genre more fully, with categories such as “Monster in the House”, “Golden Fleece”, “Buddy Love” and others.
Blake’s Follow-Up Books
In 2007, Snyder wrote a follow-up, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. The second book took 50 landmark movies, identified their specific genres, and broke them down into the 15 beats of the BS2.
The third book of Snyder’s series,Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get Into… and Out Of, was published in November, 2009.
- Summarized from the Blake Snyder Wikipedia entry.
Save The Cat™ Genres
Working with his “screenwriting buddies” to understand what it takes to create a wining screenplay, they came up with 10 movie genres that can classify every movie ever made. It’s not about the tone or the subject matter. It’s about the story being told. Here are the Save the Cat Genres:
Monster In the House
Movies in the “Monster in the House” Save the Cat movie genre have a monster with supernatural powers — even if its strength derives from insanity — and evil at its core. The house is an enclosed space that can include a family unit, town, or the world. Someone is guilty of a sin that brings the monster into the house. This transgression can include ignorance.
Movies in the “Golden Fleece” Save the Cat genre focus on a road spanning oceans, time, or across the street — so long as it demarcates growth. It often includes a road apple that stops the trip cold. There is a team or a buddy to guide the hero along the way. Usually, it’s those who represent the things the hero doesn’t have: skill, experience, or attitude. There is also a prize that is sought which is something primal: going home, securing a treasure, or re-gaining a birthright.
Out of the Bottle
Movies in the “Out of the Bottle” Save the Cat movie genre start with a wish that was either asked for by the hero or granted by another. There is a clearly seen need for the wish to magically deliver the hero from the ordinary. The spell that grants the wish must be made logical by following a set of rules. And the lesson learned is “Be careful what you wish for!” Life is good just as it is.
Dude With a Problem
Movies in the “Dude With a Problem” Save the Cat genre center on an innocent hero who is dragged into a mess without asking for it — or even aware of how he got involved. The sudden event that thrusts the Dude into the world of hurt is definite and comes without warning. A life or death battle is at stake, and the continued existence of an individual, family, group, or society is in question.
Rites of Passage
Movies in the Rites of Passage Save the Cat genre have a hero with a life problem. From puberty to death, these are universal passages we all understand. The hero attacks the mysterious problem the wrong way usually as a diversion from confronting the pain. The solution involves acceptance of a hard truth the hero has been fighting, and the knowledge that it is the hero who must change and not the world around him.
Movies in the “Buddy Love” Save the Cat genre are about an incomplete hero who is missing something physical, ethical, or spiritual. They need someone else to be whole. The counterpart has the qualities the hero needs. There must also be a complication, be it a misunderstanding, personal or ethical viewpoint, epic historical event, or the prudish disapproval of society.
Movies in the “Whydunit” Save the Cat genre centers around a detective who does not change, we do. They can be any kind of gumshoe — from pro, to amateur, to imaginary. The secret of the case is so strong it overwhelms the worldly lures of money, sex, power, or fame. We must know, and so must the hero. Finally, the dark turn shows that in pursuit of the secret, the detective will break the rules, even his own — often ones they have relied on for years to keep them safe. The pull of the secret is just too great.
Movies in the “Institutionalized” Save the Cat genre are about a group — a family, organization, or business — that is unique. The story is a choice. The hero, or would-be-hero, is pitted against the “company man.” Finally, a sacrifice must be made, leading to one of three endings: join, burn it down, or commit suicide.
Movies in the “Superhero” Save the Cat movie genre must have a hero with a special power — even if it’s just a mission to be great or to do good. The hero must be opposed by a nemesis, of equal or greater force, who is the self-made version of the hero. The hero must either surmount or succumb to the curse as they price for who they are.
The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet
After watching hundreds of movies and reading lots of screenwriting books, Blake Snyder developed a structure and terminology that goes far beyond recognizing the three acts of a movie.
Break into Two
Buy Guys Close In
All is Lost
Dark Night of the Soul
Break into Three
Save the Cat, The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, and related images are registered trademarks of Blake Snyder Enterprises, LLC.