A Fresh Take on the Save the Cat Beat Sheet

If you’ve studied screenwriting at all, you’ve probably heard of Save the Cat, the book written by Blake Snyder with quippy, basic advice on how to write a screenplay. Not everyone is a fan of the late Snyder’s approach, but those who like him LOVE him.

Snyder is particularly famous for his Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, a fifteen beat breakdown of virtually any script. It’s a relatively simple tool, but some of the later beats in particular can get a bit confusing, so Erik Bork has written fresh explanations for the fifteen beats.

He begins:

(Target page numbers are in parentheses, and examples from the movie LEGALLY BLONDE in ALL CAPS.)

1. Opening Image (1):  The audience is first engaged with something compelling that sets the tone – and we begin to see how things as they are right now (they will be clearly different at the end).

2. Theme Stated (5):  Usually spoken to the main character in a snippet of dialogue, this gives a sense of the deeper issues that this story is “about.”

3. Set-Up Section (1-10):  We meet the main character, who is living a compromised life in some way, while dealing with problems – and has something about them we can respect or like.  We get a broad enough sense of their “status quo” life to feel we understand them, and can begin to care about them.  We see the world through their eyes, and will for the rest of the movie — meaning we mostly get what they are thinking, feeling, wanting and trying to achieve, from scene to scene. There are no big crises yet – but examples of life as it is.  (The first act presents the “thesis” of their current life.)

WE MEET SORORITY GIRL ELLE, AND SEE THAT SHE’S A GOOD PERSON BUT KIND OF SILLY, NAÏVE, WITH A LIMITED VISION OF WHAT HER LIFE COULD BE.

4. Catalyst (12):  An event rocks the main character’s world completely, and sets in motion the central problem of the story.  It’s an external problem (not just internal, about thoughts and emotions) that demands to be dealt with now – it has clear and present stakes we can identify with and feel.

WARNER BREAKS UP WITH ELLE.

Read the full explanation at Erik’s website, Flying Wrestler.

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