Friday, February 26, 2010

Review: Save The Cat Strikes Back!

Yes, we're back from the blogging graveyard!

And with a review of the final volume in the Save The Cat-trilogy no less.

When Blake Snyder died suddenly late last year, his death sent a shockwave through the international screenwriting community. Blake was well on his way to giving Robert McKee a run for his money as the most influential (and busy) screenwriting guru in the world.

Save The Cat! has become the go-to screenwriting paradigm for an impressive number of writers. Book 1 introduced the model, book 2 was Blake's type on genres (though it's really about story patterns, genres is a misnomer in this case).

Book three is less focused on one topic than its predecessors, but that's not a bad thing in this case. The book really consists of two parts. In the first half, the theoretical model is expanded, and Blake adds a lot of insights he'd gathered during the last few years, teaching all over the world. The second half is practical advice on getting and maintaining a career in screenwriting.

The first half of the book contains the most universally applicable material. There's some great stuff about what makes for a really good logline, the structural model is expanded, especially in acts 1 and 3, and there's a lot of advice on straightening the spine of your story. This is all good stuff, and useful, even though I disagree with Blake's structural analysis of a couple of important movies (Die Hard and Alien.

The second half of the book is obviously intended for people breaking into and/or getting through the door in Hollywood. What's interesting about these chapters is that they're very up-to-date at the moment, showing how the business is involving. Blake emphasizes playing nice and being a helpful member of the team, which is good advice but on the other hand it does very much accept the situation as it is, and this type of approach will of course not lead in any way to improving the system.

The final chapter is about Blake's own story, and I liked this one very much. I'll admit to finding his relentlessly optimistic tone occasionally wearying and grating, but after reading how he came to adopt this attitude after a life-changing event, I find myself admiring the man for breaking out of a downward spiral of negativity.

But most of all I admire Blake Snyder for being a writer and teacher who was constantly learning, and who thrived on the exchanging of ideas and opinions. There are other gurus who finalize their concept or text, and repeat it verbatim, year in year out, brooking neither discussion nor dissention. Blake, on the other hand, kept evolving and improving his material. And it's a great pity we will never have the opportunity to learn what discoveries he might have made in the decades to come.

In case you were still wondering, I highly recommend the book, and the easiest way you can get it is here:

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