Save The Cat! Video Tribute 3: Aliens

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by mediajuicestudios


Like most people I’m a product of my generation.  I was born in 1977 and had the privilege of experiencing the “blockbusters and sequels revolution” of the 1980’s, Aliens being at the top of that list. Of my list of 10 best movies we are breaking down using Blake Snyder’s beat sheet method, I realize that only 3 of them are not from the 1980’s.  All that to say, I’m now aware of how easily and subconsciously I am drawn to movies between 1979 and 1994. Funny how that just “happens”. It also occurred to me that the 1980’s and early nineties are a great period of films to use the Save The Cat! method on because most of them are very well structured.

OK, on to this week’s film, Aliens.  1st of all, let me say that I LOVE Ridley Scott’s Alien but I think most people would agree that James Cameron’s Aliens is a somewhat superior film in structure, payoff and overall appeal.  But Ridely Scott did a terrific job (along with HR Giger) in establishing the world of the Alien in the 1st movie which allowed for less composition and setup in the 2nd film.  After beating out Aliens with the BS2, the most notable beats to me were the Opening Image and the Final Image, which perfectly reflect Blake Snyder’s beat sheet definition, i.e. they very often are a “mirror” of one another.

I have always admired the structure in James Cameron’s movies. I know that’s not the most popular thing among film critics or independent filmmakers, but that’s why I think Blake’s approach to screenwriting and the movie industry in general strongly appeals to me. It is a business and there are not many “breakout” art-house films. Its just reality.  What I noticed when breaking down this movie was the strength of the beats and how organized and methodical they were, in a good way. Each one dovetails into the next like clockwork.  Also, notice that the “Save The Cat!” moment is Ripley actually holding and comforting a cat. Great stuff and a real wink from the director to fellow screenwriters (or it was in my opinion.)

What makes Aliens “work” so well as a movie and why it pays off so strongly is because of the “Theme Stated” beat and how it is tied so directly to the plot and the main character’s emotional arc in this movie.  Not all movies do it this way or this well.  Not even ten minutes in and Ripley’s lost her only daughter and now doesn’t have the purpose of a mother like she once had, UNTIL she meets Newt, a lost little girl who has been living alone in the sub-levels of the Alien ravaged teraforming colony, desperately in need of a mother figure (whether she knows it or not, WE the audience know it and we root for their relationship.) Also, notice how the “B Story” (Newt) pays off the “Theme Stated” (Ripley losing her only daughter) and how.

Finally, notice how in almost all of James Cameron’s films the “Setup” and the “Fun & Games” are very similar.  The world we are inhabiting (whether Aliens, Terminator or The Abyss) is defined without question and the characters we are taking this journey with are introduced with boldness and style. Some people call it cliche’d exposition, but I appreciate a movie where I can sit back and be entertained and the story is told to me with little required on my part.

Am I saying I don’t enjoy things being left to my imaginationin in movies?  Not at all, I just know that when I want a great “popcorn” movie done with quality and style and that I could take my girlfriend, mother or grandmother to and they would understand it, I go to James Cameron 7 times out of 10.  The other 3 times I hit up Spielberg’s 80’s movies or Star Wars.  They never disappoint.  It will be interesting to see this tribute video in contrast to our 6th tribute video, The Shawshank Redemption, which is nothing like Aliens in structure, style or story.  Stay tuned for that one and hopefully this tribute video has served to inspire and equip any aspiring (or existing) screenwriters out there!


All the best,



Save The Cat! Video Tribute 2: ET (The Extra Terrestrial)

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2010 by mediajuicestudios

(Click here to watch it!)

I’ll admit that as we release our 2nd official tribute video I sure wish Blake were here to see his “beat sheet” put to work on all these great films.  I also can’t help but wonder if he would agree or disagree with the beats we have assigned to each movie.  Interesting to ponder.  Of course any of you reading this, please feel free to give me your opinion on the beats if you’ve read Save The Cat!

We had alot of fun putting the ET tribute video together.  Not only is ET  one of my favorite films of all time, Spielberg & Mathison’s timeless tale lines up flawlessly with Blake Snyder’s beat sheet. If your a fellow “Cat!” (meaning you have read the Save The Cat! book), you will feel right at home watching the Beat Sheet play out in this classic 80’s film.  If your an aspiring Cat! or just curious about the screenwriting & filmmaking process in general, this is an easy and digestable way to see how a great commercial movie works in terms of “story beats”.

Other than the overwhelming strength of each beat in ET, what stuck out the most while breaking down the beats was how long the “Fun and Games” & “Bad Guys Close in” sections are.  The “Fun & Games” section really gives us alot of time to bond with the characters in a positive way, but thanks to “Bad Guys Close In” we have an equal dose of suspense and worry of what will happen to them as we head towards the Finale in Act 3. The most difficult beat to capture in ET proved to be the “theme stated” beat.  After much deliberation and delving into the movie time and time again, we felt strongly that the “Theme Stated” moment of the film was at minute 11 when one of Elliot’s friends says “…its like life, you don’t win at life…”  If you consider what is actually happening in ET i.e. a young boy befriends an alien and then protects it from grown ups until it can go home; then the theme of “winning vs. living” is very relevant.  This theme also applies to Elliot’s family which, like Spielberg’s, is a broken one.  They aren’t trying to “win” they are just trying to live, to make it by with each other, which is what Elliott translates to ET as well.  I really saw the movie in a new light after making this discovery.  It seemed to take on more structure after I saw each beat and its significance to the overall plot.

So, break out your beat sheet, and maybe even a pad and paper for those who want to learn the true structure behind what makes an 80’s Spielberg film successful!  Without further ado, here it is, the Official Mediajuice Save The Cat! tribute to “ET” We are also posting all of our previous tribute videos to The Mediajuice Youtube Channel, as a way to archive these tribute videos for the public, as well as a way for those who don’t have Adobe Flash to watch them.

One final note for those of you wondering which version we used, YES we used the original version of the film.  I don’t have anything against the ET: 25th Anniversary edition but I just wanted to break down the original since its the version I know and love (just a personal preference.)  Tune in next week for James Cameron’s masterful take in the Sci Fi genre, ALIENS.  Oh and here’s the link to ET one more time (below) for quick reference:




A Video Series Tribute to Blake Snyder: Video Tribute 1 (Back To The Future)

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos on August 4, 2010 by mediajuicestudios


One year ago today a great man tragically passed away.  His name was Blake Snyder.  He was only 51.  For those who knew him, they knew he was as passionate as he was creative.  He inspired countless writers and filmmakers with his groundbreaking book, “Save The Cat!”  I am one of those people.  After reading Save The Cat! I finally understood that, while writing a good movie isn’t easy, it IS possible and his book de-mystifies that process brilliantly.  I would STRONGLY encourage any young screenwriters and filmmakers to read it cover to cover, then read it again!  Even if you subscribe to the Robert Mckee school of screenwriting or Michael Hauge or any other story structure guru, Save the Cat! will only enhance your storytelling skills.  With that said, here’s what I’m doing…

My production studio, Mediajuice and I are producing and releasing 10 “Save The Cat!” Tribute & Training videos, all using the “Blake Snyder Beat Sheet” or as fellow “Cats!” know it, the “BS2”.  We will be showcasing 10 of the most beloved films of all time, such as Back To The Future, ET, Aliens and Top Gun (to name a few).  Each film will be dissected and “beaten out” using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.  I can’t tell you what an absolute joy it has been using the BS2 to break down some of the greatest films of all time.  Its worth noting here that I understand the phrase “greatest films of all time” is extremely subjective, but I should be honest and admit that I subscribe to the Blake Snyder theory of film-making, which is summed up beautifully in one of Blake’s archived blogs about the film “Memento” by Christopher Nolan, which incidentally is one of my favorite films.  Blake had this to say about Memento “…You’ll note when Christopher Nolan was recruited by Hollywood, they didn’t put him to work making more Memento’s. They gave him something they could do something with: Batman….”  He then qualified that argument by saying this, “…I desperately want my readers to beat a system in which 50,000 screenplays were registered with the WGA last year (estimate) and only 100 sold…”

After working on these tribute and training videos for over 6 months (in our spare time at the studio) one thing is clear, Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat!” process is alive and well in just about every movie you watch. Different films use it in different ways, but all of them have those signature beats Blake preaches over and over.  For example, one of the beats that usually takes up the most time in every movie is the “Fun & Games” beat, which typically happens in Act 2 of a movie and delivers all of the “trailer moments” and gives the audience the “promise of the premise” of the movie.  This is true in almost all the films we’ve broken down using Blake’s method, but Shawshank Redemption seemed to have a much longer “Bad Guys Close In” than most films.  With that said, some viewers would interpret Shawshank’s “Bad Guys Close In” as Fun and Games since it is alot of fun to watch (even though it is literally “bad guys” closing in on the hero).

So, why am I doing this?  Why are we creating 10 “Save The Cat!” video tributes?  The answer is simple; Blake Snyder inspired me with his book and even more by being a personal mentor and friend.  He replied to every email I ever sent him and even took the time to talk to me on the phone several times.  I was constantly amazed by his humility and transparency.  He sincerely wanted to equip and inspire new screenwriters to succeed, and his attitude and outlook has inspired me to do the same.  These video tributes are my way of “paying it forward”, Blake Snyder style, to all the aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers out there.

So, without further adue,…here’s the 1st tribute and “Save The Cat!” training video for all those up and coming “Cats!” trying to master the Blake Snyder method.  The 1st tribute video will be the uber classic 80’s film ‘Back To The Future’.  This film was a pure joy to break down using the BS2.  When you get to the Mediajuice website, the following link should automatically take you to the “Save The Cat!” section, however it you don’t see the video right away, click on the small “Cat icon” in the bottom right hand side of the site.