Archive for screenwriting tool

Save The Cat! Video Tribute 10: Top Gun

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by mediajuicestudios

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT ))

I would be lying if I said we weren’t saving the best for last.  This, the 10th tribute video we have produced, will be our last video tribute to the late Blake Snyder and his book Save The Cat!..and its a great one!  Top Gun.  It has been a real pleasure to put these video tributes together.  If any of you reading this blog and watching our tribute videos ever have any questions about these videos or about Mediajuice in general, you can always reach us through our website at www.mediajuicestudios.com or you can email me directly at jeremy@mediajuicestudios.com And of course you can always find Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! book on his website.

OK, on to TOP GUN!  Aside from being one of the best 80’s movies of all time, Top Gun’s story beats are the strongest we have seen from any of the movies we have broken down using Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.  FYI; I do have some thoughts about the story beats in Top Gun but I am going to blog in less detail about Top Gun’s beats and let you all see them for what they are…well written, well structured story beats that reinforce the characters, the plot and the overall movie’s experience.  Top Gun is an example of a story well told with tight structure that cleanly sets up and pays off each section of the movie.  It’s great fun to watch; both as a fan and a writer / filmmaker.

The first beat I must mention is the SAVE THE CAT beat.  It is so strong and does exactly what the STC! beat should do.  It makes us like and respect Maverick (Tom Cruise’s character.)  He risks his own life to save a fellow pilot, who gets spooked during an unexpected combat flight.  Granted, he also risked the life of his co-pilot Goose, which conveniently setups the fact that he is also reckless and a loner (a key part of his character arc).  The STC! moment also sets up the CATALYST of the film nicely.  The only pilot better than Maverick (the pilot who was just spooked / saved by Maverick) quits because he’s “lost his edge”, leaving Maverick as the next choice for Top Gun flight academy.  But, is Maverick truly ready?  This question is posed in the DEBATE.  Maverick’s captain, with no other options, sends Maverick & Goose to Miramar, the Top Gun flight school.  BREAK INTO TWO is just that, Maverick and Goose travel into Act 2 when they head to Top Gun…and the FUN & GAMES are about to get started!

Just as Maverick & Goose arrive, naturally, a lady catches Maverick’s eye.  This is our B STORY and its a great one. As Blake Snyder teaches, the B-story is a nice way for the intensity of the plot to cool down, to give the audience a break from everything that’s suppose to be happening to make the story move forward.  The B-story (& b story characters) are also a useful tool in screenwriting to expose parts of the story that cannot be exposed by the A-characters.  This is sometimes called “exposition” and its rarely tolerated by audiences if its delivered by an “A-story” character (without coming off as melodramatic that is.)  So having a B-story to give exposition to what the main character or characters are going through is a useful tool for the screenwriter.  Its well done in Top Gun.

And with those opening beats laid out, I’m going to leave you to watch the full Top Gun tribute video and see how the rest of the beats fall into place.  If you have watched the previous 9 Save The Cat! tribute videos you should be at a point where you can loosely follow the story beats in a film and have them make sense to you. After “realizing” the way beats are used in all movies and how setups and payoffs are an essential part of storytelling, you’ll find watching movies a whole new experience.  So with this, our last STC! tribute video, for any of you interested in screenwriting or just knowing more about how movies are really written, I leave you with this challenge – Read Save The Cat! and start looking for the beats in your favorite movies (new and old.)  I do it all the time and it not only makes me a better filmmaker, its just a heck of alot of fun.  May Blake Snyder rest in peace and may his innovative teachings in Save The Cat! live on and on and on…

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE TOP GUN TRIBUTE VIDEO! ))

all the best,

Jeremy

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Save The Cat! Video Tribute 5: True Lies

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , on September 17, 2010 by mediajuicestudios

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT ))

True Lies proves that James Cameron can do comedy.  Maybe its just that Tom Arnold and Arnold Schwartzenneger have great chemistry but a movie with this kind of action AND comedy mixture doesn’t come around too often.  It is definitely one of my “guilty pleasure” movies.  Heck, not really even guilty…I just love watching it when I need to veg out and relax.  It delivers every time (in my opinion.)

As far as “Blake Snyder” beats goes, the first thing you notice after watching it the first time through is how precisely the OPENING IMAGE & FINAL IMAGE follow the Save The Cat! structure.  The location is identical but the characters (Harry & his wife) have arc’d significantly, and are happier off for it.  The setup for this movie is especially fun because as the audience we know what Helen (Harry’s wife) doesn’t know, which is that Harry is a secret agent.  It’s alot of fun to sit back and wonder how long this can go on and just when she will find out.  The CATALYST is fairly obvious…the introduction of the terrorist that Arnold Schwartzenneger and Tom Arnold will be pursuing throughout the movie.  The DEBATE & BREAK INTO TWO then fall nicely in line to reveal who the terrorists are, what their goals are and just how they plan to get away with their plans.

Again, the novelty of this movie is how well the action sequences setup and payoff with consistent doses of comedy throughout.  Bill Paxton’s “car salesman” character is absolutely hilarious and a nice distraction from all the seriousness of chasing terrorists (as is Charlton Heston’s chameo as the chief of Harry’s division).  The THEME of the movie surprisingly has nothing to do with terrorists but everything to do with Harry’s relationship with his wife.  The chases and explosions are just eye candy to take us through the journey of Harry & Helen’s transformation as characters and the transformation and “re-invention” of their marriage.  It comes in at 1 hour 9 minutes in when Helen tells who she thinks are two secret covert agents (Shwartzenneger & Arnold) that she still loves her husband but needs some “adventure” in her life…which is exactly what they give her.

Backing up slightly, the FUN & GAMES of True Lies is truly FUN & GAMES.  We are introduced to several new characters, plot twists and see how Harry uses secret agent techniques (from his job) to spy on his wife.  Again, its just a whole lot of fun.  Beyond being “FUN” the fun & games sections sets up everything in the third act with clockwork precision.  Each beat sets up the next one and pays off perfectly.  One thing I’ve always admired about James Cameron’s films is how cleanly structured they are.  Not necessarily “predictable” but always an enjoyable non-stressed movie watching experience.  STRUCTURE does that and structure is what True Lies does really well.

Now, for the BAD GUYS CLOSE IN beat.  Its unexpected but really the only thing that could bring the two main characters together.  Helen & Harry are captured by the terrorists.  What will happen to them?  How will they escape?  Will their marriage surive this, even if they do?  All those questions are raised with this beat and are answered in the BREAK INTO THREE, FINALE & FINAL IMAGE.  Once again, there’s that Cameron structure.

Now, similarly to the SETUP where we as the audience knew what Helen didn’t know (that her husband was a secret agent) we now once again know something she doesn’t know in the ALL IS LOST beat.  Helen thinks Harry has been killed but he hasn’t.  The next few minutes of the film are tense with this belief that he is dead as well as Harry knowing Helen has been captured.  DARK KNIGHT OF THE SOUL is similar in that we see that Helen is captured and the terrorists have the Nukes.  Seems hopeless until the BREAK INTO THREE when Harry and his partner begin pursuit of the terrorists and Helen.  They get Helen back in the FINALE but that’s not the end. You may have noticed in alot of these tribute videos we have added a non Blake Snyder beat, i.e. the FINAL FIGHT.  Blake mentioned this to me in an email exchange we had while discussing a script I was working on.  Many times after the FINALE, there is still unresolved business that has to be wrapped up…this is the “final fight”.  In True Les its Harry getting his daughter back, who has been captured by the terrorists.  This provides even MORE action & comedy fun.

All in all, True Lies is just a real pleasure to watch…and even more fun to break down the screenplay in Blake Snyder “Save The Cat!” style.

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE “TRUE LIES” TRIBUTE VIDEO ))

all my best,

Jeremy