Archive for tribute video

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 9: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , , on November 9, 2010 by mediajuicestudios

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT ))

FYI; anyone wanting to learn the “Save The Cat!” method of screenwriting, be sure to get the book called (surprisingly) “Save The Cat!” It is what inspired me to become a screenwriter / filmmaker and has only improved my craft as a commercial director.

OK, on to this week’s tribute video!  Without a doubt, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the most FUN movies to watch and to break down the story structure.  Roger Rabbit is and has always been one of my all time favorite films.  I remember seeing it as an 11 year old and just thinking, “This is amazing!” along with “how’d they do that?!” every 5 or 10 minutes of the film. Not to mention, I think this was the 1st movie that made grown men drool over a cartoon vixen.  Now that’s an accomplishment!  Also, if I’m not mistaken Roger Rabbit is the ONLY film that features both Disney and Warner cartoons in the same movie, an amazing feat of persuasion by the films producers & Robert Zemeckis no doubt.  You would never see that now-a-days since Disney and Warner are major (competing) studios in both live-action and animation categories. Granted, Disney and Warner were also major competing studios at the time WFRR was released but my guess is that the novelty of the “live action meets cartoons” concept presented by Zemeckis was so interesting and unique it got pushed through both studios.  Cool stuff.

OK, on to the beats!  Right off the bat in the OPENING IMAGE and SETUP of the movie we are introduced to our main character Roger in his element, performing in a maroon cartoon. Its wacky, zany, cartoon fun and everything we would expect from a classic “Warner style” cartoon, but a bit exaggerated for effect. The real magic and the “promise of the premise” as Blake teaches is when we hear the director yell “CUT!” We then see Roger seamlessly walk from a cartoon world into the human world, discussing his performance with the director (nice cameo by Joel Silver btw.)  The “Promise of the Premise” as Blake teaches, is those parts of the movie that deliver on what the trailer promised.  Those parts that payoff the entire experience of seeing the film.  For example, in Roger Rabbit the promise of the premise is that you will see, for the 1st time ever, the amazing synchronization of live-action actors and cartoons on screen at the same time. If the movie failed to deliver that and deliver it well, audiences would be disappointed because the movie would be breaking its #1 promise.  It would be like Back to The Future without a time machine!  It would fail to deliver the premise of the movie!  Not to worry though, WFRR delivers in spades!

Next in the SETUP we meet the amazingly talented Bob Hoskins, who plays the character Eddie Valiant, the down on his luck, down and out private detective who does NOT like toons.  Side note – when I found out that Bob Hoskins was actually a British actor with a very thick english accent “playing” an American film noir era detective with a flawless American accent, my respect level for him went through the roof! OK, on to more Rabbit.  We don’t know why Eddie (Bob Hoskins character) doesn’t like toons, which is immediately interesting.  Who wouldn’t like a toon?  They are so lovable, funny and upbeat…right?  The plot thickens before we’ve even get to minute 10 of the movie.  Brilliant, and simple!

The THEME STATED beat(s) of the film are interesting and surprisingly complex and well thought out.  Usually a movie only has 1 “theme stated” moment, but because we as an audience don’t understand the logic of the toon universe, that logic has to be explained or “stated” to us a couple of times.  This happens in 2 parts of the film, the 1st of which is one of my favorite parts of the movie, and pretty hilarious as well.  R.K. Maroon explains to Eddie Valiant why Roger Rabbit is cracking up and stressed out when he says “…You can drop anything you want on a toon’s head, but you break his heart and he goes to pieces just like you and me…” The 2nd “theme stated” beat is right in the middle of the FUN & GAMES or Act 2 section of the movie and happens at minute 45 when Roger tells Eddie that he couldn’t have taken the handcuffs off at any time…he could only take them off “….when it was funny…” and that “…if you don’t have a good sense of humor, you’re better off dead…” More than anything else these 2 THEME STATED moments explain to us that the logic of a toon is the opposite to that of a human, in fact its counter-intuitive to a human but at the same time makes sense.  Why is playing patty cake considered infidelity?  Why wouldn’t you take off handcuffs you were trapped in?  There are lots of reasons we could come up with, but the main reason, which supports the theme of the movie is because they are toons!

The rest of the setup tells us who Eddie is, why he is the way he is and introduces us to some key characters that will come back in the 2nd & 3rd act.  Oh and lets not forget the SAVE THE CAT! moment…We “like” Eddie because he’s nice to kids (he helps a kid sneak on the trolley car.)  Now for THE most important part of the movie.  The part that launches the movie into the plot, the part that we have to have if we are going to have a story.  The CATALYST in WFRR is one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie.  Just when you think something scandalous is going on, the upside down world of “toon logic” is introduced.  Its the opposite of human logic, but it has very definite rules and consequences, as we soon find out in the DEBATE. Who would have thought playing patty cake would have such dire consequences?  Hilarious, AND it works! The BREAK INTO TWO seems to fit with the evidence the Catalyst presented, but we know something’s not quite right, which draws us in even more.  Classic detective storytelling. 

The FUN & GAMES beats in act 2 play out in similarly simple and straight forward ways; we.  But don’t confuse the delivery of simple as easy.  Simple storytelling that resonates with a large audience is often the most difficult, because it requires discipline and selflessness.  You can’t be precious about dialogue or the action of a scene.  This simple, straight forward delivery of story is what makes WFRR such a joy to watch.

At minute 49 the MIDPOINT of the movie we see a “ticking clock” added which increases the stakes and new information re-directs Eddies chase for Marvin Acme’s murderer.  The BAD BUYS CLOSE IN, ALL IS LOST, & DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL all fall in line perfectly from around minute 50 to the 1 hour & 10 minute mark.  Side note – Christopher Lloyd is brilliantly hilarious as Judge Doom. The BREAK INTO ACT 3 (Eddie overcoming his fears of toon town & getting past his brother’s death) leads seamlessly into the FINALE where Eddie solves the mystery of Marvin Acme’s death, reveals Judge Doom is a toon AND finds Marvin Acme’s will thus saving toon town!  All the setups have been paid off and all of the loose ends have been tied up.  And the FINAL IMAGE (very similar to the opening image) is good ole’ Porky signing off…with a little help from Tinkerbell.  😉

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE ROGER RABBIT TRIBUTE VIDEO! ))

all the best,
Jeremy

Save The Cat! Video Tribute 5: The Shawshank Redemption

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by mediajuicestudios

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT ))

Ironically I had the pleasure of meeting Frank Darabont (The Director) a couple of months ago at the Dallas AFI film festival.  He came and showed a screening of his  personal 35MM print of Shawshank.  It was stunning.  When we met I complimented his work and he took a good 5 to 8 minutes to talk to me about film-making, screenwriting and Drew Struzan (a man we both admire.)

Needless to say, breaking down this film using the Blake Snyder beat sheet was alot of fun.  Many in the film world have called Shawshank Redeption a “..near perfect film..”  Its a masterpiece in my opinion.  Visually, structurally and “cinematically” its just amazing.  And the performances are so spot on you feel transported into that world…a world of “hopelessness” and “fear”.  Incidentally the tag line of the movie is exactly what the THEME of the movie is, i.e. “Hope Can Set you Free”.  The THEME STATED beat of Shawshank comes precisely at 1 hour and 12 minutes into the movie when Andy talks to the guys about not losing hope.  It seems that all the dialogue, all the actions of the characters and even the cinematography reinforce this theme of hope & fear.  Even the “Save The Cat!” moment when Andy asks what the murdered inmates name was, the reply he gets is full of “hopelessness”.  The man says “…It doesn’t  F%$cking matter what his name is…he’s dead…”  Its exactly what a person who has given themselves over to institutionalization would say.  Most all of the inmates have been desensitized from hope and become full of fear. In fact Morgan Freeman’s character (Red) even says “Hope is a dangerous thing inside here”.  These are the very things that Tim Robbins character battles against.  The brilliant thing about Andy Dufrane’s (Robbins) character ARC is how secretive and subtle it seems until his escape.  You think he too has given up hope, become desensitized, become an “institutional man”.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Dufrane’s character has been FULL of hope the whole time, evidenced by the tunnel he dug for 15+ years to get out.  Alas the tag-line of the movie is absolutely perfect, “Hope can set you free”.  In Andy’s case (and later Red’s) it does just that.

Now to the MIDPOINT beat in Shawshank.  It comes precisely at the middle of the film (1 hour and 13 minutes in) and it reveals alot about Morgan Freemans’ character (Red) ARC.  Red is up for parole in the beginning of the film, the middle of the film and at the end. Each time you see him in front of the parole board he seems to care less and less.  By the end (after his best friend Andy has escaped) he has given himself over to the reality of dying in prison, but he has a wisdom about him now that he didn’t have at the beginning of the film.  He’s not “feeding the parole board a line”, rather he’s honestly telling them the truths of his life and what he’s learned.  Because of his character arc, he’s set free and HOPE springs anew in him (there’s that THEME again.) 😉

And now a word about the BAD GUYS CLOSE IN beats of Shawshank.  They say your “hero” character is only as strong (to the audience) as his opposing “villain” and that dynamic couldn’t be more true in Shawshank.  The Warden is PURE EVIL and our disdain for him as the movie progresses seems to reach boiling points, which makes us empathize and “root for” our Hero, Andy all the more.  The “Bad Guys Close in” beat starts with the Warden’s disbelief of the new evidence that could prove Andy’s innocence, which make us as an audience absolutely hate The Warden.  It plays perfectly into the ALL IS LOST, DARK KNIGHT OF THE SOUL AND FINALE beats.  By the final shot of Andy and Red together on the beach, we’ve been taken on a whirlwind of emotion and character arcs.  I try to watch Shawshank Redemption at least once or twice a year just to reinvigorate my passion for film-making, storytelling and just to ground me as a person.  Keeping your hopes alive (no matter where you are in life) is not only a powerful theme for a movie its a TRUE THEME to live our lives by.

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH ‘THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION’ TRIBUTE VIDEO ))

cheers,
Jeremy

Save The Cat! Video Tribute 3: Hoosiers

Posted in Save the Cat! Tribute Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by mediajuicestudios

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT! ))

I apologize as I accidentally said last week that this week’s tribute video was going to be “The Shawshank Redemption” when that video is actually coming week after next.  Sorry about that!  OK, on to this week’s ACTUAL video tribute, Hoosiers.  One of my all time favorites, and a real joy to break down using the Blake Snyder beat sheet.  Right off the bat I noticed that the “Bad Guys Close in” beat for Hoosiers not only comes in sooner than in most movies, it is noticeably longer than usual.  Remember that the “Bad Guys Close In” beat is the place in the movie where real and tangible pressure is applied, both internally (problems inside the hero’s team) and externally (as actual bad guys tighten their grip).  Almost from the beginning of the movie the Coach is unwelcome in his new surroundings.  The actual “beat” that we see it most strongly articulated is at minute 18 when his fellow teacher and would be love interest tells him straight out to “…Stay away from Jimmy…” the reluctant all-star player in the small town.

Which leads me to our hero, Mr. Gene Hackman.  Its hard not to take sides immediately with Coach Norman Dale (Hackman), irregardless of what his shady past may (or may not) be, simply because…well, he’s Gene Hackman.  That’s the only part of the structure that could be criticized in my opninion.  I would never say its bad casting because Gene Hackman is amazing in the role, but if you consider the roles Hackman had been playing right up until this film (French Connection, Superman, Uncommon Valor, etc), you’d be hard pressed to find any viewer who didn’t love him as a leading man when the film premiered.  All that to say, I believe the screenplay wants us to “wonder” what this new coach is all about (sort of like the local townspeople do) but I’m on Hackman’s side from the beginning…as I think most people are. The film still works structurally despite this but its the one “loose end” that I think wasn’t considered during casting.  Gene Hackman is just too darn likable. But that pays rich dividends when “his way of coaching” proves to yield championship results, which some would argue was the point all along.  I’m still of the opinion that the filmmakers want us to “wonder” about Coach Norman Dale in the 1st Act more than we actually do.  I think most people are thinking “…Yeah, he’s a good guy, and he’s going to prove everyone wrong in the end..”  There is never a thought that he might fail.  This makes the “Save The Cat” moment (or moments) almost unnecessary, but then I had to remind myself that, as the great Cecil B. Demille said, “…pain is temporary, but film is forever…”  Generations to come don’t hold the same place in their disposition for Mr. Hackman that those who saw the film when it premiered do, so these beats are very necessary to preserver the integrity of the film…to keep it relevant, no matter the audience watching it, which Hoosiers does very well.

Quick note: OH THE CHARACTER ARCS!  This movie has some of the strongest character arcs I’ve ever seen!  If you look at where Ms. Fleener (coach’s love interest) starts in the beginning of the film, which is basically hating his guts, to where she ends up (in LOVE with him) its amazing, and totally believable!  And that’s just one example!  Almost all the characters, save Ms. Fleener’s grandma arc significantly!  OK, that was a sort of “sidebar” rant not specifically related to Save The Cat! or the Beat Sheet.  🙂

Their is SO much more I could say about the structure of this great film, but the last thing I’ll talk about today is the “theme stated” moment in the film, which arrives somewhat later than most around minute 52, almost half way through the movie (midpoint coming!)  The theme of Hoosiers is “Everyone deserves a chance” which Coach Norman tells Dennis Hoppers son when he questions his decision to help out his dad.  This theme ABSOLUTELY DRIVES THE ENTIRE MOVIE.  And its not just Denniss Hopper’s alcohlic character that needs a chance, its almost EVERY major character that the theme applies to.  Coach Norman needs a chance because of his shady past.  The dean of the college (Coach Norman’s old friend) needs a chance, in that he needs someone to turn his athletic program around.  Ms. Fleener (Hackman’s love interest) needs a chance because she’s so emotionally closed off that no one EXCEPT Coach Norman would have the wherewithal to get through to her.  The town itself needs a chance, because before Coach Norman arrived everyone just thinks there is no hope without Jimmy, the all-star player who isn’t even playing.  I could go on and on.

I hope you enjoy this weeks tribute and as always, please let me know what you think!  I love hearing feedback, even if its disagreement.  🙂

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE ‘HOOSIERS’ TRIBUTE VIDEO! ))

all the best,
Jeremy

Save The Cat! Video Tribute 3: Aliens

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

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT! ))

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!

(( CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE ‘ALIENS’ TRIBUTE VIDEO! ))

All the best,

Jeremy