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10/04/2007 - BOOK REVIEW: SAVE THE CAT! GOES TO THE MOVIES
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"SAVE THE CAT! GOES TO THE MOVIES - The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told"
Author: Blake Snyder
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 1932907351

There is one constant issue I have with most books on screenwriting: Not enough examples! So often I will read a book on certain concepts or certain themes or approaches and then there will be the vast emptiness when it comes to examples. Or, worse, the examples will be from some obscure film that neither I, or anyone else for that matter, will have seen.

"Save the Cat! Goes To The Movies" changes all that. In fact, I would almost have to say, Blake Snyder gives TOO many examples.

This book, a companion to the book "Save the Cat!" takes the concepts that Blake discussed in that book and expands those concepts out to film after film after film. 50 films in all. And then, not only does he show you step-by-step how the concepts are played out - he suggests even MORE films to watch to prove the concept. Using ten differing genres that he has created and titled, he breaks down the films into core elements. He uses popular films like "Spider-Man 2" (in the chapter on the SUPERHERO genre) or more obscure films like "Brick" (in the chapter on the WHYDUNIT genre).

Basically, Blake and his buddies sat around and watched hundreds of films and figured out that they all contained, roughly, the same elements. Elements that most screenwriters are familiar with ("break into act 2") but then they found other elements maybe not so familiar ("fun and games" and "dark night of the soul") and then, breaking the book into different themed genres - though not what you might expect - they explore the similarities in thorough detail.

If someone said: "Did you know that "Open Water" and "Die Hard" contain basically the same elements in the DUDE WITH A PROBLEM genre? Or that both "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Kramer vs. Kramer" both contain similarities in the RITES OF PASSAGE genre? You might look at them confused. But Blake does a masterful job of explaining how it all works.

You might be hard-pressed to find the three-act structure in a film like "Crash." But Blake finds it. You might not see similarities between "Being There" and "The Forty Year-old Virgin" - but Blake sees the similarities and then explains them all to you.

Proper structure is a constant in Hollywood and Blake takes that structure and applies a layer to it, exploring it, opening it up. Making you a better writer in the process.

If I have any issue with this book - it is that it almost contains TOO many examples. I often found myself thinking: "Okay, the script I'm writing, is it an OUT OF THE BOTTLE or is it a DUDE WITH A PROBLEM?" You could, at times, get easily confused in amongst the examples - but the one constant that you have to remember is that these examples contain the basic elements described in the introduction and are part of the "Blake Snyder Beat Sheet."

Still Blake Snyder does it again! His enthusiasm for film and screenwriting shines through every page of this amazing book. Fantastic!

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