So as I continue to work the mysterious magic of turning the words from the pages of my most recent novel into words on the pages of what will hopefully soon be my most recent screenplay (with the ultimate and even more hopeful goal of magically turning those words from the screenplay into magical images on a screen), I am tangentially listening to a screenwriting howto book by Viki King with the impossibly-sounding title of How to Write a Movie in 21 Days: The Inner Movie Method [about]
I’m just about done with the book and when I am it will have been the third screenwriting howto book I have read.
The first two, The Screenwriter’s Bible [about] and Save the Cat [about] I own; the one I’m reading now, I borrowed from Overdrive.
And you know what…
It’s a pretty decent read overall.
The only reason I even knew to borrow it though was because, as I was refreshing my screenwriting knowledge by going through the two books I own, I noticed in the introduction to Save the Cat, where Blake Snyder the author tries to justify the need for yet another screenwriting book, King’s book is among the few others he calls out for being one “of the other really good books, and courses…many which [he’s] sampled.”
How noble of him, right?
Of course, first and foremost, he calls out Syd Field‘s book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting [about] (I think it’s a California law that every screenwriter must acknowledge Field as the Jedi master in the field of screenwriting howto books (at least he’s to be acknowledged as the one who started it all)).
He calls out King’s book because he likes the improbability of her book’s title.
Good enough reason as any, I suppose…
And now as I am just about to finish up with King’s book I notice that it’s a damn good thing that Snyder acknowledges her because he pretty much ripped her off…
Well, at least it appears that he drew heavily, very heavily, upon her book when it comes to breaking a screenplay down to its beats.
Where King has the beats that make up what she calls her “9-minute Movie,” Snyder has what he calls his Save the Cat 15 Beats.
And, because of it (perhaps), he has become, as far as I can tell, the authority on how to format a Hollywood commercialized screenplay.
Just about every search into the Google side of my brain, I find something referencing Save the Cat.
Much to the chagrin of many who don’t appreciate such a formulaic method to making a movie, I’m sure.
Actually, Snyder is no longer the authority personally, just his book is. Sadly, he died in 2009.
One reason I like writing screenplays so much is because they are so formulaic. No creative fuss, no creative muss.
No matter what, if you’re a nobody trying to break into the industry then you’re going to be writing on spec.
And if you’re writing on spec, your screenplay will be formatted according to the industry standard.
A standard of which can be found and learned in all of the many screenwriting howto books out there…
The same books, incidentally, that pound it into our heads over and over again that there is only one way to write spec scripts…
Anyway, with that in mind, one has to realize that there will obviously be some major redundancy in these howto books with so many of them vying for our (limited) attention and (limited) dollars (or whatever your limited currency of choice may be).
But still, except for some differences in which page in the script a beat is to fall upon, to me Snyder’s 15 Beats look strikingly similar to King’s 9-minute Movie.
Except that he came up with his own cute little names (barf) for each of them.
Names such as Fun and Games or Bad Guys Close In or All Is Lost or Dark Night Into the Soul…
Okay, actually they’re pretty cool.
And, actually, to be honest (hey, I’m not implying here that I haven’t been honest up to this point… or am I?) Snyder’s book is a fun, informative read.
And he lays the entire process out there for us in a very useful, easy to remember manner.
And, I guess because of it, I kinda like his book better than King’s…
A lot better.
So, there’s that.