Friday, May 25, 2007

Book Review: Save the Cat

This screenwriting book definitely has some usable information, and its breezy tone makes for easy reading, but it's by no means the last book on screenwriting you'll ever need. Blake Snyder has certainly made money in the industry -- good for him -- and if that's all you're looking to do, then this is the perfect book for you. Not to say that I wouldn't love to make a living in this industry, but -- call me a naive idealist -- I'd rather do it by having a really good movie made out of my screenplay than by selling a formulaic spec script that never even gets made.

Don't get me wrong, I am no elitist who eschews the Hollywood formula; it has its merits and its uses. I've enjoyed many a formulaic movie and have no problem using those formulas when they work for me. However, I'd much rather have a movie like "Memento" to my credit than "Miss Congeniality"... even though, as Snyder points out, "Miss Congeniality" grossed far more at the box office.

The bottom line?

If you're like me, writing something a little outside the mainstream, I do actually recommend this book (albeit with a little hesitation): his "rules" might inspire some ideas and, among other things, his breakdown of the beat sheet is extremely useful (but be warned that you may find yourself a little annoyed at times). If you're a little more mainstream than me and want to write a Hollywood blockbuster, then I HIGHLY recommend this book for you; in your case, it may well be the last book on screenwriting you'll ever need. HOWEVER, if you have no intention of going the Hollywood route, or if you think that the Hollywood formula is cheesy, tired and/or a total sell out, I suggest that you avoid this book... you'll just end up quoting Dorothy Parker: "This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

If you're looking for a simple book giving you a breakdown of the Hollywood formula, I would actually recommend Viki King's "How to Write a Movie in 21 Days." I know it sounds even more formulaic than "Save the Cat" but I never felt like throwing it out the window. And for a more in-depth screenwriting book, definitely opt for Robert McKee's "Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting." In my opinion, don't waste your time with Syd Field's "Screenplay." He may have been first but everyone else has said the same things a hundred times since then and usually better than he said it in the first place.

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1 part shy intellectual, 1 part edgy chick, 1 part sophisticated woman, 1 part mental patient (after all, sanity is a type of conformity)... what's your mix?