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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board  /  Questions or Comments  /  An Alternative to Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet?
Posted by: RayW, July 31st, 2010, 11:05am
Preface:
There appears to be a division between SCREENwriters whose goal it is to actually have their screenplay up on a theater screen - and - just plain ol' writers that happen to enjoy writing for pleasure in screenplay format but with little intention of changing their work to get "The Man" to let go of some of his cabbage.

This thread is directed toward the former. The SCREENwriters.
Especially feature length screenwriters.

First, I ran a site check for "beat sheet" and come up with a single, non-useful entry.
Then I checked the prior threads halfway down to 2007 and found no relevant title.
http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-cc/s-all/

>>> REASONABLE DUE DILIGENCE DONE <<<



By my obvious super-human powers of observation and analytical skillz, over the last couple of decades of movies I've noted the director's reoccurring story structure having the hero fight the bad guy, win a victory of some such, then get the carpet yanked out beneath him for the express purpose to have the hero climb out and overcome the bad guy or life's ob-stackles *.
Made sense.
Just jerking the audience's emotions for fun and profit.

Then the other day I happen to have run across the late Blake Snyder's Beat Sheets (not to be confused with Dee Snyder's beat sheets being discussed on a completely different site) which apparantly he had been peddling/teaching for the last few years before his premature** demise.
And I smirked a long and crooked, evil smirk.
Wryly, I might add.
Seems Blake had quantified and delineated a coalesced version of the nebulous smog that had only drifted about my aforementioned super-human mind.

If you're not familiar with Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet it goes something like the following:

Opening Image: pg 1
Establish Theme: pgs 1 - 5
Setup: pgs 1 - 10
Inciting Incident: 12
Debate - Half Commitment: pgs 12 - 25
Turn to Act II: 25
Subplot intro by: pg 30
Fun - Games - Puzzles: pgs 30 - 55
Tentpole - Midpoint - Reversal: pg 55
Enemy Closes In: pgs 55 - 75
Low Point: pg 75
Darkest Decision: pgs 75 - 85
Turn to Act III: pg 85
Finale - Confrontation: pgs 85 - 107
Aftermath: pgs 107 - 110
Final Image: pg 110


Details:

Opening Image – A visual that represents the struggle & tone of the story. A snapshot of the main character’s problem, before the adventure begins.

Set-up – Expand on the “before” snapshot. Present the main character’s world as it is, and what is missing in their life.

Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. Usually, it is spoken to the main character or in their presence, but they don’t understand the truth…not until they have some personal experience and context to support it.

Catalyst – The moment where life as it is changes. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster onboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The “before” world is no more, change is underway.

Debate – But change is scary and for a moment, or a brief number of moments, the main character doubts the journey they must take. Can I face this challenge? Do I have what it takes? Should I go at all? It is the last chance for the hero to chicken out.

Break Into Two (Choosing Act Two) – The main character makes a choice and the journey begins. We leave the “Thesis” world and enter the upside-down, opposite world of Act Two.

B Story – This is when there’s a discussion about the Theme – the nugget of truth. Usually, this discussion is between the main character and the love interest. So, the B Story is usually called the “love story”.

The Promise of the Premise – This is the fun part of the story. This is when Craig Thompson’s relationship with Raina blooms, when Indiana Jones tries to beat the Nazis to the Lost Ark, when the detective finds the most clues and dodges the most bullets. This is when the main character explores the new world and the audience is entertained by the premise they have been promised.

Midpoint – Dependent upon the story, this moment is when everything is “great” or everything is “awful”. The main character either gets everything they think they want (“great”) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (“awful”). But not everything we think we want is what we actually need in the end.

Bad Guys Close In – Doubt, jealousy, fear, foes both physical and emotional regroup to defeat the main character’s goal, and the main character’s “great”/“awful” situation disintegrates.

All is Lost – The opposite moment from the Midpoint: “awful”/“great”. The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning. The initial goal now looks even more impossible than before. And here, something or someone dies. It can be physical or emotional, but the death of something old makes way for something new to be born.

Dark Night of the Soul – The main character hits bottom, and wallows in hopelessness. TheWhy hast thou forsaken me, Lord? moment. Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. But, you must fall completely before you can pick yourself back up and try again.

Break Into Three (Choosing Act Three) – Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again.

Finale – This time around, the main character incorporates the Theme – the nugget of truth that now makes sense to them – into their fight for the goal because they have experience from the A Story and context from the B Story. Act Three is about Synthesis!

Final Image – opposite of Opening Image, proving, visually, that a change has occurred within the character.

THE END

And here's a graph:



So... my question to the fine establishement of SCREENwriters at Simply Scripts is "Do you find the beat sheet format WILDLY useful?"
Or is it kinda like a pirates code guideline?
Or a rigid backbone to be adhered to with minor mis-pagination transgressions?
Or do you write by the seat of your pants, au naturel? Devil take the hind-side?
What alternatives to the BSBSs are you using?

Thank you for your replies!

* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190590/quotes
** How often is there actualy a good time?
Posted by: mcornetto (Guest), July 31st, 2010, 11:31am; Reply: 1
My take on the whole beat sheet thing is that it is useful if you are trying to sell your script in Hollywood.   From what I understand the biz people reading do skim your script to see if you have the right events in the right places in your script.  If they don't find them where they expect them then your script may be passed over.

If you are trying to sell your script elsewhere, then I think you probably have some leeway with structure.  And if you're going to produce it yourself then you can pretty much do whatever you want.    In other words, not using a rigid structure does not make your script less valid or incorrect, it only means you may not be able to market it in Hollywood.        

And I also think if you have any inclination toward writing and storytelling you are going to pretty much hit those beat sheet marks anyway.   I don't see any of the great writers having to worry about these sort of things.  They write and their stories naturally have that structure and the fact that they include it in such an unforced manner is what makes them great writers.    
Posted by: Scar Tissue Films, July 31st, 2010, 12:29pm; Reply: 2
Like Mcornetto says, a lot of these things are a way of trying to codify something that is natural to story-telling...and have been for thousands of years.

One has only to look at the number of Hollywood releases to see that it has some validity in terms of sales, although there's always the chicken and egg situation with that.

Do people go and see these films because they like them, or is it just that they are the only thing that Hollywood releases?

If Hollywood marketed more off-the-wall ideas better, would they do better at the BO?

Do Hollywood execs favour it because it's "better" or is it just because they are scared of losing their jobs if they take a risk?

As for alternatives:

I recently downloaded a program called Dramatica Pro to play with. I had a story that I believe has great potential (it's not a Hollywood story though) but I was getting a bit lost with it. The program is fairly complicated, it asks you numerous questions about the characetgrs and what the film is about etc and you end up with a kind of template that purports to show you have to tell that particular story most effectively.

I found it very useful...it's kind of like having a script coach there because it makes you think about what's important to the story....I'm not saying you need to follow it religiously, but it illuminates how you really want to tell the story, if nothing else.

This is a comparison of the theory behind it, as opposed to other famous theories (Mckee, Vogler etc).

http://www.dramatica.com/theory/articles/Dram-differences.htm

You can download a trial version of the software I believe to have a go with it yourself.

The essential theory is the "Grand Argument" design of story...that all stories are essentially an argument about something. EG Terminator. That man will become obsolete to advanced technology. Within the story various characters represent different aspects of the argument...and their argument is that unless all aspects of the particular argument are in place, the story isn't as strong as it could be.

It's basically got all the beat points that the other systems have, but it has a bit extra besides. Not saying it is definitely the best, but from a purely academic point of view the theory seems more "complete" than any other.

As for structure in writing in general...it all depends on what I'm writing. If I was writing for Hollywood, I'd write a comedy and I'd fit it almost exactly the the template you suggest, simply because there's no point in doing otherwise. I'd put all my effort into making things fast-paced and funny and try to create some genuinely inventive stuff, I wouldn't waste a second worrying about structure.

Other stories I'd work on in different ways. Structure should reflect the type and style of the story...eg if you are writing a film about identity or memory, things that are transient and prone to distortion, it makes sense that the structure would be looser and less linear.

The three act structure is designed to have the maximum emotional impact. That's its great strength and even the likes of Tarkovsky, who was always trying to invent new ways, considerded that it was the best structure yet created. It's weakness tends to be its sheer predictability....watch the first 6 minutes and you can usually tell minute by minute what's going to happen.

Aside from all of that, the biggest problem most writers face is not structure, it tends to be an inability to create interesting story-lines and characters...something that most books don't seem to focus on at all.
Posted by: ajr, July 31st, 2010, 1:07pm; Reply: 3
Everyone probably knows I'm not much of a tight structure writer, so here's my take on storytelling with a beat sheet outline:

If you have a good story to tell, it will naturally have a beginning, a middle and an end. It will naturally have conflict. It will naturally have a protagonist with obstacles to overcome and more obstacles to impede her/him. So by and large these elements should naturally fall where the industry expects them to fall, page wise.

If you don't have this type of story to tell at the outset, then you don't have a screenplay. You may have a novel, depending on theme, but not a script.

I find writers that have to shoehorn and spoonfeed these elements into their work at certain times and on certain pages really don't have a grip on the story they want to tell.
Posted by: Dreamscale, July 31st, 2010, 5:13pm; Reply: 4
I'm with Anthony to a certain degree, but I'm probably even looser with structure than he is.

I am vehemently against doing anything "the way it's supposed to be done", for the sake of doing it the way it's supposed to be done..if that makes sense.  Does that mean that the way I do things is wrong, incorrect, or doesn't achieve the same effect?  I don't think so.

Pretty much my entire life, I've felt this way...maybe it's some weird rebel instinct, I don't know.  But, when I have a job to do, I find the best way to do it...the best way for me to do it, that is.  Sometimes, that means finding the easiest way, or fastest way.  Why others haven't already figured that out is beyond me.  I'm a stickler for efficiency, details, and organization (I'm talking about life, right now, but I think it comes into play in screenwriting as well).

Do I agree with Blake Snyder's philosophy?  No, not at all.  Do I think it works for some movies?  Of course.  For all movies/scripts?  No way!

I'm sure I'm going to draw alot of fire here for saying this, but here goes...

I really don't understand why Blake Snyder has been turned into some sort of God.  He wrote Stop or my Mom will Shoot!  One of the worst movies of all time.  He wrote Blank Check.  OK, great.  What else?  Nothing that I'm aware of.  Why does everyone follow his words like blind dogs?  I seriously don't get it.

I say it alot and I'll say it again right now...IMO, a script/movie either works, or it doesn't work, and it has nothing to do with following along a certain beat sheet or not.

Most of my favorite movies have absolutely nothing in common with Snyder's Beat Sheet, and in my eyes, that's a good thing.
Posted by: James McClung, July 31st, 2010, 5:30pm; Reply: 5

Quoted from RayW
Opening Image: pg 1
Establish Theme: pgs 1 - 5
Setup: pgs 1 - 10
Inciting Incident: 12


This seems to be the only thing with any universal value and I'd say it's more something to strive for than to adhere to. If you've got someone to read past this point, I think it's safe to say they're hooked. Also, why page 12 for the inciting incident? The rule of thumb is the first ten pages.

I'd say more than anything, movies are about making people feel something. If you need a graph to tell you how to do that, you're never gonna get it right.
Posted by: Scar Tissue Films, July 31st, 2010, 5:48pm; Reply: 6

Quoted from Dreamscale
I'm with Anthony to a certain degree, but I'm probably even looser with structure than he is.

I am vehemently against doing anything "the way it's supposed to be done", for the sake of doing it the way it's supposed to be done..if that makes sense.  Does that mean that the way I do things is wrong, incorrect, or doesn't achieve the same effect?  I don't think so.

Pretty much my entire life, I've felt this way...maybe it's some weird rebel instinct, I don't know.  But, when I have a job to do, I find the best way to do it...the best way for me to do it, that is.  Sometimes, that means finding the easiest way, or fastest way.  Why others haven't already figured that out is beyond me.  I'm a stickler for efficiency, details, and organization (I'm talking about life, right now, but I think it comes into play in screenwriting as well).

Do I agree with Blake Snyder's philosophy?  No, not at all.  Do I think it works for some movies?  Of course.  For all movies/scripts?  No way!

I'm sure I'm going to draw alot of fire here for saying this, but here goes...

I really don't understand why Blake Snyder has been turned into some sort of God.  He wrote Stop or my Mom will Shoot!  One of the worst movies of all time.  He wrote Blank Check.  OK, great.  What else?  Nothing that I'm aware of.  Why does everyone follow his words like blind dogs?  I seriously don't get it.

I say it alot and I'll say it again right now...IMO, a script/movie either works, or it doesn't work, and it has nothing to do with following along a certain beat sheet or not.

Most of my favorite movies have absolutely nothing in common with Snyder's Beat Sheet, and in my eyes, that's a good thing.


The entertainment INDUSTRY is continually trying to turn filmmaking into an industrial process. They love their formulas.

A lot of Producers are just money men, careerists, trying to climb the corporate ladder, they are not film experts. The days of filmmakers owning the studios are long gone (Deamworks perhaps excepted).

The execs are all scared of getting fired, so they try and minimise their risk by sticking to things that have been proven to work. That way they can pass the buck and blame the writer or the Director. This is also why budgets get higher and higher, it enables them to say that they gave the Direcotr the best set, the best actors, the best best of everything, so it's not their fault that it went tits up.

It is funny that he's held in such regard to a degree, not even so much because he didn't write much that's good (I suppose you don't need to be good at something to teach it, the same way a mediocre footballer can be the best coach), but because the book itself is quite simplistic.

As Babs said on a podcast recently though. Hollywood wants mediocrity.
Posted by: ajr, July 31st, 2010, 5:54pm; Reply: 7
Following Blake Snyder down a blind alley assumes that everyone wants to sell their material to Hollywood.

Most of the work posted here would be considered independent. And if you don't have an agent there's zero chance of getting your script made at a studio.

I hope Hollywood and mediocrity are very happy together. I'd rather write something that's different and (hopefully) entertaining.
Posted by: Dreamscale, July 31st, 2010, 5:58pm; Reply: 8

Quoted from ajr
I hope Hollywood and mediocrity are very happy together. I'd rather write something that's different and (hopefully) entertaining.



Here Here!  Totally agree, Anthony.
Posted by: electricsatori, July 31st, 2010, 6:10pm; Reply: 9
I want to thank you for posting this!

I have been looking for a good analysis of the beat sheet for awhile.
You created, or found, a superb one.

I guess that answers your question on whether or not we all respect formula.

Look, I'll break it down like this. I'm not writing for the thrill of reviews.
I want to work as a writer and the best way to do that is to learn your craft.

Someday I might be able to leave the formula behind, but I'm smart enough
to know how stupid I really am.
I want to learn all there is about my craft, and that's all there is to it.

If you want to work as a writer, remaining ignorant is not an option.


Thanks again for the post!


-Daniel
Posted by: RayW, August 1st, 2010, 1:00am; Reply: 10
Howdy, Daniel

Just read your notes on "The Unseen" to Yeaster.
http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-horror/m-1278546827/s-15/
HOLY SMOKES!
I am impressed with your attention to detail and communication style.

Any old day now Don may post a 9 page opening scene , "La Malinche", I've submitted for the express reason to see if my sh!t magically looks any different than that of others.
(Silly experiment, I know. Paint chips at Home Depot look different than in your own living room sorta thing.)
I clearly see I'm going to have to step my game up about fifty eight notches.
Please be... easy with me, you bull.
Thank you, in return.

The Blake Snyder material above I scammed off the internet from three different sources uneder a webcrawler search for "snyder beat sheets".
None of which are mine. I just assembled the parts.

>> Someday I might be able to leave the formula behind, but I'm smart enough
to know how stupid I really am. <<

I laugh at and respect your sincere humility.
Good to see I'm in like company.
Posted by: electricsatori, August 1st, 2010, 10:29am; Reply: 11
Hey Ray,

I did the same search and could not find the same sources. Man, I looked everywhere. I am really glad you found and compiled them as you did.

I will most definitely be using the beat sheet, along with some other tools I've developed, on my next project.


Quoted from RayW

Any old day now Don may post a 9 page opening scene , "La Malinche", I've submitted for the express reason to see if my sh!t magically looks any different than that of others.


Just let me know when it is up and I will be happy to review it!


Quoted from RayW

Please be... easy with me, you bull.
Thank you, in return.


Careful what you ask for, I might just go easy on you. All I ask in return is that if you do a review for me, that you be as absolutely harsh as you can be. I know it sounds strange, but I would rather have someone tear my work to shreds before I submit it to a production company.



Quoted from RayW

I laugh at and respect your sincere humility.
Good to see I'm in like company.


My mom made me write that.  ::)

-Daniel

Posted by: Blakkwolfe, August 1st, 2010, 10:58am; Reply: 12
I like Blake Snyder. Save the Cat has alot of the same information as other books, (Syd Field, McKee, Etc.) but is written in an easy, less didactic style. I'm writing my 7WC under this framework, so we'll see how that goes.

More info can be found at http://www.blakesnyder.com.

However, that being said, it is useful as a guideline, not as a rule. Micheal Hauge has a similiar template at http://www.screenplaymastery.com/.

All different routes to the same destination.

I also tried Dramatica Pro. 80 bucks and it still melts my brain. I suppose if I took a week and dedicated my life to mastering the nuances, I could find it usefull-but as it is, it just sits on my laptop and laughs at me.
Posted by: Scar Tissue Films, August 1st, 2010, 11:27am; Reply: 13

Quoted from Blakkwolfe
I like Blake Snyder. Save the Cat has alot of the same information as other books, (Syd Field, McKee, Etc.) but is written in an easy, less didactic style. I'm writing my 7WC under this framework, so we'll see how that goes.

More info can be found at http://www.blakesnyder.com.

However, that being said, it is useful as a guideline, not as a rule. Micheal Hauge has a similiar template at http://www.screenplaymastery.com/.

All different routes to the same destination.

I also tried Dramatica Pro. 80 bucks and it still melts my brain. I suppose if I took a week and dedicated my life to mastering the nuances, I could find it usefull-but as it is, it just sits on my laptop and laughs at me.


Yeah, it's pretty complex and takes a long time to get to know inside out. I still don't have a complete grasp on all the things you can do.

You could probably write a script in the time it takes to learn the program.

Still...I think it's a very interesting package. It's a particularly good analytical tool for when you can tell something isn't working, but can't quite work out why.
Posted by: JCShadow, August 1st, 2010, 7:09pm; Reply: 14
I have read a LOT of books on writing screenplays and I had always heard about "Save The Cat" but I figured I had read everything I needed too. It was thanks to Babz that I decided to pick up Blake Snyder's book at Borders and give it a read.

I thought it was brilliant and brought things into focus in a way I hadn't seen before. It broke the script down in a very simplistic way and he made the structure of story so much easier to understand than any previous books I had read.

I think what many writers get caught up in is the idea that because a person writes a book about structure that it hardens them even more against it. I have never really been able to make sense of it other than the fact that maybe some writers don't like being told there is a definite form to follow. Not in one single book that I have read does it ever say that "this" or "that" has to happen on "this" or "that" page. The idea in itself is quite ludicrous. Think about it. All scripts vary in length and therefore could never always have the same things happening on the same pages.

What some people are interpreting as hard and unchangeable rules of structure are in reality "guidelines". If your "catalyst" happens on page 10 or 15 instead of page 12, I seriously doubt your script will fall apart. And I am pretty sure that if your plot points don't occur around pages 25 and 85 your script will be just fine. IF you have done your job as writer and properly developed your story, action, and characters.

From what I have read in almost all screenwriting books, these "guidelines" tend to be universal. I think too many writers want to believe, either out of inability to understand the structure or perhaps sheer obstinance, that because someone said there has to be a sort of structure to story that it somehow inhibits their ability as writers and tries to strangle their creativity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The "form" is always in a state of flux and is always going to change as newer generations of writers come on the scene. We certainly don't do things the way they were done in the days of silent films, nor does story follow the same flow as movies did in the 60's or 70's. The structure of story has even changed as recently as the 80's and 90's.

I hear a lot of writers claim they don't care about structure because they don't care what Hollywood or producers think. That they do it for fun and they don't care what people think or ever getting noticed. Really? Then why be on this board? Why post your scripts? Why bother getting the advice of others and why turn around and rewrite to make your work better? If you don't care what people think or whether or not your work gets produced, why share it at all?

I think we are all here for the same thing, at least the writers among us. And that is to get something produced or at the very least a bit of validation we are on the right track. You may not care about the money and you may not care about fame, but I guarantee one thing. You DO care about your art and all art has form to it.

So do I believe in the structure or paradigm of a script? You bet I do.
Does one stand above the rest? I don't think so. From Syd Field to Dave Trottier to Blake Synder and beyond, they are all saying the same thing and trying to teach the same principles. They ALL need to be read and thrown into the tool box.

Nothing can exist without form.

But... this is all just my humble opinion and may not be worth a hill of beans.

Peace,
John
Posted by: Scar Tissue Films, August 1st, 2010, 11:52pm; Reply: 15
This is from another forum in which I had a similar conversation. Low and behold, who should turn up but:


Quoted Text
I'm chiming in on the discussion of the hero's journey structure as one author responsible for publicizing the thing, in my book THE WRITER'S JOURNEY. Yes, I am the Chris Vogler who wrote that book. It was my attempt to open a discussion (exactly like this one) about Joseph Campbell's concept of the hero's journey in mythology, and how it could be adapted for movie story-telling. I'm glad some people find it useful in their writing and unbothered if some people don't. There are plenty of ways to think about writing and you can get on very well without ever considering the hero's journey idea for a second. In fact, in my own writing and consulting I use many other templates and languages, like the lingo, philosophy and structure of vaudeville, the military, engineering, animal behavior, fairy tales, pop songs, architecture, dance and psychology, without ever mentioning the hero's journey model.

It's an interesting game to ask is this or that movie a hero's journey, and look, I've been playing it since I first opened my mouth to talk about it. From day one people came up to me and said "But what about Movie X or Y?" that seemed to defy the model, challenging me to find a hero's journey in it. Not hard -- IF you are not taking "the hero's journey" literally as all twelve elements of my highly arbitrary outline in precisely the order I give them in the book. I never claimed that every movie has, or should have, every element of my outline in exactly that order, in fact I STRONGLY WARN AGAINST IT. Such a movie would be predictable and boring, since the audience knows the outline very well. It's the variations on the theme that they come to see, the surprising departures from the familiar model that make them think about it and experience it all over again.

I looked over the list of films that was put forward as a challenge to the ubiquity of the hero's journey. Seems like a tedious exercise to compare them point by point to a rigid, literal version of the outline, and where do you draw your line about when a story qualifies as an Official Hero's Journey Movie or is disqualified? How many departures from the precise outline are allowed before the buzzer sounds? If you say three strikes and you're out, then I would expect most or all of them would strike out, because an umpire could say "Aha! I don't see a Refusal of the Call there, a Mentor shows up in Act Three instead of Act One, and where's the big Ordeal in the middle of Act Two?" But that doesn't get us very far, because the hero's journey is so subjective. I could make the case that all we have shown is how flexible the hero's journey can be -- you can purposely omit or rearrange its steps and yet someone in the hero's journey frame of mind will still perceive it as a story with all the energy and feeling of a hero's journey. And someone who isn't in that frame of mind will not see a hero's journey there no matter how long they gaze at it. You're either on the bus or not.

Who cares anyway? The point (about writing) is utility. If it's useful, use it. If it's not useful, if it gets in your way, makes you feel handcuffed, confuses you, or just seems bogus to you, don't. There are plenty of other approaches. The rule of "What happens next?" is perfectly adequate for all screenwriting situations, as are the variations on "Get the hero up a tree, shake the tree, get him down again" cited by various contributors.

The hero's journey idea is a metaphor, and not, I hope, a cookbook recipe, a mathematical equation or a chemical formula. It's not the answer to every screenwriting problem. It's just another tool - a very versatile and useful one, I think -- in the story-teller's tool box.


The internet is ace.

Anyway, although this post is about a different template, I think the main points are still relevant.
Posted by: RayW, August 2nd, 2010, 9:55am; Reply: 16

Quoted from ScarTissueFilms
.. although this post is about a different template, I think the main points are still relevant.

Yes.
This is EXACTLY what I was beating the bushes and shaking trees for. "ALTERNATIVES TO".
By all means, I don't want to imply any suggestion BS'BSs are Holy writ to which transgressions deserve a good stoning/spanking or at least a toss of a spec screenplay onto the slush pile.



I like how Mike Cornetto put this:
>> My take on the whole beat sheet thing is that it is useful if you are trying to sell your script in Hollywood... If you are trying to sell your script elsewhere, then I think you probably have some leeway with structure. <<

I see a whooole lotta truth to what you said:
>> The execs are all scared of getting fired, so they try and minimise their risk by sticking to things that have been proven to work. <<
There's a whole conversation there in how this mentality may someday lead to a monoculture to be toppled. And another conversation about our cultural disservice until that happens.
Additionally, I also agree with you and Dreamscale about Snyders high holding. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0811414/
Pfft! "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" is his Biz Fanfare?
<cough, tony gilroy, cough, brian helgeland, cough, david mamet>
However, if George Lucas can make more money off merchandising than his films I don't really have a legit beef with Blake Snyder making more cabbage offa "Save The Cat" et al than "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot".
I bet the guy, even deceased, is making more than most of us.
Our gracious benefactor here, Don, excluded. Surely he's rolling in it.  ;)

Anthony's bell ringer:
>> Most of the work posted here would be considered independent. And if you don't have an agent there's zero chance of getting your script made at a studio. <<
Distilled truth. Like a sip of Jack Daniels.

I posed this question not only for my own benefit but also for that of others.
As you can see there are currently 250 views (at least a dozen of which are mine) with eleven germane replies, confirmation there was some broad interest in this aspect of story & structure mechanics.

Do you wanna sell a script to Fox, WB, Columbia or Universal? Movie in a Box may be the best way to go to ensure $X00K against $X00K. Shake N bake screenplay. It's like Mad Libs for Movies!
Do you know your story's structure is... unique? The you'll know which agents to invest your time & effort shopping to.

*** Enlightened Personal Moment***
Since good writing is really re-writing, write two different versions of your feature stories.
First one should be "true art", the real story. Then write the Hollywood whore version.


I don't really wanna sound like I'm wrapping up this thread's summation already.
(Question's only been posed 72hrs.)
So, please, keep the PoVs and experiences rolling in!
Thank you, all!




Posted by: Scription, August 3rd, 2010, 12:40pm; Reply: 17

Quoted from ajr
Everyone probably knows I'm not much of a tight structure writer, so here's my take on storytelling with a beat sheet outline:

If you have a good story to tell, it will naturally have a beginning, a middle and an end. It will naturally have conflict. It will naturally have a protagonist with obstacles to overcome and more obstacles to impede her/him. So by and large these elements should naturally fall where the industry expects them to fall, page wise.

If you don't have this type of story to tell at the outset, then you don't have a screenplay. You may have a novel, depending on theme, but not a script.

I find writers that have to shoehorn and spoonfeed these elements into their work at certain times and on certain pages really don't have a grip on the story they want to tell.


I couldn't agree more.

Exactly what I was thinking.

I mean, if you have been doing it for a while, you look at a few scripts, naturally you are going to adapt a sense of what is going to happen next.

The other day I wrote a 100 page screenplay in one sitting. I had that script there for a year with only an opening.

But once I focused on it, I naturally had an idea what is going to happen here, we have conflict against the loss-of-hope, and the helpful characters with the arrogant ones to create tention.

But honestly, if I am ever stuck, I just look at the 3-Act-Structure. That's the simple it can get with me, but with that Beat-Sheet it just confuses me.  ::)
Posted by: Dreamscale, August 3rd, 2010, 1:00pm; Reply: 18
You wrote a 100 page screenplay in a single sitting?

WOW!  Impressive...very impressive!
Posted by: Scription, August 3rd, 2010, 1:07pm; Reply: 19

Quoted from Dreamscale
You wrote a 100 page screenplay in a single sitting?

WOW!  Impressive...very impressive!


You have no idea  8)

This is coming from a guy who takes years just to get a 50-page screenplay lol!

But yeah, I started 10 in the morning, and ended it at 12 at night.

But it's the end of a trilogy, so that way I had an idea what to do and how to end it.

I think it was easier that way. If not, I wouldn't have gotten that far.

It's hard to keep going sometimes... Well, I do. ::)
Posted by: Scoob, August 3rd, 2010, 11:47pm; Reply: 20
I picked up SAVE THE CAT! the other day and I agree it is simplistic but a thoroughly enjoyable read. I brought it more for learning about typical structure so it delivers answers in that respect.

Regarding the beat sheet, it's something I have never done before but I'm using to rewrite an old script I have up here and see how it ends up. It wont be exactly how he has it, but I'll try to match it best I can to see what results it brings.

I believe his beat sheet, or any beat sheet, is just there to help. It's a blueprint of your script and working with it can only make tightening up your story that much more easier. You can spot flaws if you know where the beats lay, and if called up on why a certain part of your script doesn't work so well, if you have it locked down so tightly, it might make it that much more easier when rewriting.

I agree it is aimed more at those that really want to write a Hollywood movie, he even states so in the book. I don't know much of his writing credits and I'm not a fan of the ones I know of but I would say it's helpful and insightful to a point. I can also see others point of view about having freedom in writing and not just going along with the gang and coming up with formulaic crap.
I, like most of you guys I imagine , don't like any restraint when I try and write and that goes for structure aswell. If I believe I have a good story and can tell it in a way that can differenate from what I've seen before, I'm all for it.
It's probably one of the reasons why I like to write, so I can put across a story in movie mode that wont be too predictable in how it works. It gets to the point where you watch a movie and you can time what might happen exactly by the counter on the DVD player.
But then these are movies that have been made, and although I doubt I will ever have the satisfaction of seeing something I write become part of my DVD collection, if you stick to certain guidelines you might give yourself a better chance. I think that's really all the beat sheet is. Just a helpful hand if you need one.
Posted by: RayW, August 7th, 2010, 1:58pm; Reply: 21
Posted by: nybabz, August 7th, 2010, 4:10pm; Reply: 22
I am impressed with the thoughtful, detailed and rich emotion on this subject. Here's, for me, where the rubber hits the road; there are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MANY writers out there WHO THINK they can write, who do NOT have one bit of sense about THE CRAFT of writing; I am talking about folks who DON'T read scripts each week (as that is the only REAL way to learn how to get your story from your head to the page), yay, I digress-so FEW out there, who can even spell, that THE BEAT SHEET ala Synder has become our agency's litmus test. Does that mean if it doesn't BEAT OUT we won't sign the writer? Uh. Duh. Of course not. But if your script DOESN'T beat out YOU MUST HAVE a great story, well CRAFTED, with narrative tug (ie I simply must turn the page to see what happens next.) IF I CAN get passionate and if I think I can shop it I will try. NO PROMISES. My clients are pros; they understand A SCRIPT IS ONE THING ONLY; A DOCUMENTED STORY TO INVITE INVITE INVITE collaboration. Unless they are going to shoot it themselves. NOTHING can exist without form really SAYS it, and says it well. HUGS to all of you for even making the effort. HERE'S A SECRET. I get to 'SEE' tons of great movies without ever leaving my house thanks to you all. And coming soon, one of my clients will do a Babz Buzz show FOR ME and let you in on THE NEXT 'BIG' thing... trust me, you WON'T want to miss it.....BB
Posted by: Scoob, August 9th, 2010, 2:31am; Reply: 23
Thank you Babz for coming on to this forum and posting your thoughts - I think it really has helped to invigorate a lot of writers who may have been down in the doldrums and were feeling a little "meh" about things.

Looking forward to the next podcast.

Regarding the beat sheet, I think it's well worth trying out. I tried it out earlier with just a random idea and came up with a pretty solid one within a couple of hours.
It wont write the script for you, but I can see how usefull it can be.
Posted by: Darjan, April 25th, 2016, 4:57pm; Reply: 24
I was in love with storytelling in all forms since I was aware of myself. I have watched movies from 40+ (maybe 50+) countries all over the world, with different interpretations and approaches to film making and storytelling from different cultures and mindset. What I have noticed, all of them have a lot of structural similarities, which is totally expected, and just recently European and some others around the world film makers started to follow this Hollywood guide beat by beat. People who does this aim for worldwide presentation of their films and spreading their BUSINESS worldwide and Hollywood proves every year how successful they are. Some of them still don't hitting the themes that are interesting worldwide so they stay under the radar despite all the efforts, and others simply don't want to fit in and just continue doing own thing but accepting a form and structure that is proven to bring pace and dramatic experience in more entertaining way.

I don't think any of guides or beat sheet's that so called script gurus and doctors made is limiting, it still gives you creative freedom and lot of space to improvise. I started learning about screenwriting craft something like 2 years ago and after reading books and listening interviews by/with Syd Field, Robert McKee, John Truby, Blake Snyder, Michael Hauge, Peter Russell, Richard Walter and some others on YT channel Film Courage who made their way to Hollywood, it's obvious all of them writing and talking about same thing just in their own "language". You have to follow their rules if you want to play their game. They want a fruit and you are a seed. Hollywood wants banana, Asia want rice, Europe wants orange and you need to give them a proper seed to help them grow desired fruit. But, if you are really good in planting they might hire you to adjust and improve your skills for their needs even if you gave them wrong seed.
Posted by: Darjan, April 29th, 2016, 8:47pm; Reply: 25
I have watched today fantastic Hungarian Oscar winner, Son of Saul. Great storytelling, reminding of famous European film makers of 20th century but very refreshing in every way while hitting beats of Snyder's BS, much faster and grabbing than it's expected as a result.
Posted by: Jeremiah Johnson, April 29th, 2016, 8:56pm; Reply: 26
Wow, you dug up an old post!  But since it's about the Beat Sheets, it reminded me that if you purchase Final Draft, you get Blake Snyder's Save the Cat story structure software free.  Ends tomorrow April 30th.

I'm probably going to get it.  I've been using Trelby and like it ok, but really think I'll like using Final Draft on my ipad as well.  And NO, I don't work for the company!   ;D
Posted by: eldave1, April 29th, 2016, 8:59pm; Reply: 27

Quoted from Darjan
I have watched today fantastic Hungarian Oscar winner, Son of Saul. Great storytelling, reminding of famous European film makers of 20th century but very refreshing in every way while hitting beats of Snyder's BS, much faster and grabbing than it's expected as a result.


The sequel could be "Better Call Son of Saul."
Posted by: eldave1, April 29th, 2016, 9:01pm; Reply: 28

Quoted from Jeremiah Johnson
Wow, you dug up an old post!  But since it's about the Beat Sheets, it reminded me that if you purchase Final Draft, you get Blake Snyder's Save the Cat story structure software free.  Ends tomorrow April 30th.

I'm probably going to get it.  I've been using Trelby and like it ok, but really think I'll like using Final Draft on my ipad as well.  And NO, I don't work for the company!   ;D


I am a Final Draft user and am very happy with the product. That being said, I think I would not have purchased it if it came with the Save the Cat story structure.
Posted by: eldave1, April 29th, 2016, 9:03pm; Reply: 29

Quoted from Darjan
I was in love with storytelling in all forms since I was aware of myself. I have watched movies from 40+ (maybe 50+) countries all over the world, with different interpretations and approaches to film making and storytelling from different cultures and mindset. What I have noticed, all of them have a lot of structural similarities, which is totally expected, and just recently European and some others around the world film makers started to follow this Hollywood guide beat by beat. People who does this aim for worldwide presentation of their films and spreading their BUSINESS worldwide and Hollywood proves every year how successful they are. Some of them still don't hitting the themes that are interesting worldwide so they stay under the radar despite all the efforts, and others simply don't want to fit in and just continue doing own thing but accepting a form and structure that is proven to bring pace and dramatic experience in more entertaining way.

I don't think any of guides or beat sheet's that so called script gurus and doctors made is limiting, it still gives you creative freedom and lot of space to improvise. I started learning about screenwriting craft something like 2 years ago and after reading books and listening interviews by/with Syd Field, Robert McKee, John Truby, Blake Snyder, Michael Hauge, Peter Russell, Richard Walter and some others on YT channel Film Courage who made their way to Hollywood, it's obvious all of them writing and talking about same thing just in their own "language". You have to follow their rules if you want to play their game. They want a fruit and you are a seed. Hollywood wants banana, Asia want rice, Europe wants orange and you need to give them a proper seed to help them grow desired fruit. But, if you are really good in planting they might hire you to adjust and improve your skills for their needs even if you gave them wrong seed.


I would rather be beaten than use a beat sheet. Beginning - Middle - End - pretty much does the trick.
Posted by: Jeremiah Johnson, April 29th, 2016, 9:11pm; Reply: 30

Quoted from eldave1


The sequel could be "Better Call Son of Saul."


I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!  ;D
Posted by: Jeremiah Johnson, April 29th, 2016, 9:13pm; Reply: 31

Quoted from eldave1


I am a Final Draft user and am very happy with the product. That being said, I think I would not have purchased it if it came with the Save the Cat story structure.


Yeah, some like them some don't.  I've read the reviews of the software, and really doesn't look worth $100 and even though it's "free", they have Final Draft at one of the highest prices I've seen (which probably pays for the Snyder software).
Posted by: eldave1, April 29th, 2016, 9:34pm; Reply: 32
I think they have a trial version you can try free for 30 days - so it doesn't cost you anything to give it a spin.

I have used Celtx, Standard Word and Final Draft. I just happen to like FD - to me - the $80 I paid (price at the time) was worth it. Tastes vary in this area.
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