Thanks to Cats! Jennifer Chang and Jose Silerio for their beat sheet of the 1960 Oscar®-winning script (Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen) from Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. The Apartment won 5 Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Director for Wilder.
And speaking of winning, congratulations to the winner of The Apartment Beat Sheet Contest (sorry for the delay in announcing this): Sue Kylen Berg, a Seattle screenwriter who is a graduate of the University of Washington Extension Screenwriting Program in 1997 and Blake Snyder’s Seattle Beat Sheet workshop in July 2008. Great work, Sue!
We hope our fellow Cats! can appreciate how this beloved piece of cinema, which predates Save the Cat! by 45 years, hits Blake’s 15 beats so cleanly. We can’t say it enough: good story structure is timeless!
THE APARTMENT BEAT SHEET
1. Opening Image: C.C. Baxter sits in an office where he’s clearly a cog in a machine. He works overtime to avoid the foot traffic, but also to avoid interrupting the activities of executives to whom he’s lent out his apartment for illicit rendezvous.
2. Theme Stated: When an executive, who regularly uses Baxter’s apartment, is asked who owns the apartment, he merely replies, “What’s the difference? Some schnook that works in the office.”
3. Set-Up: Baxter’s execs set him up for a promotion with hopes that he won’t let them down. Even when he’s in bed already, Baxter still gives up his apartment when another executive calls him late at night to bring a girl.
4. Catalyst: Baxter goes to Sheldrake’s office and is confronted with the nature of his dealings with the other execs. Sheldrake wants in.
5. Debate: Baxter goes along with Sheldrake’s request in return for the promotion he’s been coveting.
6. Break into Two: With his new confidence, Baxter asks Fran Kubelik, the elevator girl, out on a date, but she says she has an engagement right before.
7. B Story: Fran and Sheldrake have a meeting and discuss their past fling, and his intention to resume it. Baxter is ditched at the play while Fran and Sheldrake visit his apartment, as scheduled.
8. Fun and Games: Baxter gets his promotion to Junior Executive and is given his own office. Meanwhile, the other execs aren’t happy that Baxter has stopped sharing his apartment with them. Baxter makes a bigger, more confident play for Fran, trying to impress her with his new junior executive status. All the while, Sheldrake is telling him about his latest fling. Baxter is oblivious that it’s with Fran.
9. Midpoint: Fran grows wise to Sheldrake’s philandering at the office Xmas party. Baxter discovers by way of a broken mirror she left at his apartment that Fran is Sheldrake’s mistress.
10. Bad Guys Close In: Sheldrake takes Fran to Baxter’s apartment on Christmas eve. When Fran realizes how little she matters to Sheldrake, she overdoses on pills there. Baxter brings a random girl home, drunk, and finds Fran passed out. He employs the help of the next-door doctor to bring her to. Baxter promises to help Sheldrake handle the situation with Fran while he keeps up appearances with his family. He keeps an eye on Fran for the next 48 hours. He plays gin rummy with her and listens to her while she recounts her pathetic history with men, and admits to still loving Sheldrake. Nonetheless, Baxter takes care of her, making sure she’s fine as he entertains her with his own stories and quirkiness. The other execs give up Baxter’s whereabouts to Fran’s brother-in-law, Matushka, when he comes to the office looking for her.
11. All Is Lost: In an altercation with Matushka, Baxter takes the blame for Fran’s suicide attempt to protect the secret of her affair, and he’s punched for it. The brother-in-law takes Fran away.
12. Dark Night of the Soul: But before Fran leaves, she thanks Baxter with a kiss. It’s the wake-up call he needs to realize he’s madly in love with her.
13. Break into Three: Baxter makes plans to tell Sheldrake that he’s in love with Fran and can take her off his hands.
14. Finale: He finds that Sheldrake has been kicked out by his wife, and plans to continue with Fran. Sheldrake gives Baxter a promotion. Later, however, when Sheldrake asks to use his apartment for Fran, Baxter refuses, and quits on New Years’ Eve. When Fran learns about this on a date with Sheldrake, she realizes she’s in love with Baxter. She leaves Sheldrake at the party and runs to Baxter’s apartment.
15. Final Image: Baxter tells Fran he loves her. They play gin rummy. He is no longer alone in his apartment.