Our thanks to Texas-based Machete screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez, an alum of Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet Workshop and Master Class who has led Beat Sheet Workshops in San Antonio and Austin. He has two features in development and a new television writing gig on a premiere series debuting on cable in 2014.
It made perfect sense at the time. Okay, so it wasn’t the last time I spoke to Blake, it was practically the first time. I had enrolled in his beat sheet workshop in Austin a few years ago. During the workshop, I tried to hammer out the beats for an animated film about a raccoon who wants to direct movies. It was called Hollywoods. With a camera made of sticks and twigs (a la Dennis Hopper’s Last Movie) and sitting atop a crane (the bird), Rocky shoots his make-believe masterpiece, but it’s just that: Make-believe. When the nephew of a big shot Hollywood exec takes his film crew to the woods to make a scary movie, they get spooked and leave their equipment behind. You can guess the rest.
The finale takes place at the Oscars as Rocky and crew storm the Kodak [now Dolby] Theatre to reclaim the movie. Blake thought it was a stellar idea, even though it was a double kiss of death for a spec: animated, about Hollywood.
But Blake pumped me up with excitement about it. I said, “I should have some idea but I don’t know what I’ll do for a sequel.”
Blake replied, “Cannes?”
He had the irrepressible ability to illuminate everything he touched. He saw bones, muscles, and sinew in story, a Dr. Frankenstein creating something new from old pieces, stepping back in awe and shouting, “It’s alive! ALIVE!”
In the time since his untimely passing, I have thought about his kindness, his irreverence, his genuine love for storytelling almost every day. In the glut of screenwriting books and ersatz gurus, Blake didn’t simplify a formula, he popularized a new way of looking at the process. He didn’t put a “script in a can” product on the shelf, he laid out a set of tools for any writer’s toolbox to use or refuse, to guide but never to fill in the blank. His Save the Cat! method doesn’t prescribe but rather describes an approach to story crafting. That was always the spirit in which it was intended.
So when I think of Blake Snyder and of the times we spoke, I remember one word, or at least its homonym.
Yes, Blake. We can.
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