Our thanks to Master Cat! Geoff Harris for this breakdown of the intoxicating 8-minute film that’s piling up well-deserved awards, including Best Short, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress from the 2013 London International Film Festival. And be sure to note the link and password that will allow you to screen the film at the bottom of this blog!
I had to see the short film, Love Scene, for myself. In it, my daughter Caitlin portrays movie star Vivien Leigh. And to look like the actress — best known for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind — she had to wear green contact lenses, dye her hair black, and speak in a slight British accent.
When I saw the film, I was blown away. (And this isn’t just a proud papa talking.) Caitlin had been transformed into Vivien Leigh, who was taking her screen test in 1935 London. But what surprised me as much as the acting and the look of the film was the writing. It was stellar — playful, tragic, and alluring. Love Scene was a mini-movie in eight minutes. In what was essentially one scene — only seven-and-a-half pages long — there was a three-act structure, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It was if writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf had channeled Blake Snyder and his 15 Story Beats while writing her short film.
On this website, a couple of years ago, I blogged about using the STC! Story Beats — originally conceived for feature film writing — to structure a TV pilot. And, in another blog on this site, I wrote about how a fiction writer could employ those same beats when writing a novel. This got me to thinking: perhaps the Story Beats could also work in a short film.
I watched the short film again and again (hey, it’s only a little more than eight minutes long!) and even read its script several times (hey, it’s only seven-and-a-half pages long!), and my supposition was correct: Love Scene hits STC! Story Beats. From this one example, we could extrapolate that the Beats could be applied to short films in general in order to make their stories resonate.
Wolf made the film to raise interest and backing for the full-length screenplay she wrote that chronicles the 25-year love affair of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier and is based on the book Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leigh by Alexander Walker.
(Note: Before I break down the short into its Story Beats, it should be mentioned that there was no B Story in this short film [Editor: Some commentators have discovered a B Story; see the Comments below], and the Fun and Games beat occurred much earlier than usual.)
Title: Love Scene
Writer/Director: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Logline: In 1935, a relatively unknown actress takes her first screen test in front of a renowned British film director, only to reveal her need for true love with a famous actor who, tragically, is already married.
Genre: Buddy Love
Sub-Genre: Epic Love, Forbidden Love
Opening Image: Through a Camera Lens, a blonde actress twirling for the camera at a screen test comes into focus. A similar image – blurred that comes into focus – is repeated when main character Vivien Leigh is introduced, signifying the blurred line between art and real life.
Set-Up: Vivien states her situation at home: she’s married to a barrister and, together, they have a daughter who just turned three years old.
Theme Stated: Vivien remarks what she needs: true love with the man she’s supposed to be with… famous actor Laurence Olivier.
Catalyst: Director Basil Dean points out that Olivier and Vivien are married to other people.
Debate: Vivien argues that Olivier and she are meant to be together, that it’s (to use an STC! term) a “journey” she should go on.
Break into Two: Vivien’s goal is to be with Olivier.
Fun and Games: Vivien moves out of her Act One world by calling out Basil for drinking during her screen test and she asks for a dry martini.
Midpoint: Vivien argues that she and Olivier should be together because their love is similar to the love of such Shakespeare characters as Hamlet and Ophelia, Romeo and Juliet, and Antony and Cleopatra.
Bad Guys Close In: Basil points out that Vivien has compared her love for Olivier with Shakespeare’s tragedies.
All Is Lost: Basil’s remark has cut Vivien to the quick. She stands in silence for a brief moment.
Dark Night of the Soul: Vivien agrees with Basil that she and Oliver are “…star-crossed lovers ‘til the end of time.” Tears roll down her cheeks.
Break into Three: Basil wonders if Vivien is acting right now or telling the truth.
Finale: Vivien asks Basil which answer will get her the part.
Final Image (not counting the tag under the closing credits): A close-up of Vivien through the Camera Lens – clearly in focus.
You can watch the short film by selecting this link and using the password: elephantwalk.
Thanks to Master Cat! Alvaro Rodriguez for his thoughts following this year’s Austin event:
In 2008, I didn’t know the Austin Film Festival from Adam. I asked an Austin filmmaker about it and was told that South by Southwest was the bigger deal. That fall, I was invited to lunch during the festival with a television executive and a well-known actor/producer/director and discovered to my surprise that AFF was the WRITERS’ FESTIVAL. What had I been missing? I pledged to buy my badge for the following year’s fest, attended, and changed my life.
In 2010, through the kind efforts of Cat! alum Melody Lopez, I was invited to attend the festival as a panelist. I would now sit on the dais with professional writers I felt I had somehow conned into thinking I was one of them: Shane Black, David Peoples, Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, Jeff Lowell, Craig Mazin, etc. I felt as if I had been adopted by a foster family of screenwriters and that soon my coach would turn back into a pumpkin. But by keeping the momentum from AFF, energized by the spirit of the festival, my coach has a new set of wheels. I’ve seen it happen to others, too. Like the song says, it can happen to you.
Here’s why AFF is a win-win investment for screenwriters at all levels of experience and exposure:
Thanks to Cory Milles for this outstanding Blakean tribute to the classic show:
He has lived for over a millennium, traversing time and space as he explores the farthest reaches of the unknown. He has single-handedly fought back entire armies, saving our planet from total annihilation. He often travels with a companion, yet is perhaps the loneliest individual in the universe. And he is known by one simple name: the Doctor.
The BBC television series Doctor Who reaches a milestone tomorrow (November 23, 2013), celebrating its 50th anniversary. Devoted fans across the globe, affectionately known as “Whovians,” eagerly see this as a cause for rejoicing. Not many television shows have such a lasting legacy, let alone make their mark on popular culture to such an extent.
The show, which began in 1963, follows the adventures of a man known only as the Doctor. Hailing from the planet Gallifrey, he is a member of a race known as the Time Lords. Desiring to explore time and space, he stole a piece of technology known as the TARDIS, which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Its chameleon circuit, which usually cloaks it as an ordinary object to help it blend in to its suroundings, became stuck as a Police Call Box, and it has remained like that ever since. The iconic image of the TARDIS has come to stand for Doctor Who and is recognizable by fans and non-fans alike.
Audiences first met the Doctor, played by William Hartnell, on November 23, 1963. When two schoolteachers followed the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan Foreman home in “An Unearthly Child,” they discovered the TARDIS in a scrapyard. As the teachers stumbled into the phone box, only to discover that it is bigger on the inside, they learned that the Doctor is a time-traveler. They began a journey with him as companions, moving throughout time and space, experiencing history in real life. Their adventures took them to 100,000 BC, to the Aztec Empire, and to places not of this world.
Throughout the show’s history, the Doctor would go on to meet new companions who would travel with him. He, himself, would change as well through a process known as regeneration, a Time Lord ability to heal his body when it was close to death. Of course, even though he was the same man with each regeneration, his personality would change along with his physical appearance. This allowed for a variety of actors to portray the Doctor until 1989, including Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. A television movie starring Paul McGann failed to launch a reboot of the series in 1996, but it still holds a place in the hearts of many fans.
The show received a new dose of life when the series was brought back to television by Russell T. Davies in 2005. At the same time campy and serious, the show gained a huge fan base, both old and new. There was something about the Doctor that made audiences gravitate toward this Gallifreyan and follow him through his regenerations.
What is it about this show and this character that makes grown adults go to the store to shell out $30 for a plastic sonic screwdriver? What is it that makes people want to dress up like a Dalek or build their own TARDIS bookcase? Clearly, there is something about this character and these stories that strike a chord in the psyche of our culture, one that we can tap into as writers. Furthermore, by examining Doctor Who through Blake Snyder’s work, we can understand some of the reasons for its success. Blake laid out some of the principles of good storytelling, and they seem to be just what the Doctor ordered.
Blake’s book series is called Save the Cat!® for a reason. By giving the audience a reason to root for the hero, the writer creates an emotional link between the audience and the character. We learn to have feelings for the protagonist, wanting him or her to succeed because we like them as if they were a real person.
The Doctor not only saves the cat, he saves the entire universe. Through his travels in time and space, he is thrown into situations where he must act for the betterment of others, often putting his own life at risk. In staring down threatening aliens bent on humanity’s destruction, he boldly declares that the planet Earth and its people are very dear to him, and he will defend them until his last breath. How can anyone not like a guy who says that?
But that’s not the only reason we like him. Audiences love his quirks, his mannerisms, and the ways he is slightly different with every regeneration. They know that he is the same Doctor deep down, but there are slight nuances that set him apart from previous versions of himself. Watching him interact with others around him, one can’t help but entertain the notion that if he were to show up, standing outside his blue TARDIS, beckoning them to join him, that they would do so in a heartbeat.
And while Doctor Who demonstrates the Save the Cat! concept, the show also seems to reflect even more of Blake’s ideas. Take, for example, Blake’s different story genres. One might expect a show about time travel to be straightforward science fiction, but in the case of Doctor Who, the stories transcend the traditional genres, and this is where Blake’s story types really stand out. Is Doctor Who a Superhero story? While the Doctor does not have superpowers in the Marvel or DC sense, he does have something that sets him apart from all others. He can travel through time and space, speaks every language, has two hearts and heightened senses, can regenerate into a different body when he is about to die, and possesses a keen intellect. Clearly, these attributes set him apart from everyone else.
As in all Superhero stories, the blessing is also a curse. For the Doctor, this curse exists in that he is the last of the Time Lords. His entire race has been wiped out during the last Time War, leaving him completely alone to explore the universe unaccompanied. And while he may enlist the help and company of various companions along the way, their partnership often leads to tragedy and heartbreak. At times, he faces desperation and loneliness that few can comprehend.
While he doesn’t have one specific nemesis per se, he does have enemies. First, there is the Master, an errant Time Lord who surfaces occasionally to wreak havoc for the Doctor. There are the Daleks, machines housing organic creatures, patterned after the Nazis, bent on destroying anyone and anything that is not part of their pure “Master Race.” The Cybermen frequently appear, human minds trapped inside mechanical bodies. The Weeping Angels, some of the most terrifying creatures in existence, pose the problem in that they are trapped in statue form until the person looking at them blinks, at which point they can move with blinding speed and attack. And then there’s the race of aliens known as The Silence, bearing a resemblance to the character in Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. When someone looks at a Silence, they can clearly see the alien, but once the viewer turns away, they have no memory of having seen them. And of course, this is only scratching the surface. The Doctor also faces the Sontarans, the Slitheen, the Vashta Narada, the Silurians, the Ood, and the Zygons, just to name a few.
Because of all of these enemies, the show can sometimes resemble the Monster in the House story type. Quite often, a monster or alien will wreak havoc, leading the Doctor to explore the situation in more detail. And of course, usually the monster is connected to a secret sin of sorts. An excellent example of this is the episode “Silence in the Library,” in which the Doctor and his companion Donna visit a futuristic library the size of a planet (the house). The only problem is that it is empty, save for the books. Eventually, a team of researchers arrives, deepening the mystery. Piranha-like creatures living in the darkness fill every dim area of the library, devouring anyone who steps out of the light, even attaching themselves to the shadows of others, “infecting” them (the monster). As the Doctor explores the situation, protecting others and trying to stay alive, he uncovers the reason for their presence: a sin that has been committed against the species.
Sometimes, the Doctor becomes a Dude with a Problem. Even though he has extraordinary abilities, there are occasions where he is simply an innocent bystander who only wants to explore and enjoy time and space. And in those moments, he happens to be in the wrong place at the right time. For example, in the episode “Midnight,” he is on a cruise to the planet Midnight when a sudden event occurs: something unknown tries to get into their stalled spaceship. The entity soon begins to possess passengers, repeating every word a person says. It is quickly apparent that whatever has entered the ship will destroy all those on board unless the Doctor intervenes in a test of survival.
Of course, the show features stories embracing almost all of the different story types at one time or another. At times, it’s a Buddy Love story. The Doctor is truly an incomplete hero without a counterpart or companion, but in those relationships, complications always arise. There have been Whydunit episodes, too (even one, “The Wasp and the Unicorn,” featuring Agatha Christie as a character).
The writers know the importance of the beats, and they use them effectively. While individual episodes can be broken down, some moments stand out above others. For example, during one episode, “The Waters of Mars,” there is a clear All Is Lost moment as the Doctor, arriving on Bowie Base One on Mars, realizes he has stepped into a fixed moment in time, one that he cannot change without altering the course of human history. It is one in which the whole crew at the base died during an explosion, and once there, the Doctor understands why it occurred. He struggles with himself deep down, desiring to help save the crew members, but knows he must walk away. As he leaves the base and walks back to the TARDIS, he can hear their panicked screams through his helmet’s headset, the whiff of death in the air. He fights the urge to go back, to rewrite time, and in his Dark Night of the Soul, he must make a decision. It is a memorable episode not only because of the plot, but because of how well the beats hit the mark emotionally.
But for a TV show to be this successful, there has to be more than just great stories or characters to support it, especially if it is to last for half a century. One key to the success of Doctor Who is its ability to “give the audience the same thing, only different.” This is something Blake mentions in Save the Cat!, and it essentially means that audiences want more of the same thing, but they don’t want it to be the same. Doctor Who, rather than function as a reboot of a series, is an extension of the original. When the show came back on the air in 2005, the Doctor was not a “new” Doctor, but was the ninth regeneration of the original one. This allowed for past stories and situations to carry into the new plots.
It is not only the Doctor who is “the same but different.” Even his enemies and their designs look remarkably similar to their original incarnations. Take, for example, the Daleks. At first glance, they look like strange machines with a plunger and a whisk for arms. It’s tough to imagine them as the most terrifying beings in the universe, yet that is how the Doctor describes them. Of course, when the show first started 50 years ago, special effects were much more limited, and Daleks and Cybermen were created using parts that were available to the creators. Today, the show’s creators could easily use CGI to create a futuristic-looking Dalek or another creature, but instead, they stick with the original design. There are modifications from time to time, but they still retain the same essence of the original. Had the creators tried to do something completely new and groundbreaking via the technology available to them, the show would probably not have resonated with the audience.
In fact, according to The Dalek Handbook by Steve Tribe and James Goss, during the ‘90s, writers and producers toyed with the idea of using advances in special effects to change the Daleks into a race of cyborg-mutants, spider-like creatures that could emerge from their metallic casings to attack. However, would the Daleks cease to be Daleks at that point? By honoring the original design in the new episodes, it has kept the nostalgic “feel” of Doctor Who. There is something “fun” about the show precisely because it is the “same thing, only different.”
By continuing the storyline of the original series, one might wonder how the writers keep the stories fresh and the regenerations of the Doctor new and exciting. Whereas Blake suggested giving the characters a limp and an eye patch, memorable and distinctive qualities, the writers have given the Doctor “a bowtie and a fez.”
Each regeneration of the Doctor results not only in a different physical appearance, but also in a slightly different personality. He dresses and acts according to this personality. For the ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, this meant leather jackets and a taste for bananas. The fourth Doctor was recognizable by his hat, scarf, and penchant for jelly babies, while the fifth Doctor had a vegetable pinned to his lapel. The tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, loved wearing long trench coats while using old-fashioned 3D glasses to examine things. Matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor made bowties popular again, constantly reminding his companions, “Bowties are cool.” Of course, whatever seems to catch his attention at the time is also “cool,” including fezzes and Stetson hats. Each Doctor carries a unique sonic screwdriver as well.
The writers of the show masterfully use these character distinctions when conveying information to the audience. By appealing to each Doctor’s unique character traits, they are able to accomplish what Blake termed the Pope in the Pool. As the Doctor solves mysteries, taking in all of the information during a given situation, his quirkiness pops out. Sometimes, this includes using 3D glasses to get a better look at something or licking random objects. Other times, he spouts off information in rapid-fire sentences, declaring, “I am not going too fast, you’re just not keeping up!”
No matter how much fun or how entertaining a story is, unless the character demonstrates genuine transformation, the audience won’t walk away from it finding the journey worthwhile. And the Doctor, though he possesses great knowledge and abilities, does show change. Over time, his companions influence him for the better. Having witnessed the devastation of war, he hates any form of violence, and will try every other option before resorting to it. He’d rather face his enemies without guns, taking the “moral high ground.” He sees the beauty in all of life, whether familiar or new. If something is threatening, he tries to understand it better, realizing that all of life is precious. He always presents hostile forces with a choice, hoping they will choose peace.
Perhaps one of the most powerful Themes Stated in the show is that everyone matters. The series follows the adventures of the “mad man with a box” throughout the universe, and yet he continually points out that everyone has a place and a purpose in the big picture. “Nine hundred years of time and space, and I’ve never met anyone who isn’t important,” he has said.
The problem with some television shows or movies is that the hero is an inactive one. Not so with the Doctor. He jumps right into a situation whether he is invited to or not. Someone best described the show as having a character who walks up to something he deems unusual or out of the ordinary and declares, “Let’s just poke it with a stick and see what happens!” But within those stories resides a character operating by primal desires: the desire to protect and to help those who need it most.
Two words: Doctor Who. A show that has lasted for five decades and has been enjoyed by several generations of viewers. When asked to describe the show to someone who hasn’t seen it, it can be quite difficult at times. It’s best to fall back on Blake’s words of wisdom: It’s about a guy who…
It’s about a guy who travels through time and space, enjoying all of life and experiencing the beauty of the universe. A guy who will give his enemies a chance to redeem themselves, because he believes that everyone can choose to do what is right. A guy who will risk his life to save anyone because all life is valuable.
José Silerio reports after his recent teaching gig in London:
Several weeks ago I had the privilege to teach a couple of Save the Cat!® classes at the London Screenwriters Festival, which hosted the Great British PitchFest as well.
This was my first time in London and I was really excited to make the trip across the Atlantic and meet up with more writers eager to learn the Cat! ways. And I have to say, the experience was worth each of the 10,912 miles to get there and back.
There’s nothing better than being in a room filled with writers. It doesn’t matter if they’re vets or newbies, established or emerging. Once we’re in the room – we’re all writers trying to get better at our craft. And just because I’m the guy standing next to the big whiteboard, it doesn’t mean the learning is one way. I learn just as much from exchanging ideas and answering (to the best of my ability) any question thrown my way.
At LSF, their motto is EXPERIENCE, INSPIRE and CONNECT. It’s written right on the top banner of their website. It’s really a great battle cry — something all writers should live by — because this is what we always hope to achieve in our writing.
Provide our audience with an emotional experience they won’t forget. Inspire them to be “heroes” in their own lives. And, mostly, provide each other with a universal human connection. This is the essence of storytelling. Not only is this the goal we set forth in our written pages, it’s also a goal we must give ourselves in our own lives as writers.
At LSF, they also had a great line, aptly written on t-shirts and mugs where all great one liners can be found: KEEP CALM AND PITCH. While it is the intention to get writers and their scripts in front of producers, agents, and studios, don’t forget that pitching is something writers must always do regardless of what stage you’re at with your own story. You don’t always have to wait for your draft to be “perfect” to pitch to an executive.
Does your idea have legs? Can it be turned into a story? Well, pitch it to a friend or spouse if you want to find out. Is the beat sheet working? Is the structure off? Pitch it to other writers, your inner circle of trusted and, hopefully, sane voices to get feedback. This is how you get your script “perfect” – and once it is, sign up for great events like LSF, where they’ll happily help your script finds its way to the right hands.
Like I said earlier, it’s always great to be in a room with other writers. It does wonders for the writing psyche – it saves you a few drafts and even more brain cells. If pitching is not part of your writing process, rethink your process.
Experience, inspire, and connect. It’s not just for our audience. It’s for us writers as well.
I’d like to especially thank Judy Goldberg, Festival Manager at LSF, for making Save the Cat! a part of LSF this year and making my experience truly inspiring. (Judy: I’m still waiting for my t-shirt and mug! ) Thanks too to Chris Jones, LSF’s Creative Director, for the very warm introduction to the class. And, of course, to the staff and volunteers who made LSF a great event!
Thanks to Master Cat! Ben Frahm for this weighty breakdown.
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón (Script Collaborator, uncredited: George Clooney)
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Genre: DUDE WITH A PROBLEM: INNOCENT HERO, SUDDEN EVENT, LIFE OR DEATH BATTLE
Sub-Genre: NATURE PROBLEM.
– BEEPING sounds. And then we open up on a breathtaking image of earth from space (only enhanced by 3D technology).
– We meet MATT KOWALSKI (George Clooney). He’s a fearless and charismatic veteran astronaut, who enjoys talking about ex-girlfriends and why they all seem to slip away.
– Matt is currently on a mission with a fellow scientist and medical engineer. Her name is RYAN STONE (Sandra Bullock). And she’s brilliant, though nervous about her first mission in space.
– Ryan has been hired to install a new state-of-the-art scanning device (that she invented through her medical studies). Ryan is currently fixing and installing this device on a Hubble Space Telescope.
– Mission Control in Houston (voice: Ed Harris) radios in and warns Matt and Ryan of some possible debris that might be coming their way.
– A Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite has caused a chain reaction, which formed a cloud of space debris. This debris could very well be heading straight towards Matt and Ryan, and Mission Control advises them to abort their mission.
– Ryan doesn’t want to abort. She has come all this way to install her new device and doesn’t want to quit now. However, Matt shows more concern. He realizes this is not an everyday dilemma and could turn into a big problem. Matt orders Ryan to stop installing the device.
– “You’ve got to learn to let go. Learn how to let go…” is advice that Matt keeps offering Ryan throughout their journey and struggles in space. These words not only speak to Ryan’s current predicament of being stuck in space but also comment on her emotional backstory and journey, as she must learn to ultimately let go of her previous problems and grow to be a better, stronger person.
– The cloud of debris strikes the Explorer.
– Ryan’s character goes spinning and is separated from Matt.
– The debris instantly kills a third ASTRONAUT, who we don’t really get to know.
– Ryan gets launched when the debris hits, spinning out of control. She appears to be lost is space, totally removed from the space shuttle and Explorer. What will happen to her? Is she going to drift off into space and never survive her first mission?
– Where is Matt? Has he survived? Or was he killed just like the Third Astronaut.
– Ryan’s oxygen tank is on low. She doesn’t have much time and we’re not sure if she has the skills and knowledge to find her way back to the Explorer.
– Ryan is hyperventilating. She’s overcome by emotion and adrenaline. She doesn’t know what to do or where she currently is… and we fear that this mission might end early and tragically, when…
– Matt Kowalski appears! He latches onto Ryan and pulls her to safety. Matt tells Ryan that they must work together and return to the Explorer Shuttle to see if there’s a way back. Matt and Ryan must work together.
– However, it is Ryan’s ultimate decision to accept this mission and do everything in her power to help them survive…
Break into Two:
– Ryan accepts the mission. She will work with Matt to return to the Explorer and do whatever it takes to return home safely. This becomes the A Story of the film.
– Matt and Ryan begin their journey back to the Shuttle. Ryan’s oxygen tank continues to run low and they know they don’t have much time. Anxiety runs high and in order to calm Ryan, Matt uses some veteran Astronaut small talk techniques…
– Ryan and Matt’s relationship becomes the B Story.
– Matt and Ryan’s discussion of relationships, family, personal life, and the potential for romantic happenings between the two of them will serve that Story.
– Matt will ultimately help Ryan learn the theme of our move… “Learn to let go…” and Ryan will for once open up emotionally as a character and overcome her crippling backstory.
– Through their discussions we learn that Ryan lost her YOUNG DAUGHTER in a freak accident (she died suddenly on the playground at school when she randomly slipped and fell). Ryan has been haunted by this tragedy her whole life and it has prevented her from moving on emotionally and personally.
– Matt never knew this about her and feels closer and more personal with this once distant medical engineer. Matt opens up about his personal relationships and how he feels that he never committed to anyone.
– Matt and Ryan continue working their way to the Explorer…
Fun and Games:
– When they arrive at the Explorer, all they see is devastation. More ASTRONAUTS are found dead. And the shuttle is useless. It’s damaged beyond repair and won’t be able to return them home safely.
– Matt gets a new idea: they can use their thruster packs to make their way to a nearby International Space Station (ISS). Matt also warns Ryan that they have about 90 minutes (Blake’s “ticking clock” could hardly be more tangible!) before the debris could complete another orbit and threaten their lives again.
– Matt and Ryan, using their jet packs, make their way to the ISS.
– When they arrive at the ISS, they realize the crewmembers have evacuated using Soyuz modules and in doing so, a rescue parachute has deployed on one of the modules. As a result, this module will not be able to get them back to earth safely, though it might have enough force to propel them to another space station, this one of Chinese origin, called the Tiangong.
– Matt and Ryan propel themselves towards the module; however, Ryan gets caught in the rescue parachute lines. Matt tries to help her become untangled but in doing so, gets pulled back into space. Matt no longer has jet propulsion in his pack and is helpless.
– Ryan grabs him. She refuses to let go. And again, Matt reiterates the theme of our movie, “You’ve got to learn to let go… Learn to let go…”
– Matt tells Ryan that if she doesn’t let go of him they will both be pulled into space and will both die. Ryan must decide…
– Matt recognizes Ryan might never let go and takes the decision out of Ryan’s hands — literally — as he disconnects the tether and drifts into space.
– As Matt floats away, he radios in more information to Ryan. She must use the ISS module to get to the Chinese space shuttle. This is her only hope of survival, and it must happen quickly, as the debris might strike again soon.
Bad Guys Close In:
– Ryan doesn’t have much time. She jumps into the ISS module and must find her way to the Chinese space shuttle.
– Running out of oxygen and time, Ryan frantically crawls through the module.
– It’s not safe. A wire shortage has sparked a fire, which quickly spreads.
– Ryan detaches the section of the module that is aflame and using her technical knowledge, maneuvers the module and untangles it from the parachute strings.
– Just as Ryan breaks free, the orbiting debris returns and destroys the rest of the ISS.
– Ryan is ready to propel to the Chinese Space Shuttle just as Matt had instructed her, when she realizes the module is out of fuel. Ryan has no way of getting to the Chinese Space Shuttle…
All Is Lost:
– The module has no fuel.
– Ryan is stuck and has no way of getting to the Chinese Space Shuttle.
– She’s alone and when she tries to radio Matt there’s no response.
– Ryan is convinced this is it and she will die alone in the module.
Dark Night of the Soul:
– Ryan turns down the oxygen reserves. She is going to die. There’s no way of saving herself. And by depleting the rest of the oxygen reserves, this will be her way of killing herself peacefully.
– Ryan says her good-byes to her DAUGHTER that she lost years ago. Ryan hopes that she will be reunited with her daughter in the afterlife.
– There’s a KNOCK on the space shuttle. Looking over, we see MATT KOWALSKI. He climbs inside the module and has never been happier. Matt even offers Ryan some vodka for their trip home.
– Matt tells Ryan that everything is going to be okay. She doesn’t need fuel in the module to get home. They can use the landing propulsion to get back, and that should be enough force to bring them home safely.
– Matt smiles at Ryan and offers her some more vodka. And then disappears. That’s right. Running out of oxygen and filled with emotional distress, Ryan was hallucinating Matt’s presence.
– However, Ryan listens to Matt’s (imagined) words. He has challenged her to survive. And told her that if she’s going to give up, he will be disappointed. It’s up to her. She can survive if she wants to…
Break into Three:
– Ryan doesn’t want to die.
– She turns the oxygen reserve back on. And taking Matt’s advice, will use the module’s landing propulsion to fight her way back to earth.
– Ryan reads the manual on how to use the landing propulsion.
– Ryan maintains focus and courage while she begins her journey home…
– Using everything that Matt has taught her and all of the knowledge and courage that she has gained along her journey… Ryan must complete her final task… that of getting home!
– The module launches… And…
– Fighting through the atmosphere…
– The module flames its way home…
– Just as it looks like it’s not going to make it or could erupt into a fire from all of the heat and pressure…
– The module appears in the earth’s sky…
– And comes crashing down into a water reserve.
– We don’t know where we are right now…
– Ryan is submerged in water, and must fight her way out of the module and to the surface…
– And she does… GASPING for breath. She has arrived. She is safe. She is back on earth.
– Ryan swims to land.
– Ryan slowly stands. She is shaking. And shivering. But she’s alive.
– And looking up…
– Our FINAL IMAGE (and the complete opposite of the Opening Image—where we were in space looking down on earth)… Ryan is now on earth… and looks upward… to SPACE.
FADE OUT. THE END.
Master Cat Ben Frahm, with an assist from Matt Allen and José Silerio, continues his helpful tips on selling your script — from the STC! one-day event earlier this year.
In Part Two, Ben talks about:
Master Cat Ben Frahm, with an assist from José Silerio and Matt Allen, gives some helpful tips on selling your script — from the STC! one-day event earlier this year.
I wanted to let you know that since STC! was recommended to me some four years ago, I have written 10 screenplays. Blake’s understanding of what makes a good story great as well as his ability to put down in simple language exactly why stories work hit a cord in my brain.
Most importantly, my screenplays have been read by friends, co-workers, and total strangers and they all hold up as being fun, quick, engaging, and… here’s the best part… ORIGINAL. I say this because I’ve heard some criticism of the Cat! as being a “cookie cutter” template to churn out stories while sacrificing originality. I call BS on that.
If you do the work… take the time to apply the basics to your story… look at your big Board and go through hundreds of sticky-notes… YOU will succeed.
I directed one of the screenplays this last summer [Smothered, intentionally cheesy trailer above]. It had a million dollar budget and we shot it in 14 days without going over budget. I take some credit for that but wanted to also thank you guys for helping me to structure stories that can be shot on a budget. The structure offered in STC! also translates to the production schedule. Good stuff.
We are slated to film the second movie in Louisiana in January. Another of mine. This is a dream come true.
Thanks again for opening my eyes to structure that cannot fail. I am a huge STC! fan (not to mention the books that followed… the software… everything)!
Yeah… the actor. The actor who was stuck for 35 years in the realm of bringing other people’s dreams to the screen until I became a Cat! fan
Congrats to Master Cat Geoff Harris, our television script analyst and consultant who recently received an Impact Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition for “Outstanding Service and Commitment to Latino Writers.”
Yay, Geoff!! You’re an inspiring writer and teacher. We’re so proud you’re part of the STC! family.
Great news from Master Cat! Jose Silerio:
Just came back from Malaysia and what a trip it was! We’ve always known that Save the Cat! has legions of fans around the world — but to interact with them in their home countries and seeing how they use the principles of STC! is always a great excuse to jump the Cat! lair and take the show on the road.
We were invited by Media Prima Berhad, a media conglomerate, which has ownership stakes, among other things, in several TV and radio stations and newspapers around Asia. So, when they first said they’re in the business of content creation, we said, “We bet you are.” But the real kicker was when they said their film and TV divisions follow STC! with much fervor. Once we heard that, we knew we couldn’t say “no” to our newest BFFs.
Malaysia was an eye-opener for me. Having grown up in a neighboring Asian country, I was pleasantly surprised how diverse it’s culture and people are. To steal a line from the book, it was the “same but different.” Same in the sense that I recognized the same smiling and warm faces I was accustomed to as a child, but different because it was a new place and had its own language that was… simply put, foreign to me.
So when I walked into the office of Mr. Ahmad Izham Omar, CEO of Media Prima’s TV Networks and Primeworks Studio, nothing could have been more pleasantly familiar to my ears when one of the first things he told me was, “Let me tell you a story.”
Just like that, I knew I was among peers.
In 2007, Mr. Omar was visiting Los Angeles — the Grove to be specific — and wanted to buy a book on screenwriting. So, he entered Barnes & Noble and the first book he came upon had a very intriguing cover and name. Yup, you guessed it: Save the Cat! Taking a closer look, he was even more drawn to the book when he read it’s “The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.” And that was all he needed to buy the book.
I can hear Blake right now, “Told you! It’s all about the poster.” Gotcha!
The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
Today, all writers and producers under Mr. Omar don’t talk story unless they have a Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (BS2) in place. Mr. Omar’s yellowing pages of the three STC! books have been passed along to his staff — and returned (just a general rule of life to follow: if you want to keep your job, you always return your boss’s favorite book if he lends it to you) — as a guide for building their stories. And when they say story, they’re not just talking about film. In fact, much of the content they create is not for film. They’re talking about TV shows, documentaries, reality shows, and even promo spots and trailers.
This is really what STC! is all about. Regardless of the final product being created, it’s always about the story. What‘s the story you’re telling? And it
doesn’t matter where you’re from or what language you speak. When it comes to story, we all speak the same language. The story must be clear, simple, and primal. It must be emotionally compelling and resonate with as far-reaching an audience as it can get.
The staff of Media Prima knows this very well. They get it. We talked documentaries; we talked about how even shows such as The Amazing Race and American Idol all have A and B stories; we talked about trailer promos and, as Blake pointed out, how 30-second commercials have the beats. Because in the end, we’re looking for transformation, not just in our stories, but in our audiences as well.
I’d like to especially thank Ms. Angeline Chong Cheen Chia for the wonderful reception I received and making this trip happen. And, of course, to all the executives and staff of Media Prima who attended the workshop and made it a truly wonderful event.
I hope you stay in touch. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of Malaysia’s unique style of storytelling on the world stage very soon.
Next stop: London!