on 20 May 2010
The usefulness of this book is going to greatly depend on what sort of screenplay(s) you are intending to write, as the scope of Blake Snyder's guide is very narrow. If you are yearning to tell the story of how child abuse rips apart a family in a small, Scottish fishing village... then do not look here. It will be of no help. If, however, you are looking to write a mainstream (preferably high concept) idea then this book is, in my opinion, the best out there.
I have read 20+ Screenwriting books and for straight structural insight into the popularist Hollywood model, this is fantastic. People have questioned Synder's own track record in other reviews. That's nonsense. Great actors are not taught by screen legends but by people you've never heard of. It's the same with screenwriting. Syd Field, Robert Mckee, Chris Vogler - when's the last time you saw their names before a film? In fact Synder has more credentials than most out there.
Yes, he picks out some less than briliant examples of cinema (Legally Blonde?!) but the content here is sound and evident in much, much better films than the ones mentioned. This is just good, clear advice on how to plan and fix a particular type of script. It is absolutely not for everyone, nor should every film adhere to this model, but in the narrow (but MASSIVELY successful) market that this is aimed at, it's simply essential.
on 9 December 2011
The book delivers what you expect.
It is an easy read and the 12 step beat sheet will be incredibly useful to budding screenwriters.
However, there was one aspect of the book that really made me question the integrity of the author and that is his use of examples of what works as a screenplay and what does not.
He often references his own spec scripts and movies, none of which I have heard off and none of which impressed me.
He uses forgettable films (Miss Congeniality being the best of a sorry bunch) as examples of what is a successful film (yes in terms gross) and then critises films such as Minority Report and Open Range (2 of the most perfectly realised films of the noughties) because they break his rules of structure.
At this point in the book Blake Snyder lost all credibility for me.
It is fine to create a system to simplify the structuring of a screenplay but I did not like the way he dismissed films that are far superior in every department to anything he has been involved in because they did not follow his own set of rules.
The conclusion I came to is this guy knows how to write something that will sell and if that is why you are reading the book then I would have to recommend it despite my dissapointment in the way he references other peoples work.
Souless but effective.
on 9 August 2009
Some of the reviews are missing the point; this is not a book intended to make anyone an artist. Sadly I don't think such a book could exist; art is within you or it isn't, it cannot be taught.
Blake Snyder was teaching the craft, the nuts and bolts construction of a screenplay. His rules are no more cynical than Joseph Campbell's work on mythic archetypes, they're just presented in a much more accessible way. This is populist writing about populist writing.
So if you want solid guidelines on building the emotional machinery of a screenplay then this book will help. If you want to try to reinvent the cinematic artform, if your gods are Charlie Kaufman and Harmony Korine, then your journey begins elsewhere and probably inside yourself.
on 26 August 2012
A clear, well-written guide to presenting your story to other people. It's aimed at screenwriters, but it's also a well-known tool for fiction and non-fiction writers. A lot of the information (such as know your genre, have a one line pitch) will be familiar to anyone who's been following writing blogs or lurking in the query trenches, but if not then it's a great place to start.
It covers lots of essential information, including genres, character archetypes, and my personal favourite the 'beat sheet', which breaks down most plots into a simple structure and can be very helpful for working out pacing problems and structural issues.
Blake can come across as irritating with his every-other-page self-promotion. I loved when he pulled out popular movies for examples of genres and styles, but I got sick of him reference his own ever-so-successful films and TV ideas. I'd never heard of any of them. This would have been fine in a smaller dose, but there was just too much of it.
I think I'll dip into this book occasionally when I need a refresher on cliches, tropes, and plot structures - but it's a difficult book to read from start to finish without Snyder's comments getting on your nerves.
on 21 June 2014
I am not a screenwriter, nor do I intend to be, but I had heard interesting things about Snyder's guide and was fascinated to have a look at his method. I do understand that his aim is not to teach the art of producing great screenplays, he says as much in the first few pages - this is a step-by-step guide to producing a saleable piece. Snyder's bottom line IS the bottom line, his assessment of a movie's value is based solely on its box office take.
Page 96: "And if you want to seriously debate the value of Memento in modern society, please go ahead and contact me... But be ready for one hell of an argument from me!! I *know* how much it made."
Great. If you aren't familiar with 'Memento', an early indication of the cinematic promise of brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, then wikipedia has a good page. Yes, it took only $39 million (not a bad return on a $5 million budget), but the Writers' Guild of America West put it in their top 100 screenplays OF ALL TIME. It is an astounding piece of work, so why on earth would Snyder choose to dismiss it? Because it didn't make enough money.
Snyder gives plenty of tips based on his own huge successes in the industry - 'Stop or My Mom Will Shoot' is one of his ($70 million box office from a $45 million budget). Wait. $25 million profit... A fair bit less than Memento then. I'm starting to think that this Snyder guy is running a con. His other big hit 'Blank Check' is also frequently used as a touchstone. Let's see. $30 million box office from a $13 million budget. Critically a dismal failure. He *is* running a con!
The book is packed with examples of Snyder cherry-picking movies which fit elements of his grand plan, which allow him to declare once again his brilliance to his increasingly nauseated reader. He equally dismisses some really odd movies. He really does believe that he knows why these movies failed, and moves his own goalposts when it suits him. So money really is the bottom line? Well, not by page 126 when the $821 million (nearly a BILLION) take of Spider-Man (2002) is glossed over: "Why is it that you went willingly to see this movie, it became a big hit, and yet when it comes on cable you don't want to see it again?"
We're worried about income from cable/DVD licensing now? After we took nearly $1 billion at the box office? You're using this massive blockbuster as an example of where something went wrong?
This book is written by a delusional egotist. His claims are easily refuted by searching IMDB. He is apparently effective at marketing his 'method', but it strikes me as just an example of an "I will tell you the secret of how I became a millionaire" scam. His relentless self-praise is truly wearing, as is his failure to properly credit his sources. He briefly mentions Campbell's 'Hero With A Thousand Faces' in his introduction, but doesn't recognise that much of what he spouts is to be found as far back as in Aristotle's 'Poetics', and passes off much of his structure as entirely his own design - he even names it after himself - the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.
I have to stop, but as a parting shot, on page 76 Snyder gives us a new way of thinking about the three act play. Most people, he says, call them three acts, but he "call[s] 'em thesis, antithesis, and synthesis". The line reeks of the suggestion that he thought of this little sequence himself. Clever man.
on 1 March 2013
Originally posted on Serendipity Reviews.
I have lost count how many times this book has been recommended to me over the past couple of years and I always dismissed it. It was a screen writing book for God's sake. Why on earth would it be of any use to me when I am writing a book?
Well, I will no longer scoff at this very thought because this book is awesome and totally relevant to writing fiction! This book saved my plot! I had reached a stage in my MS, where I had lost sight of what was actually happening. I was writing scenes but I couldn't see where they would fit in the grand scheme of the story. By reading this book, I could easily see the bigger picture. I was able to put all my chapters into an order and look at the plot as a whole.
The style of writing is conversational and you feel like you are sitting in a room with the writer, drinking coffee and discussing your next steps in a casual manner. I warmed to the author straight away and felt confident that he knew what he was talking about. You trust his judgement.
I loved the beat sheet. I thought it was tremendous and I quickly made my own copies to use alongside my plot. I also found myself looking at books I had read recently with a clearer and more critical eye than perhaps I would usually have done. I could easily pinpoint problems in them that previously I wouldn't have noticed. In future, I will actually use the beat sheets to examine the plot in other books which I hope will help me get mine just right in the future.
There are parts of the book that are irrelevant to writing fiction, but they are easily identifiable and I was able to skip right past them.
I thought this was one of the most useful and most accurate writing books I have come across in ages. So I would definitely advise reading it to help save your plot from the death spiral!
on 28 September 2007
There are a couple of nuggets of advice that might be construed as semi-useful, but most of this is recycled from existing literature on the craft of screenwriting. It's really just a quick fix piece written with the assumption that its readership has the attention span of an aging goldfish.
You know that friend you have who is so in love with the sound of their own voice that they'll just riff on for ages and ages until you're on the verge of telling them to shut the heck up? Well, Blake is sort of like the literary equivalent of that. While it starts off all loud and sassy, it quickly deteriorates into a non-stop barrage of written noise. Just try counting the exclamation marks if you don't believe me. They start with the title.
As opposed to truly cogent and coherent form for constructing screenplays (with the exception of an oversimplified rewrite of the structural outlines that can be found in any screenwriting literature from Syd Field's 'Screenplay' onwards), Blake seems to be providing more arbitrary pieces of 'advice' that seem to be matters of personal taste as opposed to truly insightful information about the workings of drama. Ironically, his most valuable piece of information - the part about shifting between positive and negative values within a dramatic unit - is lifted straight out of Robert McKee's 'Story'.
The final straw in determining the author's mental frame of reference occurs when he begins to lampoon solidly crafted films like Steven Spielberg's 'Minority Report' or Christopher Nolan's 'Memento' whilst simultaneously praising vacuous pop hits like 'Miss. Congeniality' and 'Legally Blond'. What's more, he goes on to dedicate an entire portion of the book to dissecting 'Miss. Congeniality' as a case study in how to make a worthy film in a section called "$100 million in 15 Beats".
It suddenly becomes painfully obvious precisely what types of films Snyder seems to be wanting to will into existence. And they're certainly not the types of films I'd term 'classics' in any sense of the word.
His only notable screenplay successes are the 'Home Alone' rip-off 'Blank Check' and an expensive script sale to Steven Spielberg of an unmade screenplay called 'Nuclear Family' (it's just another version of 'The Incredibles').
If you're really looking to seriously invest in mastering the form, 'Save the Cat' is little more than a library rental on a weekend when you have absolutely nothing else better to do. The book is obviously geared towards readers looking for 'quick fix' methods to writing screenplays. Unfortunately for them, if there is a quick fix out there, this book is not it.
on 4 February 2016
Snyder has totally misunderstood what he has done here. This is not just a book on how to bang out a formulaic movie script, but in reality, it is how to write (and more importantly, construct!) ANY story!
From the New Testament, to the plays of Shakespeare, from the novels and stories by PG Wodehouse, to Star Wars, all good stories adhere to the structure that Snyder so brilliantly outlines here. Three acts, 15 sections, 40 scenes! He tells us how to lay them out on a story board and even how to use repeat gags, set pieces and similar dramatic devices.
His 15 sections are -
1. Opening image
2. Stating the theme
4. The catalyst (i.e. stuff happens!)
5. Debate (now what do we do?)
6. Break into act 2
7. The B story or stories
8. Fun and games (i.e. business/action/etc.)
9. Midpoint (shift in pace)
10. The bad guys close in
11. All is lost
12. Despair sets in
13. Break into act 3
15. Closing image.
He also states right at the beginning that every good story can be summed up in one sentence. That is true for every story and indeed for every product or project - if you can't or refuse to view what you are doing that way, chances are, you will fail!
It's just a great book for anyone interested in drama and story-telling! If you don't have a copy, you must not be even remotely interested in how stories are told! And no - I'm not lending out my copy. Get your own!
on 31 May 2014
Think of those stereotypical snake-oil salesmen, or the Gordon Gekko wanna-bes, who dress in suits and travel around the country, renting conference rooms or even small diners and trying to convince middle-aged suburbunites to join their programm on how to be succesful.
You know the type: slightly sleazy, fast talking, very friendly but also aggressive, addressing everyone with their first name: "John, you look like a great guy, I like you, but how dare you not be rich? Believe you me buddy, the only one to blame is you and only you. But we're gonna change that, aren't we?"
Did I paint a familiar picture? Ok, well now you know Blake Snyder.
Ah, yes, Blake Snyder, that Hollywood success story. The guy who wrote "Blank Check", do you remember "Blank Check"? I don't. I never saw it. Nor would I see it. Oh, and he also wrote ""Stop! Or my mom will shoot", classic.
Blake Snyder will teach you about "the biz", will show you how Hollywood people really talk. He will give you insight into insider jargon such as "plot" and "story arc".
He wrote this book because he thought other books on the subject are too academic (all of them). This guy thinks Syd Field's language is too academic for you to comprehend. Do me a favour, go to any place where you can find a paragraph from Syd Field's "Screenplay" (this site will do), and tell me that you found it hard to comprehend.
Never have I rolled my eyes more often and with more conviction than when reading this self-righteous, condescending douche-bag's pamphlet (for it is a very short book) on screenwriting.
He refers to Field as the father of screenwriting theory, he praises his book. And he is right, go buy that book. Or Linda Sieger's. Or McKee's. I gave it two stars, because it isn't completely useless, and if this is the first book on screenwriting you read you won't finish it without having learned something, but there is nothing here you can't learn in a better way from any of the books mentioned above, or others.
Now, if you do think that "Ernest goes to Camp", "Transformers" or, I don't know, "Happy Gilmore" have some of the best gosh-darn scripts you've ever had the pleasure to enjoy, than maybe this is the book...No! I am sorry, even if you are this person, I still think Syd Field is the better option for you.
on 13 July 2015
I bought this book because of the reviews that said it was excellent. I does lay out some of the principles well but I could not really understand the different film genres the author used. I looked up the author and watched "blank check", a film by Disney that the author wrote the screenplay for,. The screenplay was not great even though I have to accept he sold it and had the film made. I cannot see he has had an other films made since 1994 and he only had one other made in 1982 "Stop or my mum will shoot". I did a little more research by watching You Tube clips on writing. I found "The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller" which I am currently reading and find more easily digestible.