Blog the cat, chapter Four: Beat sheets, revisited.

Beat Sheet for ‘Serenity’, in which I first described the concept.

Other Beat Sheets from the Kelworth files can be found on the Subject Index, as well as the Blog the Cat series so far.

Okay, so I went back and forth on this, and decided that I was going to spend another week with beat sheets, even though I’ve already said most of what the book has to say about them – well, not really, but about as much as I feel comfortable with saying without ripping off Blake’s words. And I’ve done Beat sheets for three of my favorite movies. But this time, I’m going to look at the three complete movies that I did for Script Frenzy, and see how closely they match the Beat Sheet structure, talk a bit about that.

One bit from the chapter that I haven’t mentioned here, is how a strong screenplay structure can serve as a movie blueprint and a guarantee of writing credit – which I think isn’t meant as a guarantee that when a final movie gets made, you’ll definitely have the credit, but that if somebody changes it enough to get the credit, they’re really changing the guts of the story, doing their own work on it, and not really taking what’s yours. But anyway.

Script Frenzy 2007 – Antarran Holiday.

Opening image – Aerial view of the desert, Liz Parker resuming her diary voice-overs, slow day at the Crashdown Cafe.

Theme stated – “If we find the people who think that they’re our friends, they might still ask things of us that we’re not ready for.” This is late by Blake’s breakdown, around page 18, but I remember that I was going some different material about the three-act structure that was up on the Script Frenzy site that year that suggested page 16 or so for this, not 5.

Setup – introducing all of the regular gang, and the basic situation, is all covered in pages 1-7.

Catalyst – This really starts early, on page 6, with Nasedo saying that he’ll be bringing the ship to Roswell.

Debate – A lot of hedging around the issue, ‘would you want to go see another planet if you could’, from pages 7 through 23, until Nasedo actually arrives with the ship and forces the break into two.

Break into two – The inspection of the ship out in the desert, the test flight that goes wrong, and our characters literally end up in another world. Pages 24 through 33 or so.

B story – I’m not quite sure what this is, probably the Liz/Max/Tess love triangle, which I actually started setting up back around page 16.

Fun and games – plenty of these, as soon as the gang arrives on Antar on page 35, all the way up to Rayde’s arrival on page 86, including the introduction to Chajicka and the gang exploring her house and the grounds.

Midpoint – False victory, actually two of them. Chajicka gives Turik the brush-off on page 72, and Liz stands up to Tess and earns her respect, pages 78-80. (Note that both of these are late for the midpoint, probably on account of the fun and games as well as a few other things.)

Bad guys close in – Raydeleen brings bad news, and agrees to help the Roswell kids maintain their independence from the rebels. Pages 87-96

All is lost – Turik and Vorjal’s men surround the mansion. Pages 97-107. (Not really as much of a whiff of death as it should have, maybe?)

Dark night of the soul – Tess’ betrayal, which turns out to be just an illusion in Liz’s head. Pages 108 and 109

Break into three – This actually started later, with Max’s desperate escape plan that goes into motion around page 106. (I guess my Act Three transition is far from traditional.)

Finale – our heroes escape the soldiers and head off towards Earth, then stash the ship and catch a bus towards Roswell. Pages 110-116.

Final image – the entire gang laughing and having fun and glad to be back on Earth, nearly home – even Tess.

I participated in Script Frenzy 2008, but the screenplay, ‘Haunted by a Whisper’, is still well short of a finish at page 100, and I’m not sure that it would be terribly profitable to see how well what I’ve got of it fits into the beat sheet structure.

Script Frenzy 2009 – The African Secret

Opening image – Princess Naveli training on the obstacle course at the magik school, paralleled by the anonymous North American agent trying to escape from pursuit in the airport.

Theme stated – I’m not even sure what my theme is here, or where I’m covering it, so I’ll pass for now, and think on it further. (Themes are tricky!)

Setup – Naveli at magik school, leaving to go home, and getting mysteriously diverted from the train. Pages 1-5

Catalyst – Big sister Samantha meets Naveli and explains the basics of the mission that she’ll be going on. Pages 6-12

Debate – All of the early preparation falls into this category, the question under debate being ‘Is Naveli ready for this job?’ Pages 13-34

Break into two – When Naveli actually challenges Duncan in the gambling lounge, she’s making her own decision, committing to the mission entirely. Pages 35-41

B story – Naveli’s friendship with Duncan, and possibly also her temptation to start an affair with Jenna. Doesn’t really start until page 47.

Fun and games – A lot of the stuff in the Estala castle qualifies here, pages 51-86.

Midpoint – False defeat. Princess Krissin Estala finds out that they’re spying, and Duncan panics. Page 70.

Possibly because of how few pages I have after that midpoint, the late structure of this screenplay is rather a mess, in terms of the Beat sheet. I can’t really identify much for ‘Bad guys close in’, ‘All is lost’, or ‘Dark night of the soul.’

Break into three – The meeting with Aunt Priny, pages 87-91.

Finale – Naveli’s mission to get herself on the Estala plane to Antarctica, instead of the Persistent Vortex that the Estala will need to complete their plan. Pages 92-106

Final image – Naveli in Antarctica, coming face to face with her old friend Ereyu the ferret – and ‘to be continued…’

Script Frenzy 2010 – Dungeon Heroes.

Opening image – Heran napping in the swordsmith’s courtyard, and his first dream about the dungeon and the Prince of Demons.

Theme stated – I thought I worked this in, but can’t find it at the moment, dammit!

Setup – Most of the characters introduced, Ciana mentioned, the general situation of them being young people starting their own lives in a medieval town. Pages 1-5

Catalyst – the Captain shows Heran the dead body of the swordsmith and Yasmen shares the news about the mysterious tunnel. Pages 6-12

Debate – Ciana goes missing, Heran goes into the tunnel with the sword from his dreams, and comes back to persuade the rest of the gang to come with him. Pages 13-29

Break into two – the entire gang working together to fend off the orcs and skeletons attacking their campfire, pages 30-35

B story – This is Yasmen and Biggam’s subplot, I think, and I start to introduce it around page 39.

Fun and games – Lots of this, including preparing for the true Dungeon crawl and everything up to rescuing Ciana. Pages 42-61.

Midpoint – Ciana’s rescue is a false victory, pages 62-63.

Bad guys close in – literally, the demon general lays his trap for the whole gang as they try to get back out with Ciana safe, pages 64-67.

All is lost – the entire gang is captured, the Demon prince taunts them and delivers his ultimatum. Pages 68-74.

Dark night of the soul – The gang chat, their morale mostly broken, as the hours of the ultimatum tick by. Pages 75-81

Break into three – Heran realizes that the Prince is bluffing, somewhat, and calls the bluff. Page 82-83

Finale – Final duel between Heran and the Prince, Ragnar’s appearance, escape through the dungeon. Pages 84-99

Final image – The dungeon is in ruins, and the heroes head back to town, giggling behind the Watch Captain’s back as he lectures.

Coming up next week – the Big Board!!

2 Responses to Blog the cat, chapter Four: Beat sheets, revisited.

  1. Madeleine says:

    Good luck. I feel I should know what a beat sheet is, but my brain is shrivelled today. :O)


  2. Thanks Madeleine.

    I’ve gone back and added some explanatory links to help catch new people up. Basically, I’ve been working through Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book on Saturdays, ‘Save the Cat, the last screenwriting book you’ll ever need.’

    Blake’s Beat sheets are the idea that first drew me to the book, that every feature screenplay has the same basic fifteen structure points that you can use to construct and deconstruct him. Before I started the ‘blog the cat’ series, I posted beat sheet breakdowns on my blog for Serenity, The Simpsons Movie, and The Princess Bride. I also tried to use the Beat Sheet approach when writing my last Script Frenzy entry, Dungeon Heroes.


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