Blake Snyder Beat sheet for Roxanne

August 10, 2011

Beat Sheet index.

Okay, I’ll try to make this a good one. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to push myself into theme analysis the Blake Snyder way unless something clear occurs to me.

Opening image: Charlie heading over to his friend’s house, singing to himself, but he’s alone – and for a few minutes we don’t really get a good look at his nose.

Setup: The sports gear fencing scene with the two jerks, drops in on Dixie at the Cafe, and goes to the fire hall.

Catalyst: Roxanne gets locked out of her house, Charlie goes to help her, and he is drawn to her when she starts talking about the stars. The next day, Chris moves to town and starts working with the firefighters.

Debate: Roxanne meets Chris, and likes him, Chris thinks that she’s pretty and gets too worked up to talk to her. Roxanne comes to Charlie to talk about the guy that she likes, and he misunderstands at first. Roxanne asks him to talk to Chris for her.

Break into two: Charlie decides to help Chris and Roxanne.

B story: I’m not sure what this is, unless it’s the plot arc with Charlie and the incompetent firemen.

Fun and games: Fireman scenes, some of the bit with Charlie playing Cyrano – and the scene in the bar when he’s coming up with 20 good nose jokes.

Midpoint: Chris asks Charlie to help him write a letter to Roxanne, but he’s hopeless at romance, and Charlie gets inspired and writes it himself.

Bad guys close in: Roxanne is falling for Chris, but keeps quoting the letter from Charlie. Chris screws up the first date with Roxanne.

All is lost: Charlie seduces Roxanne from the darkness, she still thinks it’s Chris and invites him up.

Dark night of the soul: Roxanne finds out the truth and fights with Charlie, both of them saying bad things about the other and about his nose.

Break into three: Charlie smells the fire and leads the fire truck to it.

Finale: The firefighters competently save the town, Charlie’s a hero. He becomes less sensitive about his nose, and Roxanne tells him that she loves him for it, not in spite of it.

Final image: Roxanne manages to figure out a way to kiss Charlie without getting poked in the face, they go to her house but are locked out again. Charlie has the key this time, though – and a comet streaks by overhead.

Shaun of the Dead: a Blake Snyder beat sheet.

August 5, 2011

Opening image: Liz confronting Shaun in the Winchester, about how he always brings Ed around when she wants to be spending time alone, and that he never takes her anyplace new.

Theme stated: Does “It’s not the end of the world” count as a theme?

Setup: Shaun spends the day at work, bumps into Yvonne, realizes that he forgot to book the table for his fancy dinner out with Liz.

Catalyst: Liz dumps Shaun.

Debate: Shaun and Ed go out drinking, come back, Shaun resolves to sort his life out, goes around to the store next morning, Ed spots the ‘drunk girl’ in their garden, and they realize that she’s a zombie. Shaun calls around, and realizes that Liz and his mum are both in danger.

Break into Two: Shaun comes up with a plan – and then makes a few revisions in it as Ed points out problems.

B story: Is this Shaun’s friendship with Ed?

Fun and games: Fighting zombies, duh.

Midpoint: Philip dies and becomes a zombie in the car – everybody else escapes, but they now have no blunt objects and no transportation, and they’re far from safety.

Bad guys close in: The zombies are crowding thick around the Winchester, and Shaun volunteers to lead them astray to get everybody else in.

All is lost: Ed gives them away to the vampires, Shaun has to shoot his mother, the zombies get David and Di, Pete bites Ed and the Winchester goes up in flames.

Dark night of the soul: Sitting in the cellar, Shaun and Liz really talk as they wait for the zombies to come in and get them. Shaun volunteers to shoot Liz and then himself, when it comes to it, rather than see her be eaten alive.

Break into three: Shaun realizes that they’re on a lift, and he and Liz decide to go back up to street level to take their chances.

Finale: Yvonne arrives with the army, rescuing them.

Final image: Liz has moved in, she and Shaun both seem happy – and Shaun slips out back to play video games with zombie Ed.

‘Save the cat’ Beat sheet for Die Hard.

July 31, 2011

Yet another movie I just watched because it’s homework for my Storywonk revision class.

Opening image: John’s plane lands in LA, with John gripping both the armrests, and the guy in the next seat tells him to take off his shoes and socks when he gets somewhere with a rug and make fists with his toes.

Theme stated: Again, I’m having a hard time with this – when John talks about how he didn’t come out to LA with Holly because he’s a New York Cop?

Setup: John’s trip in the limo with Argyle, arriving at the party, everything up to the bad guys showing up at the party.

Catalyst: The bad guys crash the party.

Debate: John stays out of sight as long as he can, he tries to call the LA police, he uses every trick he can think of to alert the authorities instead of being a hero himself.

Break into two: When the first bad guy comes after him, John fights back, not trying to kill him – but when the guy ends up dead he takes his gun and sends his body back down the elevator as a warning.

B story: I think this is actually the friendship that develops over the CB radio between John and Al.

Fun and games: Oh, just what in this movie isn’t fun and games? Well, any scene where nobody’s being shot at, nothing’s crashing, and nothing’s exploding I guess.

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Blake Snyder Beat Sheet for Dodgeball

July 23, 2011

“Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

I was assigned watching this movie as homework for the Storywonk novel revision workshop, and we’re probably going to be talking about the plot in terms of Lucy’s own structure diagram tomorrow, but I thought that I’d do a Blake Snyder outline for it. It’s really very well written.

Opening image – Peter asleep, the dog nuzzling at his crotch, while the Globo-Gym ad plays on the TV.

Theme stated – I think that it’s stated in the negative, in the Globo-gym ad: “We’re better than you, and we know it!”

Setup – Peter goes to work at Average Joe’s, and we meet all the regulars and hear a bit of their story as Peter talks with them.

Catalyst – Kate is waiting for Peter in his office, and tells him that the gym is in foreclosure. which sends him over to Globo-gym to talk to White and find out that White is looking forward to putting up a new parking garage.

Debate – Can the Average Joes find a way to save their gym? With a car wash? Of course not! But there’s this ad about the dodgeball tournament in Vegas…

Break into two – In the qualifiers with the girl scouts, when Peter actually starts to play it hard. They don’t actually win, but they qualify anyway.

B story – the complex plotline involving Peter, Kate, and White.

Fun and games – The training sequence with Patches, and the first few tournament games.

Midpoint – I’m not sure, but I think the scene where Kate signs on with the Average Joe’s team is a midpoint beat. Nothing is going to be the same from there on, better or worse.

Bad guys close in – The Globo-gym team has made it to the finals before Average Joe’s.

All is lost – Patches dies, crushed by an ironic ‘Luck of the Irish’ sign, and Peter loses his confidence and lets White get to him. White offers to buy Peter out for 100 grand, and we don’t know what he decided. But Peter tells the team that they’re probably going to lose and that they should be ready for it. He even tells Steve that he’s not a pirate.

Dark night of the soul – The team is one player short. Peter ends up in a casino bar. And Lance Armstrong shows up, just to rub it in a little about being a quitter.

Break into three – Peter gets there just as the Joes have officially forfeited, but Gordon finds the appeals rule, and Chuck Norris casts the deciding vote to let them play in the finals!

Finale – Sudden death with blindfolds! Not only that, but Peter took White’s 100 grand, used it to bet on the Joes, and has 5 million to buy out a controlling share of Globo-gym! And Steve is a Pirate again.

Final image – White watching Peter’s big ad for Average Joe’s gym – ‘You’re great just the way you are.’

Update to my ‘Serenity’ Beat sheet.

June 18, 2011

Breaking news – there’s more to the Blake Snyder beat sheet for ‘Serenity’ than I first thought.

Or maybe there is. I was watching the movie for the first time in months, at the screening today, and something occurred to me about that big long stretch of the film before River goes kung-fu fighting in the bar. At first, I couldn’t put that into any other slot than ‘setup, and a bit of fun and games’ – because the hovercraft chase sequence definitely made the trailer, and Joss even said on the audio commentary that if he didn’t get to play with a hovercraft he was ready to take his Firefly and go home – if that isn’t fun and games, I don’t know what is.

But my new theory is that Joss is being a lot more clever than he seems. At the point when Simon and River leave the ship on Beaumonde, it looks like that might be the break into Act 2. And then, River starts beating up people, and we realize that that’s only the catalyst. So, we have a false break into two, and that would mean:

  • Simon confronting Mal before they land is a false catalyst.
  • All the stuff in between is a false debate – will they or won’t they actually leave the ship?
  • This almost creates ‘Act one and a half’ out of the true catalyst, debate, and break into two.

I think I like this way of analyzing the movie, especially because it shows that a gifted writer can do more than just play with the timing of the beats, he can actually repeat beats and still end up with an entertaining film. Just because you know the structure, doesn’t mean that you have to follow it too closely.

The next installment of the ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ series will hopefully be done by Monday evening. I’ll have a special Father’s day post for tomorrow.

Beat Sheets: the Forgotten Introduction.

April 2, 2011

B is for Beat Sheet (A-Z Challenge Listing)

Well, I’ve talked about Beat Sheets a lot on this blog already, but when I got a PM from somebody over at Script Frenzy, I realized that I had never really described the concept in detail, so I figured I’d do that today.

Beat sheets are a way of structuring a screenplay script that Blake Snyder described in chapter 4 of his great book “Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need.” It’s a recipe for planning a screenplay, determining which scenes are needed, which scene goes where, and what the characters will need to do at different parts of the story.

And, as a minor point, I’m not going to go into any details for this post regarding Blake’s prescriptions for WHERE in a screenplay you should place the different beats, or why. You can find some of that out different places on the web, and I want to keep myself focused on WHAT the different beats are.

There are fifteen elements to Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet:

Opening image: In the first few pages of your script, you should set the mood of your movie, and show where your hero starts out. This beat isn’t about action, it’s not the first thing that happens in the movie, it’s about where the movie is before it starts happening. But you can show style, tone, what type of story you’re telling and what scope it is, from the very start.

Theme stated: This is the part of the beat sheet that I always have the most trouble with. Basically, the theme is the answer to ‘what is this movie about?’ It should be a question that you’re exploring and giving an answer to, or a statement that you will ultimately demonstrate to be true or false, not just a general topic like ‘true love’ or ‘man versus nature.’ (It could be ‘should man conquer nature?’, though.)

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2 weeks until the Frenzy – and my new Beat Sheet!

March 18, 2011

So, the next step on the plan for Script Frenzy was to have my Beat Sheet ready. I’m not entirely convinced about this, but it should give me a place to start:

Opening image – the main character’s little junker starship, working amidst an alien space garbage dump. Bryan is outside in a space-suit, while Walter keeps an eye on things in the cabin.

Theme stated – this space intentionally left blank.

Setup – They jump into hyperspace, noticing that something is wrong only too late, try to figure out where they are with no luck, approach the nearest yellow star and have a conversation with some of the natives. Bryan lands, and they have a brief court appearance clarifying their status as ‘hyperspace refugees’ and rights relating to it.

Catalyst – In a spaceport bar, Bryan hears about the Space Mafia and learns a bit about the extensive galactic charts that they have access to, dwarfing any maps made by local planetary government.

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Beat Sheet: The Princess Bride

October 3, 2010

I’m still not quite clear on what the theme of this great movie is. Any better ideas?

Opening image: The little boy playing video baseball in his room. Or, if you ignore the grandson/grandfather frame, Buttercup riding her horse into the stable and ordering Westley about. (1-3)

Theme stated: “Hear this now. I will always come for you. This is true love – do you think this happens every day?” (6)

Setup: Buttercup and Westley’s love story, Buttercup’s grief, Prince Humperdink making her a princess, and the abduction all count as setup to me. (The abduction could have been a catalyst, but I don’t quite think so, because there’s one critical element still missing. (4-10)

Catalyst: “I just happened to look behind us, and something is there.” This is the first hint that the Man in Black is setting himself against Vizzini’s plan, meaning to rescue the Princess from the Prince’s clutches. (11-12)

Debate: Hmm… I’m not sure, but I think that the ‘debate’ part of this movie’s plot comes as we get to know the Man in Black as a person, and come to wonder if he’s the villain or the hero of the piece. This starts when Fezzik leaves Inigo – ‘People in masks cannot be trusted’… and ends when Inigo and the Man in Black begin their duel in earnest. (18-22)

Break into two: The Man in Black defeats Inigo in the duel, but spares his life, professing his respect, and charges off in pursuit again. (25-26)

B story: This would be Inigo’s quest of revenge, which is fist mentioned at (20), and isn’t resolved until ()

Fun and games: Plenty of this all around, from the shrieking eels and the cliffs of insanity around (13-17), and including the sword duel with Inigi, (23-24), the wrestling match with Fezzik, the battle of wits with Fizzini, Humperdink’s tracking, and the
Fire-swamp. (27-49)

Midpoint: Everything collapses for Westley and Buttercup at (50), when Buttercup surrenders to save his life, and the Prince breaks his word to her.

Bad guys close in: Westley in the Pit of Despair, Buttercup’s nightmares, continued reveals of the Prince’s nefarious plans, the machine. Fezzik finding Inigo drunk, (and helping him sober up a little,) and Buttercup’s sudden defiance against the Prince which prompts him to turn the Machine up to its highest setting. (51-67)

All is lost: Fezzik and Inigo find Westley dead, at (69-70) The despair here is underscored by the little temper trantrum the grandson throws about who’s going to kill the bad guy.

Dark night of the soul: There’s some comedy thrown in here, with the quest for the miracle. Even after Westley has come back to life, as long as he’s bitter and hopeless we’re still in this beat.(71-76)

Break into three: ‘If we only had a WHEELBARROW, that would be something!’ The plan is hatched, and our three heroes give it their all. (77-78)

Finale: The wedding, the attack of the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, Inigo’s duel with the Count, Westley’s confrontation with the Prince, and their escape. (79-92)

Final image: The four good guys riding off into the countryside, the kissing stuff, and even the grandson doesn’t mind so much now. And the grandfather leaves him with ‘As you wish.’ (93-94)

Beat Sheet Analysis: The Simpsons Movie

September 19, 2010

Based on Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet Structure

Numbers are minutes, based on the Showcase canada airing of the movie last weekend, after I trimmed the commercials out.

Opening image: Green Day playing on their barge in Lake Springfield. I’m dismissing everything before this as throaway gags that have no bearing on the theme or the plot of the movie, and thus can’t feel that they qualify. (3)

Theme stated: This is tough. The closest I can figure from before the catalyst is just sneaking in under the wire… (15)
Homer: Hey, what’s with you?
Bart: You really wanna know?
Homer: Of course I do. What kind of father wouldn’t care about… (gets distracted by the pig.)

Set-up: The church scene, Homer doing chores, and Lisa meeting Colin. Grandpa’s experience at the church is a foreshadowing of the catalyst, but it doesn’t catalyze anything itself. (4-15)

Catalyst: Homer takes the pig home from Krusty burger, and Marge recognizes the twisted tail from Grandpa Simpson’s ravings. (16-17)

Debate: All the general town hubbub about pollution in Lake Springfield would seem to fit here. More relevantly, when Marge finds out about the pig silo, and warns Homer that he has to dispose of it properly, this is a clear debate and lead-in to act two. Of course, if Homer does it right, there wouldn’t be a movie, would there? (20-23)

Break into two: But there are free donuts at stake, so Homer can’t wait in line at the waste processing factory – he drives through the no dumping signs around the lake and tosses the silo in. Things start to go bad. (24-25)

B story: Here, I’d say that the B story has to do with Homer’s relationship with his family, and particularly Bart’s disillusions and friendship with Flanders. This starts quite early, at (18) and eventually pays off at (72)

Fun and games: President Ahnold, the Dome, Russ Cargill, Trappucino, Maggie in the sinkhole. Even the mob of ‘peasants’ coming after them seems to fit under ‘the promise of the premise,’ and the Simpsons on the run. (26-41)

Midpoint: The simpsons starting over in Alaska, a false peak (42-50)

Bad guys close in: Operation Blow up Springfield, Marge and the other Simpsons want to go to stop them. Homer refuses. (51-54)

All is lost: Homer finds out that his family has left to go back to Springfield, and Marge has lost all faith in him. (55-58)

Dark night of the soul: This is the Inuit Boob lady part, and Homer’s vision. (59-60)

Break into three: Homer’s epiphany, about other people being more important to him than himself. (61)

Finale: Marge, Bart, and Lisa are captured by Russ Cargill and thrown back into Springfield, along with the bomb. Homer refuses to give up in the snow, climbs his way up the dome, and spoils the rest of the town’s escape plan by accident. He gives up again, but is shown the way by the ‘epipha-tree’… and stops by the church to reach out to Bart. They manage to throw the bomb out of the dome and shatter it, and Russ Cargill tries to take revenge for his scheme being foiled. (62-66)

Final image: All of Springfield is cheering for Homer, and rebuilding his house. With Lisa and Colin working off-screen to clean up the lake, after they get ice cream. (67-68)

Developing a novel idea.

August 23, 2010

So – I was surprised by a plot bunny, or possibly a small pack of them, walking home from work last week. Well, I don’t walk all the way home – I walk about two and a half kilometers into downtown Burlington, and catch the Hamilton number eleven bus from there, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the idea.

And possibly I shouldn’t even call this bunny a ‘plot bunny’, though that’s the usual term in some of my writing circles, because the idea that I’ve got a the moment – well, there are a few plot elements, but mostly what I’ve got is the beginning of a sci-fi world setting, and a few character notions, and how an adventure for them begins, and the vaguest idea of where it might take them.

So, out of this – I’m not quite sure where go next to flesh the idea out before I start writing – though I’m sure I do want to put a bit more thought into it before I start. This is a part of the process that I’ve never really thought about in much detail before – I suppose I keep the notion on ‘the back burner’ of my head for a little while to see what develops next. It would be interesting to try to structure this into an outline in a more formal way, though, but I’m not sure where to start.

Do I start with the characters I already know about, interviewing them with questionnaires, and trying to figure out who else might be a person of interest in the story? Worldbuild like crazy? (Especially important since the idea involves several alternate Earths.) Try to segment the plot, breaking it up into beginning middle and end, or come up with a plot structure like the Beat sheet and fill in the blanks?

If you have any thoughts or especially useful links on this topic, please comment away! I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.

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