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.

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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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