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Blake Snyder (October 3, 1957 – August 4, 2009) was a Golden Raspberry Award-winning American screenwriter based in Los Angeles, who through the authorship of three books on screenwriting and story structures became one of the most popular writing mentors in the film industry. Snyder led international seminars and workshops for writers in various disciplines, as well as consultation sessions for some of Hollywood's largest studios. Snyder died unexpectedly August 4, 2009, of a pulmonary embolism. A public memorial was held at the Writers Guild of America, West on September 29, 2009.
Snyder's father, Kenneth C.T. Snyder, was an Emmy-winning TV producer of many children's shows in the 1960s and 1970s. Among them were The Funny Company, Hot Wheels, animated segments on Sesame Street, Big Blue Marble and the cult classic Roger Ramjet.
At the age of eight, Snyder was hired by his father as a voice talent for an animated special starring Sterling Holloway. Snyder continued doing children's voices alongside Gary Owens, June Foray and others until his voice changed and he was fired by his producer father.
Snyder went on to earn a B.A. degree in English from Georgetown University, and returned to Los Angeles where he began his career writing for the Disney TV series Kids Incorporated. Snyder began writing full-time as a screenwriter in 1987. He was a member of the Writers Guild of America for over 20 years.
Snyder's first spec screenplay sale was in 1989 for the script Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, which sold for $500,000 in a bidding war, and eventually went on to win him the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screenplay. He went on to sell 12 more original screenplays and was named "one of Hollywood's most successful spec screenwriters" by Hollywoodlitsales.com. Million dollar script sales include Blank Check, co-written with Colby Carr for Walt Disney Pictures, and Nuclear Family, co-written with James Haggin for Steven Spielberg/Amblin Entertainment.
Save the Cat! screenwriting manual
The nonfiction book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need was the number one selling book among screenwriting manuals on Amazon. In the United States it was reprinted fourteen times. The book describes in detail the structure of the monomyth or hero's journey, providing a by-the-minute pattern for screenwriting.
Origin of the title
The title Save the Cat! is a term coined by Snyder and describes the scene where the audience meets the hero of a movie for the first time. The hero does something nice, e.g., saving a cat, which makes the audience like the hero and sympathise with him. His inspiration for this was the movie Alien, where Sigourney Weaver's character Ellen Ripley saves a cat named Jonesy.
According to Snyder, it is a simple scene that helps the audience invest themselves in the character and the story, but is often lacking in many of today's movies.
In his book, Snyder gave greatest emphasis on the importance of structure through his Blake Snyder Beat Sheet or the "BS2" which includes the 15 essential "beats" or plot points that all stories should contain.
Snyder's method expanded the 15 beats further into 40 beats, which are laid out on "The Board." The Board is divided into 4 rows, with each row representing a quarter of the story, namely the 1st Act, the 1st half of the 2nd Act, the 2nd half of the 2nd Act, and the 3rd Act.
Snyder also introduced 10 genres in his book that distinguished how stories are structured. According to Snyder, standard genre types such as Romantic Comedy, Epic or Biography did not say much about the story, only the type of movie it is. Snyder's system explored genre more fully, with categories such as "Monster in the House", "Golden Fleece", "Buddy Love" and others.
In 2007, Snyder wrote a follow-up, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. The second book took 50 landmark movies, identified their specific genres, and broke them down into the 15 beats of the BS2.
The third book of Snyder's series, Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble For Screenwriters To Get Into… and Out Of, was published in November, 2009.
Save the Cat software and online training
As a companion to his books, Snyder developed a story structure software product called Save the Cat! The Last Story Structure Software You'll Ever Need. The software places Snyder's Beat Sheet and Board on an end user's desktop. In 2008, Snyder and software company Final Draft, Inc. specializing in script formatting, became partners in building import/export functions between the two programs. Snyder's company, Blake Snyder Enterprises, LLC, released an iPhone app of the software in November, 2009.
In 2010, Snyder Enterprises plans to launch the Save the Cat! University, an online school that would make Snyder's workshops available year round to writers around the globe.
Workshops and consultations
Snyder developed two weekend workshops for writers, filmmakers and executives. The introductory class, The Beat Sheet Workshop, helped participants come up with the solid structure of the 15 beats, before they embark on the actual writing of the script. In addition, The Beat Sheet Workshop was expanded to be led internationally.
The second workshop, a continuation of the first, called The Board Workshop, had participants take their 15 beats and expand them into 40 cards for a more detailed story structure. Snyder held his workshops all over the United States, Europe and Asia. The workshops were run year round. Snyder also taught his method in such universities as UCLA, Chapman University, Vanderbilt University and the Beijing Film Academy.
- Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) (won the 1992 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screenplay)
- Blank Check (1994)
- Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (2005)
- Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told (2007)
- Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get Into… and Out Of (2009)
- Variety, page 6, Nov. 1989 First Time Writers Fare Well at W & A – Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot script sale.
- Hollywood Reporter, Cover Story, October 3, 1990 – Fierce Bidding War.
- Variety, page 5, April 12, 1993 – Blank Check script sale.
- Hollywood Reporter, page 4, April 12, 1993 – Blank Check and Nuclear Family script sales.
- Peter Suderman. "Save the Movie!". Slate.com.
- Suderman, Pete. "Save the Movie!". Slate.com. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- Final Draft Press Release March 24, 2008 Final Draft Introduces Two New Development Software Partners.
- Interview with Blake Snyder at Groupee Backstage on YouTube
- Interview with Blake Snyder from The Vancouver Sun
- Blake Snyder and Final Draft, Inc. Software Development Partnership Announced at Final Draft, Inc. Press Release
- Blake Snyder interview by Ari Eisner at Creative Screenwriting, The Cat With the Golden Fleece: Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies', October 5, 2007
- Blake Snyder interview by Therese Walsh at www.WriterUnboxed.com
- Blake Snyder interview by Jenna Glatzer at www.absolutewrite.com
- Blake Snyder interview at www.Hollywoodlitsales.com
- Nuclear Family spec sale report at www.Hollywoodlitsales.com
- Blake Snyder at the Internet Movie Database