SCREENWRITING BOOK REVIEW: Save the Cat Goes to the Indies by Salva Rubio

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“Should have stopped at two,” is an oft heard comment about The Godfather trilogy, expressing a regular and frequently deserved sentiment about sequels. Serialization, where the ongoing story is episodic, is a significantly easier thing to pull off. A sequel, where the original was intended to be whole and complete, is exponentially harder to execute.

Denny Schnulo reviews Save the Cat! Goes to the Indies, where Salva Rubio uses Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet to analyze 50 independent films. By this definition, Save the Cat Goes to the Indies is a sequel. But the success of the original Save the Cat has now spawned four books (five, if you count the collection of Blake’s blogs) based on a premise that a single volume would seem to adequately address; particularly for a premise that has generated more than a little animus and collected its fair share of detractors.

But Indies shares none of the questionable traits that have tainted the reputation of sequels. It’s original while being true to premise; the premise is that Blake Snyder’s techniques and genres are equally valid for European, auteur, and Indie films as they are for traditional Hollywood fare.

Indies is fun, funny, and entertaining in the chapter introductions. In the first chapter when the author asks us, “So, if you are a fan of horror films and want to write a Monster in the House (MITH) screenplay, what do you need, besides morbidity, a dark imagination and lots of ketchup?”  In clear energetic prose the author proceeds to lay out the MITH requirements as per the original Cat, and then shows us where they are in the analyses of such successful Euro/auteur/Indies as The Lives of Others, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Blair Witch Project.

The analyses are efficient and professional, with the feel of something stolen off a studio executive’s desk. These things are real and functional. They read like real business without being cold or institutional. The sort of thing that can inform and engage a busy studio honcho so an informed decision can be made – at least as informed as a studio executive is capable of.

Script EXTRA: Using Save the Cat!’s Ten “Genres”

The surprising quality of this fourth sequel most likely stems from the charming backstory of author Salva Rubio’s introduction and relationship with Cat creator Blake Snyder and the special credibility it gives the author.

Years ago, Salva signed up for a Snyder workshop being held in Salva’s native Spain. For an entire week, Salva and nine others lived and worked in a closed setting with Blake – an intimate opportunity I doubt would have been available in the U.S. where the class size would have swelled from demand.

Salva stayed in touch with Blake over the following years, in particular when he took on the task of evaluating scripts for a production company based in Madrid. Applying Cat evaluation techniques on a daily basis to scripts submitted by then lesser-known, current stalwarts like the Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, and John Turturto, Salva produced beat sheets on prospective scripts as part of his routine functions.

His professional application experience with Cat beat sheets shows in the analyses in Indies..  Perhaps Mr. Rubio stockpiled these beat sheets over the years and the book is actually a compilation. If so, the reader benefits tremendously from exposure to “real” business as opposed to replicated. If they are replicated, Mr. Rubio deserves credit for his recall of the look and feel of the real thing. (Further investigation confirmed that all the beat sheets in Indies are new for the book.)

A frequent failure of sequels is weaving in the backstory with sufficient information, tone and texture to recreate the original’s atmosphere and allow the sequel to stand on its own. Mr. Rubio serves this requirement with such craft that at times Indies seems to stand on its own with Cat seen as a separate source of inspiration rather than the originator of the line. At the same time, Indies pays all due respect to Cat and its impact on this incarnation and the film industry as a whole.

In the end, the application of Cat’s methodology to European, auteur and Indie films comes off as a natural, new use for the right tool. There are no twisting, contorted, or tortured characterizations required to make these films fit into Blake Synder Beat Sheet. Much the same as a 9/16 wrench and a 14mm can work on the same bolt, only the slightest effort is required to make Cats methods work on Indies.

The results support Mr. Rubio’s assertion that good storytelling is universal and that, “If the film has been a success, you can bet there’s a Blake Snyder Beat Sheet lurking inside.”  Statements like that are sure to spin the dial up to eleven for the dedicated detractors of the Snyder Method, but Mr. Rubio doesn’t appear to need any square pegs to fit in round holes to support his premise.

Script EXTRA: Essential Tips on Story Structure from the Writer of ‘Die Hard 2’

Whether that’s because the data is so decisive it just fell into place, or a result of Mr. Rubio’s skills in shaping it, I’ll leave to the reader to decide. Formulating that personal opinion will be one more bit of investigative fun from a book filled with entertaining information for anyone interested in scriptwriting or film.

In his best-selling book, Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies, Blake Snyder provided 50 “beat sheets” to 50 films, mostly studio-made. Now his student, screenwriter and novelist Salva Rubio applies Blake’s principles to 50 independent, European and cult films (again with five beat sheets for each of Blake’s 10 genres).

From international sensations like The Blair Witch Project to promising debuts like Pi, from small films that acquired cult status like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, to Euro-blockbusters like The Full Monty, from unexpected gems like Before Sunrise, to auteur classics such as The 400 Blows, from Dogville, to Drive, and Boogie Nights, to Cinema Paradiso, here are 50 movies that fit both the “indie” label and Blake Snyder’s 15 beats.

You’ll find beat sheets for works from Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David Lynch, Roman Polanski, Danny Boyle, David Mamet, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Sofia Coppola, Lars Von Trier, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers, among other renowned writers and directors.

If you’re a moviegoer, you’ll discover a language to analyze film and understand how filmmakers can effectively reach audiences.

If you’re a writer, this book reveals how those who came before you tackled the same challenges you are facing with the films you want to write.

For more information about Save the Cat! books, software and more go to www.savethecat.com

The life of the great French painter, one of the founders of Impressionism, is narrated in lush comic art reminiscent of his style. From the Salon des Refuses (“Salon of the Rejected”) and many struggling years without recognition, money, and yet a family to raise, all the way to great success, critically and financially, Monet pursued insistently one vision: catching the light in painting, refusing to compromise on this ethereal pursuit. It cost him dearly but he was a beacon for his contemporaries. We discover in this comics biography how he came to this vision as well as his turbulent life pursuing it.

Take a look at Salva’s most recent project, Monet, Nomad of Light (2017).

 

Salva Rubio, who was born in Madrid, Spain in 1978, is a screenwriter and graphic novelist. For 10 years\he worked for Spain’s foremost independent distribution, exhibition and production company, Alta Films He has also analyzed scripts for Spain’s Ministry of Culture (ICAA), Instituto Cervantes, Fundación Carolina and Casa de América. Salva is Licenciado in Arts History (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and has a Master’s Degree in Film and TV Screenwriting (Universiddad Carlos III de Madrid).

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