SAVE THE CAT! is about making money, not about making art. If you want to read about a bag of tricks that will increase your odds of making a ton of cash, this it. If you want to learn about the finer nuances of artistic, passion-filled creative writing, you should skip this one.
I admit, I have never heard of “Black Check” or “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” (4.7 and 3.7 on IMDB, respectively). However, not only did Blake Snyder sell each script for over a million dollars, each, but both movies grossed around thirty-million dollars, each. Despite Snyder’s continuous name dropping throughout this book, he does produce some artistic chops: twenty years in the industry, and (again) making millions in writing scripts.
Snyder’s approach is VERY formulaic—and opinionated. He’s watched and studied countless films, figuring out his own formula for success. The title of his book comes from one of the coined phrases he uses in chapter 6. He says all good movies should have a “save the cat” moment where something happens (like saving a cat) that makes the hero likable. Snyder says “Tomb Raider 2” was a dud because it lacked a “save the cat” moment.
I can’t argue with Snyder because a lot of what he says makes sense. Some people may have difficulty submitting to his logic or confining themselves to his reasoning, but Snyder does prove it works. Just be prepared to follow his exact logic, such as making your “catalyst” moment shows up on page 12—not page 11 or 13. Yes, I’m serious. He tells you how many pages to have and what should appear on which page. All loglines have to contain irony and you must be a slave to the logline. Work the plan, earn the money.
Beside his coined phrases in Chapter 6, Snyder has also gained some notoriety for breaking every movie into one of ten genres. What’s weird is that “Schindler’s List” and “Die Hard” fall into the same genre. Snyder makes sense in his definitions, but it’s going to rub many people the wrong way.
At the end of the day, Snyder proves his merit and shows how a successful script can be done. Personally, I didn’t enjoy his arrogance (he was “shocked” that fellow script writers couldn’t quote lines from their favorite movies) and I don’t appreciate locking down an art form to a formula. Can you make a lot of money following his advice? Sure. Will you feel good doing so? I don’t know.
Three stars for some interesting advice that anyone can cull from. Two stars knocked off for money-hungry structuring.