Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

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  • Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

    Ok, I'm really into the Blake Snyder books at the moment. Just breezed through all 3 "Cat" books.

    The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet calls for 15 beats. From that, 40 scenes are derived. And it is here I'm getting confused. For the typical 110-page screenplay, that means almost 3 pages per scene on average. I don't think I've ever written anything where my scene length averages 2.75 pages.

    Or does he really mean 40 plot points, where any single plot point could be a scene or a sequence or a collection of scenes or a montage? The math seems off to me. What am I missing? Thoughts?

  • #2
    Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

    Screenwriting isn't math.

    I've read "Save the Cat!" - I read a lot of screenwriting books. I think it's got some useful stuff in it. So do a lot of other screenwriting books.

    Take his 15 beats. Look at how they work in films that you love. Really, sit down with some of your favorite films, and explore how his beats work (or don't work) with them.

    Figure out what they mean, and don't mean, to you.

    Digest them. Understand them in your own terms, and your own language. Make them yours.

    And then stop thinking about them. Whatever you have properly digested will come out naturally in your writing. The stuff that you haven't made your own, if you try to apply it, will feel false.

    How many scenes should you have? How long should those scenes be? Sit down and watch some of your favorite films, and set your DVD player so the timecode is visible. Take copious notes. Define "scene" in the way that works for you and see how that definition works in films you love. Define "plot point" in a way that works for you and see how that definition works in films you love.

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    • #3
      Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

      Can we put a sticky thing on Ronaldinho's post?

      Bill
      Free Script Tips:
      http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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      • #4
        Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

        You're all missing the point. I didn't say that screenwriting was math for Pete's sake. I'm just saying that 40 scenes by itself is not enough to fill out a screenplay. The 3-pages-per-scene illustration was just a mathematic way to prove that. Why? Because I seriously doubt that anybody will have written 3 pages per scene. Could be wrong, I suppose.

        So, back to my original question.

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        • #5
          Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

          Originally posted by gpolin View Post
          You're all missing the point. I didn't say that screenwriting was math for Pete's sake. I'm just saying that 40 scenes by itself is not enough to fill out a screenplay. The 3-pages-per-scene illustration was just a mathematic way to prove that. Why? Because I seriously doubt that anybody will have written 3 pages per scene.
          Depends how you define scene. Do you mean scene headers? Do you mean dramatic steps? Do you mean what, exactly?

          Honestly, I find the idea of counting scenes tedious. I don't think "average scene length" is a meaningful number.

          But if you want to know, define scenes in a way that works for you, and watch some movies while taking notes. See what you learn. (I guarantee you'll learn something).

          As you gain experience, you'll develop a sense of pacing. I can make a pretty accurate guesstimate of how long one of my outlines will run. In the meantime, 40 is a perfectly reasonable starting place.

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          • #6
            Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

            Originally posted by gpolin View Post
            Ok, I'm really into the Blake Snyder books at the moment. Just breezed through all 3 "Cat" books.

            The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet calls for 15 beats. From that, 40 scenes are derived. And it is here I'm getting confused. For the typical 110-page screenplay, that means almost 3 pages per scene on average. I don't think I've ever written anything where my scene length averages 2.75 pages.

            Or does he really mean 40 plot points, where any single plot point could be a scene or a sequence or a collection of scenes or a montage? The math seems off to me. What am I missing? Thoughts?
            "I can smell and tell a formulaic script a mile away" -- some Hollywood producer or other.

            But seriously... breeze through more books on screenwriting to gain better perspective on the three you just breezed through.

            Personally, I read and re-read several screenwriting books per year, and long ago I read the first of Mr. Snyder's works, and left it at that, as I have done with similar other authors' works on screenwriting who tout a formula as a solution. They are one person's idea for a guide to writing a screenplay, and that's it. But there are some screenwriting authors whose approach to writing a book on the subject makes good sense to me, so I read them, and re-read them.

            Employ some journalistic sensibility and look at what others have to say on the topic of screenwriting. The more you know...
            “There's nothing to rewrite if there's nothing on the page."

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            • #7
              Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

              I think that Ronaldinho summed it up very well (just as Martell said).

              I would have to drag out my copy of Save the Cat (which is buried under some other stuff around here, somewhere) to see where the idea of 40 scenes comes from. In any case, maybe it is not a limit, just a demonstration that you will need about 40 scenes to accomplish a handling of the identified 15 beats. I have not read all that stuff in a long time. Honestly, I thought it was way too formulaic, though it was helpful in understanding the dynamics of storytelling.

              "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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              • #8
                Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                40 scenes can be just right for a movie.

                40 scenes can be too many for a movie.

                40 scenes can be too few for a movie.

                It all depends on the movie you are writing. Don't do the math.

                A movie can be 1 scene if that's the movie you are writing.
                @PatriotFrames

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                • #9
                  Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                  I think the best answer you can get is from taking this method and checking it against a script or three that you really like (or one of the scripts he used to come up with this formula)

                  That might help you at least get an idea of what he means by 40scenes/40beats. I doubt it means 40 scene limit (sans EST.) -- but maybe he does. either way, good luck with it!

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                  • #10
                    Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                    Depends how you define scene. Do you mean scene headers? Do you mean dramatic steps? Do you mean what, exactly?

                    Honestly, I find the idea of counting scenes tedious. I don't think "average scene length" is a meaningful number.

                    But if you want to know, define scenes in a way that works for you, and watch some movies while taking notes. See what you learn. (I guarantee you'll learn something).

                    As you gain experience, you'll develop a sense of pacing. I can make a pretty accurate guesstimate of how long one of my outlines will run. In the meantime, 40 is a perfectly reasonable starting place.
                    Yes, this was the kind of thoughtful response I was hoping for. I was more interested in what you think he, Mister Snyder, means. One of the reasons I posted this is because I also think this 40-scene mantra is somehow formulaic or off in some way. I mean, how can anyone put a quantifiable anything (scene number or not) on a script?

                    HOWEVER, and it's a big however, Blake Snyder achieved a level of success virtually nobody on the board ever will, so his assertions cannot be igorned.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                      Originally posted by gpolin View Post
                      HOWEVER, and it's a big however, Blake Snyder achieved a level of success virtually nobody on the board ever will, so his assertions cannot be igorned.
                      This is incorrect.
                      Chicks Who Script podcast

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                      • #12
                        Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                        Originally posted by gpolin View Post
                        Yes, this was the kind of thoughtful response I was hoping for. I was more interested in what you think he, Mister Snyder, means. One of the reasons I posted this is because I also think this 40-scene mantra is somehow formulaic or off in some way. I mean, how can anyone put a quantifiable anything (scene number or not) on a script?

                        HOWEVER, and it's a big however, Blake Snyder achieved a level of success virtually nobody on the board ever will, so his assertions cannot be igorned.
                        First -- Blake Snyder developed this model from watching many films that were produced before he ever wrote his first book. He looked for commonalities in structure then averaged them out to create his formula.

                        It is a formula of averages.

                        It would be like me studying several past decades of fashion design. Then averaging the shirt length and proclaiming good fashion always features a skirt length that hits at mid knee. To prop up my theory, I can reach back in time and show hard examples of timeless designs with skirts at mid knee, always ignoring the many, many, many amazing designs that fall out of this "average" area.

                        Second, as Emily said, you're off on Snyder's fame issue. He's famous for writing these books, not film scripts. There are a number of people on this board who've already blown past him in film and TV credits.
                        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                        • #13
                          Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                          Originally posted by emily blake View Post
                          This is incorrect.
                          Oh, okay, than I stand corrected.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                            Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                            First -- Blake Snyder developed this model from watching many films that were produced before he ever wrote his first book. He looked for commonalities in structure then averaged them out to create his formula.

                            It is a formula of averages.
                            And I tend to agree. His "formula" is just one tool of many out there and shouldn't be viewed as the be and end all.

                            I guess I'm a little defensive, because this post was just about me trying to understand something he wrote and turned into something else. Oh well, moving on.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                              you have every right to be defensive. I would be too if this was the type of response I got off a simple, honest inquiry.

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