Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

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  • #16
    Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

    Originally posted by gpolin View Post
    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.
    Well, I think Ronald's advice was spot on but since the math sentence put you off you're not seeing his point. Perhaps read everything after that sentence one more time.

    Following is my opinion so take with the usual grain of salt ....

    I advise to stop thinking about the Snyder beat sheet. It can mess with your mind. That beat sheet messed with mine and I didn't even finish the book. I know others had that same experience. You'll be writing a scene and that Save the Cat voice will kick in -- "Fun and Games! This sequence should be Fun and Games! I'm off course."

    I suspect it's already messing with your mind -- you're here trying to clarify how long scenes should be, and how many in total, thanks to Snyder -- bless his heart and may he rest in peace.

    Edited to add - 2013 article re Save The Cat:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/c...at.single.html
    Last edited by sc111; 04-27-2014, 10:30 AM.
    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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    • #17
      Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

      Originally posted by bjamin View Post
      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.
      It's fine. Things like this happen from time to time in these types of forums. We're all guilty of occasionally thumping our chests in our zeal to be heard.

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      • #18
        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.
        I think that's an exercise in futility. You can't get inside his mind.

        I mean, look, if you want to, why not go look at his movies, and try to apply his model to his movies. If he says 40 scenes, how can you look at his movies and parse them into 40 scenes?

        I'm skeptical if he even wrote as formulaically as he said he wrote. There were 11 years between his last produced film and the publication of "Save the Cat!" You can interpret that a lot of ways, some flattering, some not, (eg Hollywood puts everyone out to pasture at some point, he was a product of a particular period, etc).

        In a larger sense, your skepticism is warranted. Even if his resume was as impressive as you seem to think it is (and, look, it's a heck of a lot better than mine) you should be skeptical. That's the point. Just because someone with a great resume said something doesn't mean it's true.

        When I was at USC, a writer who worked with Michael Mann came and talked to a room of like 20 of us. I think it was Eric Roth, but I'm not 100% sure (we're talking about the same length of time between Snyder's last produced film and STC, after all. put it at 98% sure). He said, when he wrote, that he always started every day writing from page one.

        New document. Page one. If he reached page 95 the day before, he'd re-write those 95 pages before doing anything new.

        I remember this clearly. As I recall, a student raised a hand and basically said, "Really?" and voiced the objections you're probably voicing in your head
        right now, which is the same thing I was thinking, and the whole reason I remember this is because of how completely insane it is.

        And yet Eric Roth has a resume that DWARFS Snyder's. I mean, night and day.

        And here he is, and his process includes this thing which is totally, completely insane.

        In other words:

        Don't worry about anyone else's process. Discover your own.

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        • #19
          Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

          Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post

          Don't worry about anyone else's process. Discover your own.
          Well said and good advice regardless of one's artistic endeavor.

          I'm nobody's disciple. Just thought he has an interesting way of breaking down structure.

          Peace, brother.

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          • #20
            Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

            I think the recipe-nature of Snyder's beat sheet irks me because it makes the writer think they don't understand movie structure to begin with and his punch-list can set them right.

            I think we've all internalized structure since the day the babysitter rolled our little walker thingy up to the TV screen so we could watch Disney films while she messed around with her boyfriend in our parents' room.

            Reinforced, when Dad dropped us off with a gang of middle school friends at movie matinees. Reinforced by countless movie dates, DVD rentals and cable movies on demand. How many films has the average newbie watched by the time they buy their first copy of Final Draft? Hundreds, at the very least. For some, a thousand, possibly.

            My fellow unsold, unrepped writers. You know structure. Yes you do. Seriously. Believe it.

            I'll get off my soapbox, now.
            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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            • #21
              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?
              It's fun to read a lot of these guys for the for the first few chapters. Then you start to realize they're going through a lot of pages stating and restating the obvious. I think they have good advice, but their formulas, which look pretty cool, at first, start to fall apart on closer examination.

              The thing is, most of these guys reverse-engineer stories (and scripts). I doubt that the people they reverse engineered, were even thinking about this stuff, they were just telling stories. They told a good story and later on someone tried to analyze it to find out why it worked.

              I'm not saying there isn't screenplay structure. There is, and the pros here can explain it. I used to be on a newsgroup with a lot of pros and I'd sometimes bring up a movie and say I didn't like it or I thought it stunk. The pros could tell me why it stunk. And then it seemed obvious. NMStevens, who posts here now, is really good at that.

              For screenplays you need to tell a visual story. With all the great screenplays I've read, I can see the movie when I'm reading it. (Which is why I personally hate interruptions like "pan out, with a number ten trolley and ECU on chipped left-top incisor". (Or whatever.)) I mean -- damn -- I was watching a movie when I was reading your script and now you just had the camera crew walk into the scene.

              But that's personal with me.

              How many times do we really need to be told a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end? The fairy tales our moms and dads read to us when we were babies had that.
              "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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              • #22
                Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                Originally posted by gpolin View Post
                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 haven't read STC, and I think the whole issue of how useful all this guru-talk is has been done to death.

                Specific to your question though, 40 beats for a full screenplay seems about right. I'm redrafting a script at the moment and in the opening 10 pages there are three 'beats' - i.e. three events that move the story on.

                The first beat is that one couple informs another couple that they are expecting a baby. It's a big deal because it clearly has implications for the relationship between these two couples. It consists of four slugs - outside a cinema, in the cinema, in the street, at a restaurant. It's about four pages in total. It tells you lots of stuff (I hope) about who these people are, what the relationship is and what the group dynamics are; it also sets the tone and makes clear who the main character is. But in terms of the plot, it's one beat. The baby thing is what triggers the next scene, what sets in motion the events following on from that beat.

                So based on that rough-and-ready number, three beats in ten pages will level out at around 36 over 120 pages. However none of this was in my head when I wrote it. I hadn't even heard of this 15/40 beats whatever.

                Look at the Three Page Challenges on Scriptnotes. More often than not they describe one 'beat' of the story. They end with a sense of closure, but also with some kind of baton being passed to whatever the next beat is. The good ones do all the other stuff, like setting up tone, mood, voice, establishing character. Even if they describe two events in two places, they rarely describe two different plotlines.
                My stuff

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                • #23
                  Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                  Someone read my screenplay and said I was a beat off...

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

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                  • #24
                    Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                    Originally posted by wcmartell View Post
                    Someone read my screenplay and said I was a beat off...

                    Bill
                    They were just jerking your around.
                    If you really like it you can have the rights
                    It could make a million for you overnight

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                    • #25
                      Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                      A scene should be as long as it needs to be, and no longer. I've found that good pacing usually trucks along at 3 pages a scene. It feels like the same rule that your screenplays (early on) shouldn't be over 120 pages - all relative.
                      Blake laid it out so that in 120 page script you don't want a 30 page act I. So, no, it's not 1 card per scene, per se. Just major points that move the story forward.

                      I like that his beat sheet makes structure very accessible to everyone. But when it comes down to it Aristotle had it right with 3 act structure - and that's really all you need to know. There was some great adivce in previous posts. Watch/study/learn from movies you love. I use my iPhone's stop watch (what a time to be alive) and hit the "lap" button at the end of every scene and you can really see how things plug along and the pace of scenes.

                      I love the 1st and 2nd STC! books. If nothing else, it sets things up for you then if you get creative you can bend/break the rules and make it your own.

                      G'luck

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                      • #26
                        Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                        Originally posted by gpolin View Post
                        Blake Snyder achieved a level of success virtually nobody on the board ever will, so his assertions cannot be igorned.
                        Ugh... really? "Ever will?" You can predict the future but you don't know how long your scenes should be?
                        How many times have you seen 'Stop or my Mom will shoot', and 'Blank Check'? I'm skeptical that these are his scripts that made him a ro screenwriter - but I'm a little relieved because people who can't do, teach. And he was a very good teacher.

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                        • #27
                          Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                          Originally posted by Filmmagician View Post
                          Ugh... really? "Ever will?" You can predict the future but you don't know how long your scenes should be?
                          How many times have you seen 'Stop or my Mom will shoot', and 'Blank Check'? I'm skeptical that these are his scripts that made him a ro screenwriter - but I'm a little relieved because people who can't do, teach. And he was a very good teacher.
                          If you want to have a civil conversation, I'm here. Otherwise, get lost.

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                          • #28
                            Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                            Originally posted by gpolin View Post
                            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
                            -- 40 beats is an expanded version on Blake Synder's Beat Sheet (15 beats). It doesn't mean 40 scenes. It's just a more detailed structural outline.

                            The way it works is you have 40 index cards posted on a board: 4 lines across of ten each representing an act with Act Two split in half. On each card you lay out the beats/plot points. They can contain one scene or multiple scenes.

                            For example, a robbery will be one beat, but have 5 scenes.

                            This is meant, as any other method, as a guideline to get your structure, also character development, ideas, etc. in order before you write.

                            Keep in mind, Blake Synder says 40 beats to structure a story. I don't like this type of teaching at all, but if you look at this as just a guideline and not an ABSOLUTE MUST BE, then it won't hurt you creatively.

                            It's whatever works for your story. It could be more than 40 beats, or it could be less. Same goes with the number of scenes in a story and the number of pages in a scene.

                            Decades ago, the average number of pages in a scene was 2 to 4 pages, 40 to 60 scenes. Now it's like 1.5 to 3 pages.

                            To a screenwriter actually writing knowing this fact of averages means nothing. He's gonna use as many pages in a scene and as many scenes that he needs to emotionally excite and entertain an audience.

                            A comedy, on average, is gonna have less scenes than a character drama. As other factors are gonna affect the number of pages in a scene, such as a writer's style, etc.

                            I suppose a green writer, or any writer, could use these averages as a tool/guideline to tell him for example if he's going way past these averages he might be overwriting and needs to go back and analyze the scene.

                            By the way, Blake Snyder's "Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot" was in a high stakes bidding war. How many out of the hundreds of members here can say that about one of their scripts?

                            Let's not disrespect a fellow writer's achievement. Even if it's a story you personally didn't like.
                            Last edited by JoeNYC; 04-29-2014, 07:03 PM.

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                            • #29
                              Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                              I like to do the following...

                              Every 10 pages or so turn the story in a different direction. Could be a small, medium or large turn.

                              Does the turn have to fall exactly every 10 pages? No.

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                              • #30
                                Re: Understanding Blake Snyder 40 beats?

                                All these formulas and beats are really done for people who are unable to grasp the simple concept that **** has to happen in your screenplay. The protagonist(s) must move forward and backward. It can not be a linear journey.

                                Strictly by-the-numbers writing is quicly falling out of fashion.

                                I just got a recommend on a script that had a 15-page-scene in it. So, it really just depends on the script.

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