Decoding ‘Save The Cat’: 10 Cinematic Types

Decoding 'Save The Cat': 10 Cinematic Types

In the vast landscape of screenwriting methodologies, Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat” stands as a distinctive beacon. While many traditional approaches lean heavily on the 3-act structure, Snyder’s method intricately dissects the narrative into 15 beats, offering writers a comprehensive framework for script outlining and development.

The Architect: Blake Snyder

Blake Snyder, a luminary screenwriter and author, penned the seminal work “Save The Cat – The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” in 2005. This was followed by “Save the Cat Goes to the Movies” (2007) and “Save the Cat Strikes Back” (2009). Beyond his written legacy, Snyder served as a screenwriting consultant and instructor, leaving an indelible mark on the craft.

The Anatomy of “Save The Cat” Beat Sheet

Contrary to the conventional 3-act structure, Snyder’s beat sheet unfolds as follows:

  1. Opening Image (Page 1)
  2. Theme Stated (Page 5)
  3. Set-Up (Page 1 to 10)
  4. Catalyst (Page 12)
  5. Debate (Page 12 to 25)
  6. Break into Two (Page 25)
  7. B Story is introduced (Page 30)
  8. Fun and Games (Page 30 to 55)
  9. Midpoint (Page 55)
  10. Bad Guys Close In (Page 55 to 75)
  11. All is Lost (Page 75)
  12. Dark Night of the Soul (Page 75 to 85)
  13. Break into Three (Page 85)
  14. Finale (Page 85 to 110)
  15. Final Image (Page 110)

These beats, with precise page indications, serve as a roadmap for storytellers. While adhering to these guidelines is encouraged, Snyder himself acknowledged some flexibility.

Love it or Hate it: The “Save The Cat” Dilemma

Opinions on “Save The Cat” are polarized within the screenwriting community. Some swear by its systematic approach, finding it a valuable tool in crafting narratives. Others vehemently reject it, favoring more fluid methods. The debate rages on, with little middle ground.

Personally, many appreciate “Save The Cat” for its detailed breakdown, offering a granular understanding of story progression.

Legacy and Influence

Regardless of individual opinions, “Save The Cat” has etched its place in the annals of screenwriting. Translated into numerous languages and boasting millions of copies sold, it remains an influential force. According to Snyder, understanding the ten fundamental movie types is a powerful starting point for any writer.

In a world where screenwriting methodologies abound, “Save The Cat” stands as a distinctive and enduring guide.


Decoding Blake Snyder’s Movie Types

1. Monster In The House

Blake Snyder’s “Monster in the House” archetype harkens to the oldest tales, rooted in simplicity: a confined space, a monstrous threat, and people desperate to survive. While not always literally in a house, the essence lies in a restricted setting—be it a small town, a boat, or a cabin. The stakes are sky-high as characters grapple not merely for victory but for survival itself.

Monster Variations:
  1. Pure Monster: e.g., “Alien” (1979)
  2. Domestic Monster: a human threat, as in “Fatal Attraction” (1987)
  3. Serial Monster: a recurring criminal, akin to “Scream” (1996)
  4. Supernatural Monster: e.g., “The Ring” (2002)

2. The Golden Fleece

In the realm of the “Golden Fleece,” narratives unfold as quests. The protagonist embarks on a journey, seeking one thing but discovers an unexpected, transformative truth. These movies delve into themes of self-discovery and growth, where the hero’s internal evolution surpasses external events.

Categories:

  1. Sport Fleece: e.g., “Rocky” (1976)
  2. Buddy Fleece: think “Thelma & Louise” (1991)
  3. Epic Fleece: grand adventures like “Star Wars” (1977) or “Lord Of the Rings” (2001)
  4. Solo Fleece: individual odysseys, as in “12 Years a Slave” (2013)

3. Out Of The Bottle

Snyder introduces the “Out of the Bottle” concept where a character makes a wish, and it unexpectedly comes true, imparting a vital life lesson. From body switches to angelic interventions, these movies explore the consequences of getting what one wishes for.

Types:

  1. Body Switch Bottle: e.g., “Freaky Friday” (1976)
  2. Angel Bottle: interventions like “Cocoon” (1985)
  3. Thing Bottle: the unexpected consequences, seen in “The Mask” (1994) or “Jumanji” (1995)
  4. Curse Bottle: exploring wishes and curses, as in “What Women Want” (2000)
  5. Surreal Bottle: surreal wish fulfillment, as seen in “The Scrooge” (1970)

Jim Carrey’s filmography is often a testament to the “Out of the Bottle” theme, where wishes and lessons intertwine in surreal narratives.

4. Dude With A Problem

In the realm of “Dude With A Problem,” Snyder delineates it as an ordinary individual thrust into extraordinary circumstances. This popular movie type thrives on irony — a relatable character caught off guard by a colossal problem. The bigger the problem, the more heroic the protagonist appears to viewers. Categories within this type span espionage, law enforcement challenges, domestic upheavals, epic crises, and encounters with nature’s formidable forces.

Categories:

  1. Spy Problem: e.g., “The Bourne Identity” (2002)
  2. Law Enforcement Problem: think “Die Hard” (1988)
  3. Domestic Problem: like “Sleeping With the Enemy” (1991)
  4. Epic Problem: such as in “Deep Impact” (1998)
  5. Nature Problem: as seen in “Open Water” (2003)

5. Rites Of Passage

Snyder defines “Rites Of Passage” movies as narratives centered around a significant event that transforms the main character — be it death, divorce, or navigating high school for a reserved teen. These stories often grapple with the theme of “human versus life,” ultimately resolving when the protagonist surrenders, accepting the lack of control over everything. Categories within this type encompass mid-life transitions, separations, passages marked by death, struggles with addiction, and the turbulence of adolescent experiences.

Categories:

  1. Mid Life Passage: such as in “10” (1979)
  2. Separation Passage: as in “Kramer Vs Kramer” (1979)
  3. Death Passage: like in “Ordinary People” (1980)
  4. Addiction Passage: as in “28 Days” (2000)
  5. Adolescent Passage: think “American Pie” (1999)

6. Buddy Love

“Buddy Love” movies form narratives where two characters, responding to each other, often blur the lines of who the actual protagonist is. These tales of “Me and My Best Friend” can be seen as love stories in disguise, with various categories such as pet love, professional camaraderie, romantic comedy dynamics, epic friendships, and forbidden connections.

Categories:

  1. Pet Love: as in “Beethoven” (1992)
  2. Professional Love: as in “Rush Hour” (1998)
  3. RomCom Love: as in “When Harry Met Sally” (1989)
  4. Epic Love: as in “Titanic” (1997)
  5. Forbidden Love: as in “Romeo & Juliet” (1996)

7. WhyDunit

Differing from the classic “whodunit,” “WhyDunit” movies focus not on who committed an act but on why it occurred. In Snyder’s view, the why is more captivating than the who. These movies invite audiences to explore profound and sometimes dark aspects of human nature. Categories within this type span political explorations, fantasy realms, police investigations, personal introspections, and noir mysteries.

Categories:

  1. Political Whydunit: such as in “JFK” (1991)
  2. Fantasy Whydunit: as in “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
  3. Cop Whydunit: think “Basic Instinct” (1992)
  4. Personal Whydunit: as in “Mystic River” (2003)
  5. Noir WhyDunit: as in “Chinatown” (1974)

8. The Fool Triumphant

Within Snyder’s theory lies the narrative gem of “The Fool Triumphant.” These are stories where an underrated protagonist, often mocked or dismissed, emerges as the unsung hero, outsmarting established and feared characters. The underdog, the fool, defies expectations, saving the day and, more often than not, turning the tables using qualities others mocked. Categories within this type include the political fool, undercover fool, society fool, fool out of water, and the sex fool.

Categories:

  1. Political Fool: as in “Being There” (1979)
  2. Undercover Fool: as in “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993)
  3. Society Fool: think “Forrest Gump” (1994)
  4. Fool Out of Water: think “Legally Blonde” (2001)
  5. Sex Fool: as seen in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005)

9. Institutionalized

“Institutionalized” movies delve into the dynamics of groups or families with a common cause. They explore the power of unity but also depict the potential loss of individual identity within a strong collective. Typically, the protagonist, often a newcomer, initially sees the group as perfect but later discovers its flaws and undertakes a fight against it. Categories within this type span military institutions, family dynamics, business structures, mentorships, and issues-driven institutions.

Categories:

  1. Military Institution: as in “MAS*H” (1970)
  2. Family Institution: as in the movie “American Beauty” (1999)
  3. Business Institution: think “9 to 5” (1980)
  4. Mentor Institution: as seen in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)
  5. Issue Institution: as in “Friends With Money” (2006)

10. SuperHero

The iconic superhero genre stands in stark contrast to the “Dude With A Problem.” Superheroes, extraordinary individuals thrust into extraordinary situations, grapple with the difficulty of being exceptional. Their struggles humanize these fantastical narratives. Categories within this type span real-life superheroes, storybook superheroes, fantasy superheroes, people’s superheroes, and classic comic book superheroes.

Categories:

  1. Real Life Superhero: as in “BraveHeart” (1995)
  2. StoryBook Superhero: think “Peter Pan” (2003)
  3. Fantasy Superhero: as in “The Matrix” (1999)
  4. People’s Superhero: like “Casino Royale” (1967)
  5. Comic Book SuperHero: think “Spider-Man” (2002)

These ten movie types, according to Blake Snyder, provide a dynamic lens through which to view the vast tapestry of storytelling. Each category offers a unique narrative flavor, enriching the cinematic landscape.

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