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Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need Paperback – May 25, 2005
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“One of the most comprehensive and insightful how-to's out there. Save the Cat! is a must-read for both the novice and the professional screenwriter.” – Todd Black, Producer, Hope Springs, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man, Antwone Fisher
“Want to know how to be a successful writer in Hollywood? The answers are here. Blake Snyder has written an insider's book that's informative ― and funny, too.” – David Hoberman, Producer, Muppets Most Wanted (2014), The Muppets, The Shaggy Dog , Raising Helen, Walking Tall, Monk (TV)
"You'd have to look far and wide to find a better book to help you achieve your goals. Quite simply one of the most practical guides to writing mainstream spec scripts on the market." – Screentalk Magazine
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Save the Cat is basically a book full of little gimmicks for improving a screenplay, as well as pitfalls to avoid. The title comes from the idea of having the hero of the story save a cat early on in the movie to establish his/her likability. It sounds silly, but the examples Snyder gives (it’s not always literally a cat) demonstrate how effective it is. You have to take some of his opinions with a cup or so of salt; he is more concerned with making a script salable than writing something original, which is understandable, except then he proceeds to denigrate Memento, calling it a “low-performing art house film,” and praises the writer of the forgettable Skeet Ulrich movie Chill Factor as a “genius.” (For the record, Memento made $25 million on a $9 million budget; Chill Factor made $11 million on a budget of $70 million. Also, Memento is a cult classic that launched the career of Christopher Nolan of Inception and The Dark Knight fame. Chill Factor is currently chilling at 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.)
Still, Save the Cat is worth reading for the very concrete advice it gives in structuring a screenplay. I think his tips apply to screenwriting sort of the way the rules of grammar apply to dialog: you need to internalize them and then forget them. If you doggedly apply the rules to dialog, you end up with stilted dialog. If you insist on following the advice in Save the Cat to the letter, you may end up with a movie like Chill Factor.
One can tell many reviewers, readers, wanna be screenwriters, and others are certain this book is off the mark and too formula to have value. These same folks need to spend more time actually watching and analyzing many of the films Hollywood puts out even today (2018). This book is right on the money. Sure, there are exceptions to the rules, but as Snyder - and any expert, trainer, pro, or individual with a track record and street cred will tell you, you must know the rules before you dare break them. Save the Cat is a prime example of this concept.
I've heard of the book many times over the years, but until I decided to commit full time to my screenwriting I'd not taken the time to grab it and read. I'm sorry I wasted the time. Not only as an academic, non-fiction, and fiction writer, but as a media psychologist this book is a great read with some seriously solid insights. On the other hand, as a newer screenwriter it's a great help, and it lays a solid foundation for much of what Hollywood offers, has become, and will remain. Whether or not you agree with anything he writes, as any professional knows, you always read the books and experts who know the pathway.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is considering being a screenwriter - or writer - or loves film.