If you’re a screenwriter then it’s very likely you are familiar with Blake Snyder and his Save the Cat series of screenwriting books. If you’re not familiar … well, then, get familiar.
Snyder, who sadly passed away in 2009, pretty much laid out a structure for commercial feature films, one which has been both derided and defended. I, personally, think it’s brilliant — after all story is structure. And I happen to enjoy the taste of the Save the Cat Kool-Aid: I’ve read all the books in the series, including the fifth and most recent one, Save the Cat Goes to the Indies.
But Jay, didn’t you say Blake Snyder passed away? How is this new book possible?
Simple: It was penned by one of Snyder’s students, Salva Rubio.
Now, here’s the thing. Each of Snyder’s three original STC texts (the fourth is merely a collection of his blog posts) brought something new to the table. The original Save the Cat introduced its unique concept of the necessary formula (15 specific beats) for a good story and explained it in easy-to-understand terms. The follow-ups, Save the Cat Goes to the Movies and Save the Cat Strikes Back, offer a bit more insight and apply Snyder’s beats to some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, such as Scream, Legally Blonde, Ocean’s Eleven, and Spider-Man 2. Again, the point is for writers to craft commercially viable scripts.
So when I saw that a new book was being published, I pooh-poohed the notion almost immediately. I mean, really, what more needs to be said that isn’t found in the previous volumes?
And that’s the thing. Save the Cat Goes to the Indies doesn’t so much offer anything new as it does apply Snyder’s beats to “indie” films — arty, low- to no-budget, European or truly American underground. Granted, some of the films in this book did achieve financial success (Pulp Fiction and Life is Beautiful, to give two examples), but I think the idea here was to show that the STC formula can be applied even to movies with a quirky, more abstract, and noncommercial sensibility and still work. And to that end, it succeeds.
Indies also fares well because Rubio is an engaging writer. His prose is witty and he’s just as effective at analyzing the chosen films as Snyder. And, like the earlier books, Indies is a breezy read and will certainly serve as a reference text for years to come.
In my opinion, Save the Cat Goes to the Indies is a lot like this summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s not an essential part of the canon by any means, but it’s entertaining, answers some questions you may have had, and gets the job done. To be honest, that’s good enough for me.