Creating an Anti-Hero: Save the Cat! Saves the Day
Guest blogger Master Cat! Anne Lower has had a very busy time lately. She is moving her project They Live Among Us episodes 4-6 through post, shopping a reality/adventure show and a one-hour cable drama with her partner, Geoff Reeves, recently Line Produced the indie short Impasse, is producing and directing Interglobal Trading Fund, and co-writing a feature comedy. In her spare time, she is working out under the tutelage of Greg Plitt. At night, you might see her in a mask and cape, prowling the streets of Los Angeles, as she takes the bad guys down. Other than that, she sleeps. Sometimes.
A few months ago, I met with a producer who enjoyed my web series They Live Among Us. She was searching for new content, and wanted to know if I would like to pitch a few things her way. I was given specific parameters of the project — including budget, genre, target demographic, potential for series development, and running time — and went on my merry way.
A couple of weeks later, with the aid of my creative partner, I had created a piece titled Interglobal Trading Fund. ITF tells the story of THIRTEEN, a time-traveling hit man who finds himself faced with a most unusual assignment.
Aside from the monetary consideration, creating a solid and engaging piece based on this logline presented a particular conundrum: a protagonist who was a calculating, cold-blooded killer for hire by governments and organizations who would profit by the target’s death.
One of the first things we did was to create a lexicon for the language of ITF. Instead of assassinations, we labeled them “transactions.” Jumpers were “travelers” and the associates who guided them through their transactions were “tellers.” Using the banking jargon helped to sanitize the mission somewhat, and to create an air of detachment on behalf of the traveler.
But there was still one thing troubling me… would people relate to Thirteen? Would they care what happened to him? Would they buy him as a hero… and would they want to see his journey to redemption, his own personal road to perdition unfold?
It was then that I turned to Blake. Yes, I still speak to him. And, perhaps, he answers back.
“Give ’em a limp and an eyepatch!” was one of Blake’s favorite phrases. And, by that, he meant try loading your character up with problems, challenges to face, physical quirks, troubled pasts that would work to help the audience identify with or be interested in your hero’s (or heroine’s) journey.
And so, after a great deal of pondering and procrastination, that is what I did. I created a Save the Cat! moment for Thirteen.
When I talk about STC! to writers, I find that sometimes, the STC! moment is misunderstood. In Blake’s first book, he boils it down to basic elements — an action completed by the protagonist, that makes the audience “like” the character, and indeed that is what it can be in its most simplistic form.
But the STC! moment, like all of Blake’s beats and genres, can be more than that, for the audience doesn’t always have to love the hero outright… but they do need to feel something: intrigued by him/her, compassion for the character, or some primal connection. If the hero intrigues the audience, the audience will be there for him/her and actually root for their redemption (a common theme for flawed heros).
I thought a great deal about time travel; I thought of Thirteen’s actions and his reactions. I thought of what his childhood must have been like, and then I called my partner and together we created a backstory for Thirteen, a child that, through circumstance, found himself thrown into the foster system, only to be bailed out by ITF. ITF is more than his employer; ITF is his home. His family. It’s all he knows… or at least, all he can remember.
And to bring it all together, Interglobal Trading Fund opens with the STC! moment. It is subtle; it is painted in muted colors, some of it fuzzy, as memory often is. But it is there, right after FADE IN, for all to see. It is the launching point for Thirteen’s journey.
We begin principle photography for ITF later this month (hopefully, though we may push back to September). Our executive producers Cindi Rice and Mark Kern of Red 5 Studios have set the bar high. I will be directing, and my partner, the outstanding Geoff Reeves, is starring as Thirteen. We’re ready for the journey to begin and thanks to Save the Cat!, I know you will all be right there with us.