For the last two years, our Development Director José Silerio has been integral to the success of Blake’s workshops and classes. Jose worked alongside Blake schooling writers in the “Cat” method. As a teacher and consultant, José has helped numerous writers learn Blake’s paradigm and apply it to their projects. The following tribute was written by Jose:
Who’s your hero? This is the number one question of Blake’s Story Spine Checklist. Who’s the hero? That seems easy enough to answer. In fact, it should be obvious. I’m the writer. I should know who the hero is, right? Pffft! What kind of question is that? Who’s the hero?!? Really?!?
The truth is it’s not always that easy to answer that question. And sometimes it takes more than we care to know.
I first found out Blake passed away when Rich Kaplan called me that fateful afternoon. His voice wasn’t as steady as it usually was, and it was even more somber and lower than usual. As he said, “José, there’s really no other way to say this…” For a split second, the first thought that came to mind was “I’m getting fired.” I thought that jokingly but still somewhat fearfully. But the words that followed weren’t what I expected nor what I wished to hear … ever. Honestly, I’d rather have been fired. At least that, upsetting as it may have been, is something that’s just temporary. Not something so permanent, so absolute, so final.
As the comments and tributes started coming in and filling this website, it became obvious how many people — how unbelievably many — were touched by Blake, whether it was through a weekend workshop, a seminar, a talk, a phone call, a consultation, an email, a five-minute conversation or even justa handshake. But the other thing that stood out was the sense of loss. The loss of a mentor, a teacher, a friend, a loved one. And in Save the Cat! jargon, most felt this was a true All Is Lost.
I don’t blame you. Loss of a mentor. Whiff of Death. Isn’t that what Blake said? Page 75. All Is Lost. Game over, man.
Yes, Blake said that. But Blake also said the beat sheet isn’t formula. And it’s because of that I know this isn’t an All Is Lost. If you read his books and listened to his lectures — I mean really listened — you should know this isn’t the All Is Lost. And don’t tell me it’s a False Defeat either. This is a Catalyst.
Let me paraphrase Blake: “I like the catalyst moment because… it’s life. Those moments happen to all of us. And life-changing events often come disguised as bad news. Like many of the beats in the BS2, the catalyst is not what it seems.” (Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, p. 76-77)
The Catalyst is something that’s done to the hero that sends him or her off on another path that he or she didn’t expect. Trust me when I say these words resonate in me more now than they ever will. And just like any protagonist, I find myself at a crossroad, a Debate, if you will. And I think many of you find yourself in the same situation.
The funny thing about the Debate is that it seems like the most unimportant of all the beats in the BS2. Do I take the red pill or the blue pill? Do I go through the door or not? Do I get on the ship or not? Do I call the girl or not? I mean, the answer has to be “yes,” right? If not, there’s no story. So, what’s the point to the Debate? Interestingly, I think, the Debate is the moment when we see our protagonist as most vulnerable, most fearful, most human — and, in a way, showing us why we associate with the protagonist and what made us follow the story in the first place.
And just as I said it, whether I’m ready or not, willing or not, I Break Into Two. Into the upside-down world of Act II. A world without Blake.
And I ask you to do the same.
Don’t be scared because, as Blake always said, this is the best part. The Fun & Games. The promise of the premise. The poster of your movie. The poster of your story. And what’s really great about this is that you already have a B Story to accompany you in your Fun & Games. That little booster rocket that helps smooth over the shockingly obvious A Story act break (another Save the Cat! gem). What is it? It’s Blake’s story. So now you know what “B” stands for.
Here’s another line from Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (p. 79): The B Story says: “Enough already, how about talking about something else!” With that ever-present Blake Snyder exclamation point, no less. And that’s exactly what Blake would be saying right now.
But don’t use Blake as a flashback. We all know Blake hated flashbacks. He thought they were a cheat. An easy way out. But more so, a flashback moves the story backwards, not forwards. When you think of Blake, when you remember that special moment you shared with him — whether it was a brief encounter, a lifelong friendship, or an awakening while reading his words — make sure you’re moving your story forward. Make sure you are moving your life forward. Because that’s the only way Blake would have wanted it.
And I have no doubt you will, we all will. Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis. As Blake always said, “It’s easy!”
So, let me ask you again: Who’s the hero? That’s really easy to answer now. You are. You all were Blake’s heroes. Those of you who courageously fought off your temptations on a daily basis so we may be encouraged. Those of you who persevered to find the story of your life so we may follow. And, mostly, those of you who never gave up on your dreams so we may be inspired.
So, go and write your screenplay, your novel, your movie, your story. Go and watch a movie, in groups, with your loved ones, or by yourself. And when you see the hero do something nice when you first meet him, shout out “Save the Cat!” And when you see the hero alone and beaten, shout “All Is Lost!!” And when you see the hero rise back up to his or her feet, and finally, once and for all, remove that Shard of Glass, and throw it away, shout “Dig Deep Down!!!” Do it, not so theater owners will love you. Do it because Blake loves you.
Thanks, big guy! Miss ya! Love ya!
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