Do It Yourself.

That’s what DIY stands for.

For screenwriters and filmmakers, DIY is about creating memorable short films that show off your storytelling skills.

But can a short, even one as brief as a minute or two, still hit the winning elements found in Save the Cat!

Of course it can!

In class, and in my new book,  Save the Cat! Strikes Back, coming out this spring, I talk about the 15 beats found in a 30-second commercial for Pledge furniture wax. And yes, it hits them all — including the “All Is Lost” beat when our housewife/hero confronts the “death of old ideas” as she drops her former polish product, Brand X, in the trash. This leaves her and Pledge to have a triumphant Finale as she walks out the door of her formerly messy house,  dressed for tennis. That’s a lot of transformation in 30 seconds!

The short, and very popular, YouTube hit, “Christian the Lion,” and to an extent “The History of Dance,” have these moments too. In fact, any YouTube short that relies on a story arc has a better chance to be popular if the creators follow the simple beats of  “The Transformation Machine” that is good storytelling.

Key among these points, I’m finding more and more, is ID-ing the “All Is Lost” point. The “death” that must occur for your hero — either death of old ideas, realization of a defect of character, or sudden moment of clarity where there is no choice but to change — is key to every story, no matter its length.

This moment can even be spotted in scenes. It is now my habit to look for the “death moment” about three quarters of a way into any well-executed scene to find that thing that this scene is really about: change.

What YouTube shorts have you seen that “hit the beats” and reveal good storytelling? Odds are the ones you like best do so naturally. For all of us who approach DIY projects to create stories that resonate, the beats are a must to consider!