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!
- Risa Romano
I love YouTube I recently came acroos the Aaron Burr “Got Milk” commercial directed by Michael Bay. It may be my favorite ad ever. I also found a hilarious mock of the Mac vs. PC commercials made by someone at my own college. It can be found under the title South Park Mac vs. PC. I myself have made some music videos that I’m rather proud of (channel: procomsognathous), but I use movies that already exist and have hit all the beats, so I have all the material I could hope to work with. I’ve always wanted to try an original short though.
Can’t wait for the new book! I am using Saves the Cat as we speak. I’ve got my Final Draft going and using the book to help me organize my treatment (for Chapman University).
Shorts are tricky. That’s why i can’t wait for the new book so that i can finally get into Sundance and become another movie snob wearing his credentials are the grocery store….
Have just been reading your book and will be going to a book group discussion on it starting tomorrow night! This is off-topic from your post but why do you say in your book that you’re not afraid of people stealing your ideas, that only amateurs think that way? Just curious.
There every where. I was looking at a video my high nephew put together I guess with some friends called Trunk Asian… this kid put it together after our discussions over Christmas. Bad Guys close in, Break into 3… Silly but he’s trying to work it out for himself
*High School aged nephew
I cannot wait for STC SB! I really cannot wait. Publish it sooner, damn-it!
Thanks, Blake, As you know I’ve been penning some 10 minute plays in San francisco using STC beat structure and Lo and behold it works!
- Sarah Beach
Zing! another one in the target! Thanks, Blake. Sure, I’ve been conscious of needing the 3 part structure even to the scene level, but pointing out the need for a “death” or “all is lost” turning point really drove it home! Duh. It’s been there all along, why was I over-looking that?
Do you read these?
Anyway, I am noticing more and more that most of my nights out follow the 15 beats. It’s a good thing I have a writing partner to help me decipher what is and is not interesting enough to use in our stories. (most is not interesting)
Either way, it’s kind of cool(annoying) to see the beats all over the place.
I just wish that not every time I go out I have a dark night of the soul. I’m starting to learn too much about myself.
I can’t wait to buy you a drink some day to say thanks for everything.
- Steve Wimer
I’m looking forward to book #3.
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Wow, Blake, what a GREAT blog!!
And thanks so much for adding me as a friend to your Facebook page. I’ve been having so much fun cruising your sites! ~ Bea