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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

RIP Blake Snyder

Very sad day. Yesterday Blake Snyder author of Save the Cat passed away. Blake was the best screenwriting guru/coach/author I ever knew. I'd read Syd Field and Robert McKee but nobody got me closer to my goals than Blake Snyder. But more than that he was so accessible. I never talked to Field or McKee and to do so usually involves putting down a great deal of money. But Blake was there ready to give advice via email or over the phone completely gratis because he enjoyed helping other writers. I will miss him.

A few years ago I was struggling to make any headway at all in my career. A friend suggested I read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. He called it the best screenwriting book he'd ever read. I decided one more screenwriting book in the library wouldn't hurt so I bought it. The first thing I noticed was that Blake had actually written a movie I'd heard of, Blank Check. This was advice from somebody who had navigated the labyrinth of Hollywood and had come up with a million dollar sale. I read everything in the book, did all the exercises, came up with a few loglines. Somehow I got his email address (I think my friend gave it to me or I looked it up online) and sent him my loglines. I was shocked when he responded in just a few days. And it wasn't a standard boilerplate criticism about how I needed to study the craft more (and should probably attend his next seminar for a low reduced rate!) No, he just came out and told me what he honestly thought. He even gave me his cell number so we could discuss it some more! I called and I found him warm and supportive and eager to discuss my not so brilliant career. Then he gave me the best piece of advice I ever received about screenwriting. He asked me what my best script was. I tried to explain it to him but it didn't fit neatly into a logline. He asked me, "Are you writing for yourself or are you writing to sell?" That was the light bulb finally going on in my head. After that I was laser focused on creating projects that could sell. A few months after that conversation I got my representation. My reps took one of my scripts to the Disney Channel (passed because it was too much like a previous movie), they had me turn another of my scripts into a novel which is making the rounds, and I've more projects in the wings. I may not have crossed that finish line but I'm no longer stalled and wondering what the hell I should do. And in a very real sense I owe so much of it to Blake.

I'm sorry I'll never get to thank him properly. I'm sorry for people who are just now discovering his book. They won't have the opportunity to talk and communicate with the witty and generous man behind the beat sheet.

I just exchanged emails with him two weeks ago. Our exchange ended like this:

BLAKE: Really appreciate your support! You da man!!
ME: No. You da man!
BLAKE: :) Ha! Thanks!!

Robert McKee never called me da man.

I will miss Blake Tremendously.

6 comments:

  1. Michael, that's such a touching story - and amazing you made that connection. Sounds like he was a great guy! It just takes one voice of inspiration to turn things around. : )

    Just purchased Save The Cat on Amazon. Look forward to reading it! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this. So interesting that Blake Snyder's work came to us through the recommendation of a friend. I'm sure he loved that.

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  3. Thank you Mina.

    The book is great but you should have had a chance to speak with the man behind it.

    You're absolutely right Dave, he would have loved it. That's the kind of guy he was and the kind of guy he was, friendly, available, there if you wanted to talk to him.

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  4. Thanks for posting this. It's comforting to see how much he is missed as I look over the internet today.

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  5. Amy,

    I was privileged to have known him just a little bit

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  6. Holy crap! He was two years older than me.

    Way too young. Sad.

    A romance writer (of all peeople) turned me on to SAVE THE CAT. It's one of my bibles.

    Mike, you were lucky to have had the benefit of his personal advice.

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