Re-working Mr. ORCHARD this week (to upload to studios.amazon.com) brought Mr. Blake Snyder to mind quite a lot. If I were to read Mr. ORCHARD without any prior knowledge of it, I can’t imagine I would ever guess that I wrote it; it’s really violent and dark. If I were told in advance what happened …
" /> Jason Holborn | Cybercarnet/Weblog - Mr. ORCHARD and Mr. Snyder

Mr. ORCHARD and Mr. Snyder

Re-working Mr. ORCHARD this week (to upload to studios.amazon.com) brought Mr. Blake Snyder to mind quite a lot.
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If I were to read Mr. ORCHARD without any prior knowledge of it, I can’t imagine I would ever guess that I wrote it; it’s really violent and dark. If I were told in advance what happened in this movie, I don’t believe I’d want to pay $12 to see it, and yet if I were to go see it, I would feel I’d gotten $24 worth out of it. I really dig this script and I overall feel passionate about it; I often feel like someone else came up with it.

I wrote it pretty easily and without a real roadmap, either. It was an idea that I mentioned to some screenwriting friends and sometimes partners, they liked it and thought it was cool. I really thought it was cool, and I went for it, even without a real outline ahead of time. It took a “normal” length of time for a screenplay, and although it’s changed and grown and evolved, the actual structure hasn’t changed.

I was talked into reading Save The Cat just after I finished the first draft of this script, and I really got into some parts of the book. I’m still just as excited about those same parts today! The genre ideas were bang-on, baby; the Fun & Games idea knocked me right out. Whiff of Death was a big one, as well.

Clint McLean refuses to use the word ‘art’ in relation to anything other than drawings and paintings. And I really try to follow his example overall, but there are times I break the rule to talk about other people’s ideas — and, “it’s their wording, not mine” is my excuse.

I read once that the Three Rules of Art are these:

1. Tell the Truth.
2. Remember Death.
3. Don’t decorate.

I’ve never forgotten these. I find it’s useful to mention them to other people in appropriate circumstances, but not to discuss it too overmuch. Talking about “Art” is like “politics”: it’s all abstracts and perceptions.

Like you, I’ve experienced death and wondered about it and the meaning of it all. Still, it was Save The Cat that really clarified a lot of my abstract perceptions of death and what it means to us as audiences and thinkers and feelers and sensors.

George Orwell said (in 1984) that the best books are the ones which tell you what you already know. When reading something that seems suddenly so absolutely true and right, it does feel like you’re reading the best book. Snyder’s idea that Death (I believe he suggests a range from full-on murder to a pet goldfish turning belly-up) should be hinted at “about halfway through the second half” really hit me as true and right. I like it at the beginning (2001, STAR WARS, CASABLANCA, CITIZEN KANE, GHOSTBUSTERS, etc) or anywhere else, but that “about halfway through the second half” mark is a great place for it to make a strong re-appearance.

People often call that kind of thinking “cookie-cutter”. This used to disturb or bother me, but not so much anymore. I think it’s just a “pattern” is all; not a pattern anyone is forced or constrained to replicate, just an efficient pattern which is fun to play with, and has a nice beat we can all dance to.

Reading Save the Cat really made Death pop to me, and actually, to some extent gave me some new perspective on the world (ie. on Life, and real actual death), too.

The first thing I did was decide to put such a Snyder-esque Whiff of Death into Mr. ORCHARD, “about halfway through the second half”, and to me, today, it’s one of the most “cinematic” scenes in the story, wherein a character in a noose kicks a chair out from underfoot, then has a sudden change of mind and must fight to escape and live. There’s no talking; a non-athlete must draw their knees to their chest then place their feet on the ceiling to pull a screw-plate out of the ceiling, while clutching a cord to live — or else they die. It’s pretty Indiana Jones, battling the physical surroundings and circumstances, and it’s pretty Leni Riefenstahl, exploring the abilities of our human structures under duress. Two out of two isn’t bad.

The big take-away for me though is this: although I like and recommend reading Save The Cat, although I definitely think its advice improved Mr. ORCHARD, I see today that Save The Cat wouldn’t have helped me generate Mr. ORCHARD. I don’t know what that means; top of my head, I wonder if I should stop beatsheeting, and then, after the first draft, go back with Robert McKee and Blake Snyder and etc.’s thoughts in mind to work and fix and build up and improve what I have.