Oh, Death!

Homemade guacamole n chips for dinner

It’s not often I make food worth photographing, but my guacamole is pretty on point. Had a couple ripe avocados and didn’t want to throw them out, so guacamole it is. Mike has a leftover half sandwich from work to go with it, while I just eat the guac and delicious garlic chips from the Farmer’s Market. Not exactly a well-balanced meal, but at least something different from the usual pasta or pizza.

I’m reading this screenwriting book, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Dane lent it to me for writer’s group. I have to take something I learn and “teach” the group. I know very little about screenwriting, but I do eventually want to write my own screenplay. No idea what about, so this book seems like a good place to start. This guy Snyder lays out exactly how a screenplay should be written, the science of it. Of course, some of it seems silly, like the theme of the film HAS to be stated on page 5 and the catalyst HAS to appear on page 12. Give me a break. But he’s all about not just making a good screenplay, but making a good screenplay that makes the big bucks.

There are 15 points in each movie. Snyder says they have to be there and when exactly they should happen. He encourages the reader to read a screenplay while watching the film and see if the formula works. So that’s what I’ll do to teach the class. Write the 15 points down and what they are, and compare it with Sleepless in Seattle. I figure everyone in the group has seen this movie, so they’ll know what I’m talking about. I’ve probably watched it about eight times. Love it. And I figure this movie made a lot of money, so it should follow the formula.

Let me tell you, the experience blows me away. I can’t believe the things Snyder said would happen are happening. First of all, there has to be a hero. I figured the hero was Tom Hanks’ character, Sam, but by the third “point” on the list I say it out loud. Oh my God, Meg Ryan is the hero! Or should I say, Annie. I tell this to the group, and Zach has a different opinion. “I think Jonah is the hero.” I think for a second. Wow, he totally could be. Crazy. But no, after going through every point, Annie is more the hero than Jonah. In my opinion.

So I start going through it. Point 1: opening image. This sets the tone for the entire film. It’s a “before” picture. Usually, the hero is in the opening image (hence why I thought Sam was our hero). The film opens with Sam and Jonah standing outside in a graveyard next to a casket, Sam with his hand on Jonah’s shoulder, both in sad silence. Point 2: theme stated. This is where someone asks a question or makes a statement. The hero won’t get it or really understand until the end of the film. Now, Sam’s sister-in-law says something about him eventually meeting another woman and Sam says, “It just doesn’t happen twice.” Boom. Theme of the movie. But wait, Annie has a conversation with her mother about destiny and says, “There’s no such thing.” Well, that could be the theme, too. In fact, it is, when I decide that Annie is the hero.

I could go through every point because I think it’s fascinating, but I fear I’ll bore my readers, so let’s jump ahead to point 11: all is lost. This is the moment known as “false defeat.” Our hero thinks they’ve lost. It’s over and time to give up. This is also where the “whiff of death” occurs. Snyder says it HAS to be in there. Someone doesn’t actually have to die, but a brush with death, or a thought about it, or even something like a plant dying would work because it’s symbolic. So, Annie is about to cross the street to meet Sam. She’s finally going to do it, there’s no turning back…but wait, who is that lady? Jonah runs up to her and gives her a hug. Sam is equally happy to see her as they hug and look like a happy family. Annie thinks this is his girlfriend, but really, it’s just his sister-in-law! All is lost for Annie, it’s time to give up. She’s devastated, when a loud honking is heard and Annie is almost hit by a truck! Can you believe it! She almost dies. That is crazy. I’m so excited at this point, the group must think that I’m crazy.

Point 15: final image. This should be the opposite of our opening image, or the “after” shot. Low and behold, Sam and Annie stand in an elevator, holding hands and staring at each other with smiles on their faces. Jonah stands directly in front of them with a huge smile on his face. That is completely the opposite of the opening image. Too cool.

Let’s watch another movie and do it again.

*Pearl and the Beard

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