Review – Save the Cat screenplay software for writers

Save the Cat software for writers

Blake Snyder's latest title for writers

Hollywood screenwriter/producer celebrity Blake Snyder sells scripts to Disney and Spielberg, among others. He knows what he’s doing and shares with other writers via his software, Save the Cat. Snyder taught at Chapman, UCLA, Vanderbilt, and the Beijing Film Academy. His book is highly visible in screenwriting classes at U.S. and Canadian universities. His software connects users to a forum, related books, a website and live seminars.

Save the Cat, built to handle screenplays of four to 250 pages, is priced at $89.95 for MAC OS10.3.9 and higher for Win Vista and XP. The narration is lighthearted and upbeat.

Why is it called Save the Cat? Snyder tells you but I won’t spoil it. It has to do with audiences connecting with heroes. The title’s cleverness carries through the program, which is equivalent to a college course. Work it, baby, and it will work for you. Screen writing and movie scripts are not my writing focus, but I was sucked in.

By the time I worked through Save the Cat, I felt I could write a screenplay. Snyder’s method of organizing, outlining and visualizing simply has to result in a fleshed-out project.

screen shot Save the Cat

screen shot Save the Cat

Save the Cat features:

  • Develop a powerful Logline and Title
  • Choose one of 10 genres, each with recognizable traits that will help you write something that is “the same, only different”: Monster in the House, Golden Fleece, Out of the Bottle, Dude with a Problem, Rites of Passage, Buddy Love, Whydunit, The Fool Triumphant, Institutionalized, and Superhero
  • Fill in a Blake Snyder Beat Sheet with the 15 key beats for every screenplay: Opening Image, Theme Stated, Set-up, Catalyst, Debate, Break into Two, B Story, Fun and Games, Midpoint, Bad Guys Close In, All Is Lost, Dark Night of the Soul, Break into Three, Finale, and Final Image
The Save the Cat Board

The Save the Cat Board

What’s to like about Save the Cat

  • The Board, that which Snyder calls, “the fabled device seen in executive offices all over Hollywood,” puts your movie or play in front of you before you write so much as a page. I learned a lot about how movie pacing.
  • Save the Cat has an effective tutorial that gets you up and running in a short time. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s well thought out and structured. It’s fun that the interface uses SpiderMan 2 as to illustrate concepts. Not hard to get into reading about Spidey and contemplating your own work.
  • Save the Cat can be docked on your desktop, kept always visible, a reminder that you’ve a pot simmering and can’t afford to let it cook out. You feel compelled to attend the sauce. Good discipline.
  • Show or hide auto tip feature. With practice, you might want to shut them off and get them out of the way.
  • The software is robust, but doesn’t take up a ton of disk. Navigation is straight forward.

What’s not to like about Save the Cat

  • It takes a lot of desktop real estate.
  • If you compress the screen view, you can’t read the text.
  • The “how to” gets a little wordy sometimes.
  • I had to struggle to pick out something to not like.

Save the Cat is fun, with movable parts you shuffle and arrange without ever risking a paper cut. The software moves you to define settings, plotlines, characters, directions, set ups and payoffs. You’ll consider emotional changes, the whys and hows of character development. There are rules for successful writing in stage plays or movies. Save the Cat makes you understand and internalize them as you compose. If you’re slogging through getting your screenplay out of your head and into a script, this program should shake you loose. If you can’t do it with Save the Cat, you don’t really want to do it yet.

Read more celebrity writers sharing their secrets:

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Ali Hale shows you how to become a staff blogger

Fran Silverman on marketing your writing

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