Screenwriting Night School 101: SAVE THE CAT/DOG/KID/WHATEVER


I've been a professional screenwriter for about 15 years. 15 good, fun years, and still going strong. My movie 'Security' just came out two weeks ago. It stars Antonio Banderas and Sir Ben Kingsley. Theatrical, and VOD. 

I'm not plugging my stuff. 

Yeah, I am. 

I sold my first spec when I was 22 out of a talent agency office (I was office manager, had a lot of time).  I sold RAPID to Sony. It was basically 'Speed' in an armored car. I had a blast writing it, and I'm glad a buyer picked it up. It didn't get made, but that's the nature of the beast. Most scripts don't get made, but some of them get bought. A sold spec almost guarantees you more jobs. Shane Black wrote a bunch of unmade stuff before Lethal Weapon. David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man) wrote a movie called Apartment Zero. Now, that DID get made. Remember the flick Apartment Zero? No? You're not alone. But guy has worked on pretty much every movie ever produced since then. I forgive him for Crystal Skull.  

As for RAPID...

I still re-read that script, and realize that I've learned a lot since then. No matter what kind of success you have, the next script is the best one, and the next one, and the next one. It's Rocky IV. Gotta run up that snowy hill. And scream:


I've written movies for Disney, Sony, Dimension, Nasser Group, Universal, Millennium. Unlike McKee...I've actually written some movies. Not to disparage McKee. I like Adaptation. I know he's not in it, but I like Brian Cox.   

This blog is going to be screenwriting advice, war stories, peace stories, or just stories. 

I like Snyder's 'Save the Cat'. RIP Blake Snyder. It's a good book. I also like Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434. That's the tutorial I first encountered in the Barnes & Noble when I decided to chase this dragon.

That Barnes & Noble is now a parking lot. You can probably still get screenwriting advice in that parking lot...but it's just a homeless guy rambling about aliens.

 Ok, free advice -  

If you have a protagonist, that you want the audience to immediately like...regardless if it's a violent person, or emotionally resistant, or kinda scary-looking...Have him/her be nice to an animal or a child or someone elderly right away. The reader is on-board with whatever happens in the next 90 pages. Or 120 pages, if you don't want to sell it. 

Save the cat, save the dog, save the kid.

This goes for every genre. Action movies, romantic comedies, Jane Austen dramas. It's like staying a stranger's house for the first time. If they do something weird when you're trying to sleep on the couch, you don't like them. But...if they make you a cupcake, and pat you on the head, and introduce you to their sweet dog. You're ok with everything else. Yeah, they might be an assassin. But...alright.

I hope this site helps. I wish I had something like this starting out the gate. Keep coming back.

Writing, for us, is life. Let's live.   


- John Sullivan