Tag Archives: lessons from movies

Lessons on writing from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air

For those that don’t know, Save the Cat is a book (and a computer application, an iOS and Android app, a set of workshops, and two other books) by screenwriter Blake Snyder. It’s aimed very firmly at other screenwriters looking for a bit of script-doctor type feedback on structuring their stories. Whilst it’s been criticised by some[citation needed] for its formulaic approach, and I wouldn’t advocate using it religiously to structure your work, I do recommend it (and the sequel, Save the Cat Strikes Back) both for a fun read and for providing a great vocabulary to use when talking about story structure… even if you’re only using it to talk to the nagging voices inside your own head.

What’s this got to do with Will Smith? Well aside from the fact that he literally saves some cats in his movies (the above shot is from 1998’s Enemy of the State, and the Internet[citation needed] pointed out that he saved the Scientist’s cat “from the demo-bot” in I, Robot), the theme tune to his 1990s sit-com, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, declares itself to be a story (“Now this is a story all about how, My life got flipped, turned upside down…”). So, I wondered whether the rousing ballad that Will wrote with Jazzy Jeff followed the “optimum” structure set out in Save the Cat.

In short, would Blake Snyder have thought the theme tune from the Fresh Prince was a “good” story…? Continue reading

Lessons on writing from Rocky

Before you go and get all “seriously?” on me, I’d like to share a few facts about the film and it’s writer.

Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning three (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing). Sylvester Stallone was nominated for two of those ten: Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, making him only the third actor to ever receive those nominations for the same film (the first two being Orson Wells and Charlie Chaplin). Rocky has been recognised by the Writers Guild of America as one of their top 100 movies ever, and has featured in several of the AFI’s top 100 lists.

As for Sly himself, the press in 1976 compared Stallone to the likes of Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. In Rocky and Rambo, Sly helped create and develop(1) two of the very first modern movie franchises. Rocky itself spawned 5 sequels (6 if you count the spin-off “Creed” currently in pre-production) at a time when franchises were often built around bad guys instead of heroes(2).

The movie remains one of the most quotable and best loved films ever made. A key reason for this success is Sylvester Stallone’s deep understanding of characterisation.  Continue reading