Ken Levine on What’s Wrong With the Summer Movies

It’s the writing, stupid. Another reason to love Ken Levine and his dynamite blog:

by Ken Levine

Here’s a Friday Question that warrants an entire post…from Tastes Like Chicken:

Could you comment on this story from about why so many Hollywood movies these days (like it never happened in the past, but still …) seem to resemble each other? His argument is that it’s because everybody these days is using the same 15-beat structure from the book “Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder.


There have always been books that propose templates for structuring screenplays. And that’s not a bad thing, per se.

One common mistake would-be screenwriters make is they just start writing their script without a good outline. And more often than not they find themselves going in circles, painting themselves into corners, or realize they’re on page 150 already and have yet to introduce the love interest – and it’s a romantic comedy.

You need dramatic structure. You need a beginning, middle, and end. You need things to happen. You need conflict. You need a theme. You need character development. A number of these books provide it. Syd Field’s is the de facto standard.

But the danger is turning every original idea into a paint-by-the-numbers landscape.

And the greater danger is that producers and studios rely on these templates as if they were the Ten Commandments. Why? Because most of them can’t write themselves. Yet once they read these books or go to Robert McKee’s seminar they think they’re experts in story structure. There’s nothing more dangerous than an executive who knows nothing about writing but thinks he/she is an expert.

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