On Saturday, August 4th, screenwriter and author Blake Snyder died from a pulmonary embolism. He is best known for penning the screenwriting guides Save the Cat! And Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. He pioneered the art of the Spec script sale and changed the craft of screenwriting for the better. For a short time, I was luckily enough to work with him on not only a screenplay, but also a joint project that we ran with much success and enthusiasm here at this very site.
Blake Snyder's time with Movieweb is but a minor blip on the bio of his life. If you blinked, you probably missed the exciting moments he spent here in the ditch with me, perfecting an unfortunate art now widely recognized as the "Movie Podcast". I worked very closely with Blake during this time of my life. I can honestly say he was always a joy to be around, even though we didn't quite see eye to eye on most things. Especially topics such as drunken buffoonery and the word "cunt". He'd smile and nod politely, and tell me to rethink my vulgarities. I'd laugh and scream some more. He'd giggle right back, and all was well in the world. For a while. During our tenure together, I was a raving lush and a binge drinker. He was 15 years sober and attempting to get his career back on track. Neither of us had girlfriends, though he was trying a little harder than me. We fell into a comfortable niche together, meeting every Friday at 2:00 pm to record what is, as far as I can tell, the first ever movie-centric podcast. Sure, almost every blog and film related site worth its weight in free beer has one now. But at the time, we were two lost souls, yakking it up for ninety minutes into a digital record at a Korean restaurant that loved us and treated us like rich mobsters. Thinking back on those drifting moments in time, the thing that sticks out the loudest in my mind is that smile of his. He never took it off. He found humor in just about everything, including, and especially in his own well-known bomb Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. I never saw him get mad. Except, maybe, once.
We were thrown together by chance. When I first heard the name Blake Snyder, I was not yet familiar with the man, or his work. He'd written a few freelance reviews for the site (which you can find with a Google search). The governing powers wanted us to get together and created a video review show. Which we did. At the time, technology wasn't quite up to speed with what we were doing. Our next recourse was to go the "free radio route". We both thought it was blasé and loose. Maybe a little too stupid for anyone to notice. At the time, we didn't know we were revolutionizing the movie blogging game. No one else was doing it. So we thought it a novelty that would never catch on. Now, every site has its own review podcast.
Blake, as you might have guessed (if you are at all familiar with his screenwriting techniques), was a man that loved the concept and art of the story. He needed structure. He needed beats and acts. We couldn't go into this new venture without a great concept. But that came easy to him. We would do an audio review show that revolved around the powerful Korean liquor juice known as Soju. Real Soju is made from sweet potatoes. It is a truth serum, and a hallucinogen. Blake played the straight man and I was the wild card. We would meet at the restaurant adjoining Soju Town. There, he would ply me with this crazy Korean jump water to find out the real truth behind the movies of the week. It was a show about truths and true feelings. We never tried to impose our views on anyone. Neither of us thought our opinion was better than the other, or anyone listening. In fact, we decided early on that no one would be listening, except us. So we wanted it to be a show about fun. And we had a lot of it. Until conformity stuck its big, fat toe in the door.
I kept stomping on that toe. Blake wanted to embrace it. Much to our surprise, people approached us about turning Soju After Movie into something more than just a tiny audio file cast into the deep, dark recesses of the Internet. In doing such a thing, we'd have to abandon our guerrilla approach. Which meant less swearing and more shining up to the man. I was against it. Blake was for it. He kept telling me, "Listen to your Uncle Stevie! You need something to keep you going in your later years." He believed we needed to lay the groundwork for something great. A tad too young at the time, I didn't really feel like listening to him. Even though he was 100% right. We continued to do our movie podcast, but Blake wanted a PG rated version. I wanted to keep its natural and basic structure at a Hard R. Eventually, we parted ways. I kept doing Soju After Movie with a slew of new hosts. None of them as good as Blake (well, except maybe Mr. Mantooth, but that's another eulogy waiting to be written). Mr. Snyder went on to write a best selling how-to-book that revolutionized the way screenwriting is taught. He spent his last few years giving his time in lectures, and via email, to the many students that wanted in on that lucrative Spec sale. He knew how to achieve screenwriting greatness (the guy did sell Steven Spielberg a script called Nuclear Family for over a million dollars, which was unheard of at the time, so he did know a thing or two about the pitch), and he was always willing to give his time to any poor shmoe that needed it.
During our run together, we did attempt to write a screenplay, which we'd also work on at Soju Town near Wilshire and Western. He taught me a lot about the art of writing, and how to stay loyal to friends in this business, especially when one of them does something extraordinary, like write a movie that opens number 2 at the box office. Our film, entitled Backslap, revolved around two black men in their early twenties that leaped through time in search of their missing grandfather. Of course, it hit on all the great black history moments. The writing process brought about its own struggles, like. "What type of device would shoot these two guys through time?" And could we have them on Rosa Park's bus without making it gratuitous? These were the kinds of script writing challenges that Blake loved. They were like a grand, giant puzzle. And he'd sit there all afternoon, trying to figure out something new and unique. We'd almost perfected our outline, but the script still sits unfinished in a drawer somewhere. Maybe Blake finished his version, and it will be discovered in due time. It was made of equal parts madness and genius. And we wrote it way before Dave Chappelle ever did his time traveling pimp skit. Snyder was a smart man, and he passed before his time. I'm sure he had a lot more to offer the world.
Blake and I actually attended our first Comic-Con together, and we quickly learned what a nightmare experience it could be. Even then, he tried to keep his energy up, and a smile on his face. No one ever remembers the first guy to strike gold. They only remember the cresting wave of people that follow in the aftermath. Snyder was one of those people that were always at the scene of the crime first. He did pioneer the art of the spec sale. His obituary was overshadowed by John Hughes. Maybe because the two films that actually came too fruition from Blake's back catalogue of screenplay sales were Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Disney's Blank Check. Snyder loved to make jokes about what some consider Stallone's worst film of all time. He knew what a disaster it was, and made no bones about it. If he were alive today, he'd tell you how much he loved the original draft. And about how they screwed it up. But it never seemed to bother him much. He did visit the set once or twice. But when he later ran into Sly Stallone at a restaurant, the icon ignored the writer. Snyder thought that kind of stuff was funny, and even signed the back of the DVD for my birthday with the epitaph, "Stop! Or My Girlfriend Will Bitch!" Some people might see the title of this column and think it's disrespectful. But I can see Blake in my head now, laughing. And then rolling his eyes. He'd take a huge sigh and say, "Geez! That's too funny." He was just that kind of guy. He rolled with the punches. And I'm glad he found true happiness in his last little bit of time spent here on this earth.
He'll be missed by a lot of future film writing students, and a whole heck of a lot of people that knew him for the guy he was. Goodbye, Mr. Snyder. I hope you're having a Whoop-doo! Soju time, wherever you've suddenly found yourself. You taught me a lot, and I'm grateful for this knowledge I now carry in my back pocket.