Mar 20, 2019
Transcript: Thanks, Allan. This is David Brower with Your 20 Minute Podcast. Our special guest today from New York City is Jason Kolinsky and he is "Save the Cat!" He's the marketing guru behind this fascinating screenplay software and program. Welcome to the show, Jason. Glad to have you here.
Jason Kolinsky: Thanks for having me on.
David Brower: You bet. I've read a little bit about "Save the Cat!" One of the things I read is that it's the bestselling story methodology introduced by screenwriter Blake Snyder back in '05 with his first book, ""Save the Cat!" The Last Screenwriting Book You'll Ever Need". So that was the start of it and now it's just grown exponentially.
Jason Kolinsky: That's right. We've been incredibly fortunate. The impact of "Save the Cat!" and Blake Snyder, his work has just been through the roof and we've been incredibly fortunate that it's really been ... It's impacted creative culture in a pretty significant way.
David Brower: We talked before we started the show here about the word of mouth and how fascinating it just kind of shows up in pop culture. You ran into an experience just yesterday, right?
Jason Kolinsky: That's right. So just yesterday, this was last night watching the Colbert Show. He had a guest, Thomas Nelson, who wrote "A Night at the Museum" as well as on "Reno 911" and he just went ahead and mentioned "Save the Cat!" just organically. We've had a number of times that that's happened. It's taken place back in September on the cover of The New Yorker, "Save the Cat!" was featured on it. It's in a crazy place just like Teen Titans, the cartoon. They went ahead and did an entire segment on "Save the Cat!" as well.
David Brower: Oh my gosh.
Jason Kolinsky: Yeah.
David Brower: Then one thing I saw on the first season of the Romanoffs, a guy's in the bookstore and he's looking and it's the "Save the Cat!" book.
Jason Kolinsky: That's right, that's right.
David Brower: I mean, it's subtle, but it's in your face. It's fascinating.
Jason Kolinsky: Yeah. He picks up the book and he does a quick reference to it as well. Just even, to your point, the Romanoffs, even last September being around the New Yorker, it's still just as relevant today as it was 15 years ago.
David Brower: So when Blake came up with these ideas and these methods and just started moving with it, was it just kind of a solo show and he was just growing it organically or did he have a team he worked with? I know you have a team now, but how did it roll initially?
Jason Kolinsky: No. It was primarily Blake as well as his business partner, BJ Markel who edited the first book.
David Brower: Okay.
Jason Kolinsky: BJ is a business partner now with me. It started pretty much with the first book, "Save the Cat!", "Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies", and his third and final book before he passed away was "Save the Cat! Strikes Back". [inaudible 00:03:16] knew what the business was primarily based on of course, was the portfolio of books and then the introduction of the software. What Blake would do, he would also go around and host a tremendous amount of weekend intensive courses and would have events where he would go ahead and draw a pretty decent sized crowd both domestically as well as internationally. I know he did one in Beijing that went incredibly well.
David Brower: Wow. Just the fact that it's showing up in pop culture fascinates me. How do people hear about you in such a way that they want to go to your workshop? Is there some kind of marketing thing that you do? Is it organic? Is it word of mouth? How do those things come to truth?
Jason Kolinsky: A lot of it had been organic, just the fan base and the people that really just gravitated to the language of "Save the Cat!". The analogy that I really like to pull together is that if English is the international of business, then "Save the Cat!" and what Blake did is very much the language of storytelling. People have just been embracing the simplicity of it.
Jason Kolinsky: I think when Blake wrote this, he wrote this from the standpoint of a working screenwriter. He worked on a number of different films and sold a number of different scripts. His last one that he worked on was "How to Save a Dragon", the first one.
David Brower: Oh, okay.
Jason Kolinsky: At the very end of the movie there is recognition of that, a special thanks to Blake.
David Brower: Nice. I just saw the second one. It was so good.
Jason Kolinsky: So good, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was fantastic. I think in a world where there's a lot of academic complexities to storytelling that's been embraced, I think what Blake has done is he's just sort of leveled the playing field and took it from the perspective of not so much of making it a complicated nature ... And of course it is very difficult and complex. It's just as complicated to go ahead and find a simple way of understanding it and explaining it and from a perspective of someone how just absolutely loves film.
David Brower: Gotcha.
Jason Kolinsky: Loves to going to the movies. When you read the books, you'll get a sense that the way that he writes is the way that he talks. So it isn't intelligentsia aspect to it. It's very much, "I love movies and this is the way that I write movies and let's go ahead and start deconstructing all your favorite films and see if there's a common theme to anything that's been a commercial success."
David Brower: So the book basically is him doing storytelling about how to do this it sounds like.
Jason Kolinsky: That's right. I think that there are a number of things that you end up learning that's incredibly useful. One of course is the 15 beats to a film and essentially that there are, to any commercially viable film, there's 15 beats to that story. If you come onto our website, we've broken down over 100 films now. You can go ahead and take a look and see how they all line up. It works incredibly well.
Jason Kolinsky: The next is that you really learn a bit about genres and his take on genres were incredibly helpful, as well as digging into the log line. That log line is essentially your elevator pitch.
David Brower: Okay.
Jason Kolinsky: You're going to go ahead and explain your story in one minute. If you're in a room, how do you go ahead and tell that story?
David Brower: Yeah.
Jason Kolinsky: So he breaks that down for the reader as well.
David Brower: Fascinating. Tell me what the 15 beats means?
Jason Kolinsky: 15 beats, it's all based on structure and I think that's what's really critical to understanding. This is a methodology and an approach to structuring a screenplay that works, that it makes sense, that is incredible and is compelling as well as bulletproof.
Jason Kolinsky: So if you're going to get into a room with anyone, so whether that's a director or a casting agent or whatever it may be to go ahead and explain your story, it's the idea that it's a set of common language that you can go through and say, "Hey listen, how does this story unfold?" "Okay, the opening image is this. It sets the tone for the film."
Jason Kolinsky: There will be a all is lost moment as well, so where your hero is just ... It's the bottom of the barrel, it's at the end. You're like, okay, I get that.
Jason Kolinsky: So once you start reading through that and start understanding these beats, you'll start looking at movies a whole totally different way.
David Brower: Wow.
Jason Kolinsky: You'll be like, oh alright. This is where we're getting into act two and we're starting to see all the fun and games. That's what's going on with this story.
David Brower: Fascinating. I'm a huge movie fan so I'm definitely going to get that book. What's funny to me is my mind goes a little off the course every once in a while, but when you were talking about the 15 beats, I'm going, well, most NFL teams start a game with 15 program plays that they know that's what they're going to do. One through 15, no question, end of story. I'm sure there's not any relevance to that, but it seemed like it was kind of an interesting comparison, a little bit. A little bit.
Jason Kolinsky: I think at the end of the day, what you're referring to is that there's likely a structure to it, right?
David Brower: Yeah, exactly right. Exactly right.
Jason Kolinsky: What goes on within that structure could be endless. There's a lot of creativity that goes into that. I think that's where you can have that debate. This is not a formula, it's not meant to be a format that says every film is meant to be ... Is a paint by numbers. It is no, no, no. There's a structure, and your creativity, the way that the writer brings the dialogue, their protagonist, their hero, their villain to life, that's ...
David Brower: That's the magic.
Jason Kolinsky: That's incredibly difficult. That's the magic. This is just, hey, a common set of language for anybody that's involved in the process to really gather around and work through and make something that's incredibly seemingly daunting achievable.
David Brower: How fascinating.
Jason Kolinsky: That's what we focus on around our workshops. It's also led us to, hey, we've had a number of people take these workshops over the years. I think it would be really important for us to, and I think an opportunity, for us to provide a deadline of sorts, every year a goal. That's where we just introduced the "Save the Cat!" Screenplay Challenge, which incidentally, there's a final deadline that's coming up on March 15th. We've been seeing a really positive reaction and market to it which has been fantastic. It's a unique selling proposition in the sense that we're the only ones with our methodology taking it all the through to an actual screenplay challenge in which the winner will come out to LA.
David Brower: Wow.
Jason Kolinsky: We're going to do a table read, we're going to go ahead and get the winner in front of an LA based production company, Treehouse Pictures, and it's going to be a really solid and I think compelling contest.
David Brower: Life changer. Absolute life changer.
Jason Kolinsky: Yeah. I hope so, I hope so.
David Brower: Yeah. In reading about the challenge, it talks about every script receives 50 points of feedback based on Blake Snyder's 50 question green light checklist found in his third book. You have a system, formula, for lack of a better term, for analyzing these scripts to make sure they're using a system of sorts even though the magic and the personality isn't all that different, right?
Jason Kolinsky: That's right. I think it's all right there. If you believe in the "Save the Cat!" Methodology ... The fact of the matter is that we've been fortunate enough that not only the reader, the creator, but also the industry executives have also been using this and referring to this methodology for some time, so why not, for us, to give everybody the opportunity to submit their screenplay and get a similar coverage report
David Brower: You bet.
Jason Kolinsky: We take it incredibly seriously. We have a brand to protect and to ensure is incredibly relevant to all those fans out there. So what we developed was this 50 points of analysis adapted from "Save the Cat! Strikes Back". We've been finding the feedback to the writers that have received the analysis, it's been incredibly positive. That's the goal. We want to be sure that we're providing a helping hand for all those that are looking to tighten up their work and get ready to really find an opportunity to sell it or produce it along the way.
David Brower: Wow. So your software 3.0, "Save the Cat! 3.0, sold over 25,000 units. You just came out with 4.0 in January, I believe. So talk about that. What's the difference between three and four?
Jason Kolinsky: So believe it or not, 4.0 is actually going to start launching ... We were doing beta testing in January and we found some really good opportunities to make some additional adjustments. So now we're actually going to be launching next week.
David Brower: Nice.
Jason Kolinsky: The timing couldn't be better right now for our discussion. It is the first upgrade, significant overhaul, we would call it, in seven years. It's now been built for, instead of just screenwriters, it's for all storytellers, from screenwriters to writers that are developing stories for a TV series, as well as novels.
Jason Kolinsky: So back in September we also launched and became a bestseller on Amazon of, "Save the Cat! Writes a Novel". This is now a software that's been developed for all storytellers.
David Brower: Wow.
Jason Kolinsky: It's a tremendous improvement in terms of global search and find. So if you ever write a story, I'm sure if you started developing or changing some of the characters in there, just having that global find and replace function just to track all those movements is typically a bit painful. What we've done is we've developed ... We've strengthened that function and we're calling it Track IQ, where you have the opportunity to make it as easy as possible to go ahead and update all those relationships, the protagonist, the changes in character or objects. Let's say a map is playing a critical role in your story, just where is that map? Where did you put it last? Or wherever it may be. It really helps you go ahead and track all those items.
David Brower: Wow.
Jason Kolinsky: We just really wanted to make it customizable and easy to use for all the users. So it's a pretty significant upgrade.
David Brower: It sure sounds like it. As they talk about, it provides thousands of writers with the resources they need to develop screenplays and now novels. Fascinating, fascinating.
David Brower: Jason, we're about out of time. I want to give people an opportunity to check out everything online: savethecat.com is certainly one. Store.savethecat.com, I think, is one. How do people reach out to you or reach out to your team or find out about different things?
Jason Kolinsky: Yeah, it's super easy. We've been really growing and our Instagram at "Save the Cat!" is growing quite rapidly. Our Twitter account at "Save the Cat!" Also. So social media is a great way to get in touch with us as well as on our website and that's either ... Our blog site is Savethecat.com and of course to your earlier reference, we have the store site as well.
Jason Kolinsky: We're pretty fast on responding, so you can either direct message us on Instagram or write us on our website. It's pretty easy and intuitive to get to us and we're pretty quick on responding.
David Brower: Fabulous. So Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, all kinds of sources and all kinds of books, actually. I'm just looking at seven different books involved on the site.
Jason Kolinsky: Yeah.
David Brower: So Jason, again, congratulations on your success and carrying on Blake Snyder's dream and making magic happen for a lot of folks. Hats off to you, man.
Jason Kolinsky: I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for the time.
Allan Blackwell: Listen to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower on the go. Downloads are available on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify, any podcast app and on our website at Davidbrowervo.com/your20minutepodcast.
Allan Blackwell: Until next time, thank you for listening.