Beat Board


My custom made beat board sits on my wall next to me, waiting. I didn’t design it, that was my wife’s idea. She specifically bought a fairly pathetic painting from the thrift store just for the nice frame, along with two other paintings that were really good. Paid very little for them.

Then we checked them out. The two good ones turned out to be worth several hundred dollars each, once we traced the signatures.

So I looked at the truly terrible painting of a Hawk or falcon we’d bought. “Um….” With the way things were going, this probably was the first painting by some unknown painter in the 70’s who would only paint on battlefields in Vietnam or Laos, and it’s probably worth a thousand dollars. Or a hermit who only left his beach hut in Normandy, France, to sit on the beach on the full moon and paint.

But it’s horrible, so skip it. We put cardboard over it, stapled the cork roll right over the probably priceless and irreplaceable painting, and now it serves to hold the thumbtacks as I mercilessly drive my 3X31/2 cards into the cork board. Mwahahahaha!

Apparently, there’s now a science to cork boards. You split them in fours – Act one, Act two, act two, and act three. Yup. Act two is there twice.

So, I took my latest project, wrote up my turns and points, and plugged them in. Then I took the rest of the beats from Final Draft and plugged them in.

Um. That’s a lot of empty corkboard staring at me.

My outline sheet was roughly about 21 beats. The Save the cat beat sheet gives you about seven crucial points.

That’s 28. you need 40.

IF you can fill up those other 12 beats, you’ve got a movie, or a TV movie. If you can’t you don’t.

Now, there’s also the issue of those scenes you think of. I mean, writing is visceral. I don’t truly know if it’s the most difficult job in the world as one professional says, but certainly it’s not the walk in the park you think it is. I have TONS of ideas. And one thing I’m really good at is realistic dialogue. Which is why I’ll fight to the death over some of my dialogue.

But you’re not there! You’ve got to come up with 12 GOOD ideas. And some of the ones you write and you’re looking at and you think, “Ummm….”

Those go in an overflow area. I’m redoing my beat board today so the lower third of the beat board is just an overflow area.

Why do you do all this?

Because if you’re a planner and not a pants-er (almost every writer knows those terms), you can’t WRITE until you can SEE the movie. Blake Snyder of Save The Cat fame tells of his incessant fiddling with his beat board. He’ll hold cards, take them down, juggle them, staring at the beat board. I’m not that bad, but there’s a lot of LOOKING at the thing. And during that whole time, you’re getting your movie INSIDE you. Once you KNOW it, it’s INTERNALIZED…

Now you start writing. Hold onto your hats, because you’re about to knock out the movie in less than two weeks. At least, that’s how it is with me. Once I KNOW it, it’s INTERNALIZED, buddy, step aside!

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