Assembling a Beat Board


This week featured two nights of serious work on a beat board. Understand that what I’m writing comes almost a full week before you see it!

The process is this: I sit down and work seriously on writing out my template for whatever I’m working on. I like to use the Save The Cat template, but I’ve also got a template I made myself. I’ll explain mine, because if you’re a writer, I want you to buy Save The Cat, and if you’re not, it’s not that important!

My template is to take Acts 1-3, and add 7 beats per. Really simple. I abandoned that recently, but it did save me a huge amount of time in one project.

So! Armed with my template, I take my index cards, and begin transferring from my template to my index cards. I didn’t want a MASSIVE beat board like some people use – my producer uses a giant one, but he’s also got to put in things like locations etc. I think his is like 8 ft by 4 feet?

Mine fits in a frame for a painting, as recently described.

Okay, Save the cat gives you, what, twelve beats? The book explains you’re going to have 40 beats, minimum. If you own the book, you’re aware that the rows are Act 1, Act 2, Act 2, Act 3. And most of his cards fit right in the beginning, middle, middle, end.

That’s one lonely beat board when it’s done. I had my 21 beats, but of course, 10 or so were duplicates. That caused me a little stress two days later, because I thought the board was ready for a final, but not yet. Because three of them were duplicates.

Okay, any way you slice it, you need 28 more cards. Ideas are simple. Write something down. you’d be surprised what pops out of you. You get this by a lifetime of watching movies. most of the ones I watch feature wars, or men in styrofoam suits stamping on scale plaster models of Tokyo.

By the way, the original Godzilla movie from Japan (not the American remake) stands as one of the best movies ever made. I’m not kidding. Americans were shocked to discover that in 2004, on the 50th anniversary of the movie. You can learn a LOT from that movie. And of course, I’ve mentioned some movies that are textbook examples. You need to own Remember and The Lost Battalion.

Okay, here’s the issue – your fingers cannot be hesitant. You wrote a beat. Go by guts. It feels right here on the board. no second guessing right now. No second thoughts. Stick the thumb tack into the board right there!

I finished the board the second day. I don’t know how fast you’re supposed to do that. Blake Snyder recommends taking your time on it, because that way you internalize the movie. I guess I have some developed mechanisms to get me past that, because I do it quickly, and then I start writing once it’s done. But I have two more steps in it.

Once my beat board is done, look at it again day three. That’s when I discovered the three duplicates. now I wrote the last ones very quickly. Got them in place. I only moved two cards after that.

Beat board is done.

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