Kill The Cat! Kill It Fast and Rough!

In Save The Cat, Blake Snyder’s amazing book, he talks about giving the character a scene where he, figuratively, climbs up a tree and saves a cat. We will then like that guy for the rest of the movie. Good call. Clint Eastwood does it in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.

Now, the opposite can also be true. Perhaps a Kill The Cat moment will find its way into what you are writing.

In the superb Robert Altman film THE LONG GOODBYE, Mark Rydell plays the bad guy. Rydell didn’t really like the way the script handled his character and he asked Altman if he could take a crack at a rewrite. Altman, the King of Listening To Any Idea, said sure.

In an interview, Rydell said, “So Larry Tucker and I decided to make him this Jewish gangster who was insanely brutal, completely capable of any kind of brutality, yet at the same time deeply religious, offended that he wasn’t in shul, where he should have been on this night. At the same time, the challenge was to make it funny. Make it not only cruel and horrendous, but charming and funny.”

Well, I don’t see the funny part. But boy, he does kill that cat. The bad guy is firmly established. And you are SCARED TO DEATH of him for the rest of the film.

In the scene, Elliott Gould owes Rydell money. It’s the first scene in the clip. I saw it in a theater twenty years ago and have never, ever forgotten. It’s one of the best-written character moments ever, and my favorite Kill The Cat moment in the movies.

Caveat: As Rydell promises, it’s brutal.

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1 Comment

Filed under character, Rewriting, Scenes, Screenwriting, Uncategorized

One response to “Kill The Cat! Kill It Fast and Rough!

  1. Melody Lopez

    what an amazing “set-up” for the villain…I’m curious how the movie sets up Gould’s character.

    On another note, I am the lead of the Austin Cats! A writers group formed by attendees of a Blake Snyder run workshop in July 2008. During a coaching session with Blake, Feb. 2009, he recommended your book to me and fellow Austin Cat! Scott P.

    On behalf of myself and the Austin Cats! please know that it means a lot to have another screenwriting teacher both reference and acknowledge the concepts taught via Blake’s Save the Cat! method.

    Needless to say, I am familiar with Blake’s role in your book. What you do not know is that I have long hoped to add you to my team of people helping me finish what Blake started. Let’s discuss at your convenience.

    Thanks again. I’ve been wanting to reach out but timing wasn’t right…this post made it feel right.

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