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.