Blake Synder and Wedding Crashers
Did anyone see the film ‘Wedding Crashers’?
It was a strange piece of Romantic Comedy which was clearly designed to appeal to the modern US male – the perpetual teenager, and the antics they get up to attract the ladies by crashing weddings.
Blake Synder is one of the most popular of the current band of screen writing gurus, and is well known for his ‘Save the Cat’ screenwriting book. You can find many of the basic structure tools on the link to his blog- which is always thought provoking.
Basically, he has broken down the screenplay into a sequence of 15 units, following a 110 page screenplay format, which can then be applied – VERY BROADLY – to any genre of screenplay.
THE BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET
1. Opening Image (1):
2. Theme Stated (5):
3. Set-Up (1-10):
4. Catalyst (12):
5. Debate (12-25):
6. Break into Two (25)
7. B Story (30):
8. Fun and Games (30-55):
9. Midpoint (55):
10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75):
11. All Is Lost (75):
12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85):
13. Break into Three (85):
14. Finale (85-110):
15. Final Image (110):
Romance fiction writers will already be familiar with this very broad sequence of steps, since it is, for me, very similar to the Emotional Journey of our two protagonists.
One of the TOOLS you can download from this site, is the Beat Sheet for the film, Wedding Crashers, and I found it very interesting.
This is a snippet from the opening section which illustrates the power of the analysis:
Wedding Crashers: Breakdown by Blake Snyder
Opening Image: Wedding Crashers opens with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson at work as divorce mediators. For a story about weddings, this is an interesting place to start. Primally, and spatially, the scene pits a husband and a wife on either side of a table with Owen and Vince between them. Though not the children of this divorce, they are certainly childlike, and as icons of our modern age, they are the result of what happens when children grow up without parents. As we’ll see, this has affected their view of marriage and women. Vince and Owen’s wacky method of solving the sticking point works however. By the end of the scene, all the husband requests is that Owen and Vince not talk anymore. As opening scenes go, this one sets up the theme — and the tone — perfectly.
Theme Stated: In the second scene, three things happen: 1. Vince talks to his secretary about Owen’s birthday. We learn, comically, that when Owen’s parents died, Vince took over that role for his pal. This exposition is buried in Vince’s funny, fast-talking patter and the red (very primal) sleeping bag that he uses whenever he spends Owen’s birthday night with him is introduced — as is the topic of aging. Birthdays mean growing up, a process Vince and Owen are trying to avoid. 2. This is also a “Save the Cat” moment. Vince may be a fast-talking jerk, but he loves Owen and the two have created their own little family unit with Vince as the wacky mentor — or at least the wacky uncle figure in his life. 3. When Vince states: Marriage is crazy! — or words like that — it is the theme stated of the film. Is marriage “crazy?” That is what this seemingly silly movie is “about.”
The Set-Up: The makers of Wedding Crashers have a problem which they solve in the set-up. As funny as it is for two adult men to have a hobby of crashing weddings in order to sleep with vulnerable women they meet there — it’s creepy. There is a swarm factor to this avocation of theirs. But the filmmakers are smart and decide to get this out of the way as quickly and humorously as possible. In the set-up we see the boys crash several weddings posing as the ethnically correct, though false, members of several wedding parties. And their tricks work. Vince and Owen are masters of this world; they are gunslingers. And they never fail. In slow motion we see the fruits of their efforts as girls fall naked into their beds one after the next. Bang! Another girl. Bang! Another. And these aren’t just ordinary girls; each is perfect, gorgeous, and eager to have sex — even though our heroes had to lie through their teeth to get them into bed. Concluding this montage is the perfect endnote — the Stasis=Death moment — and it begins when one of the girls realizes Owen doesn’t know her name. In the next scene, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (this movie is set in and around Washington D.C. — another perfect choice!) Owen shares his Stasis=Death moment with Vince. Maybe, he says, they should stop crashing weddings. “We aren’t that young anymore,” he says. Vince scoffs. A hardcore partier, Vince doesn’t want to stop. But there is a sense, as in all great Stasis=Death moments, that this cannot go on. Something must change in their lives or they will spiritually, if not actually, die.
Catalyst: Vince walks in to Owen’s office with a call to adventure. One of Owen’s heroes, the Secretary of the Treasury (Christopher Walken), is marrying off his eldest daughter. A high-profile wedding, with an amazing array of challenges to “crash” it — including Secret Service agents — is catnip for Vince. It is the mother of all weddings. And Vince wants to go. He begs Owen to not hang up his wedding-crasher spurs just yet and join him in the fun.
Debate: But will Owen join Vince for one last crash? That is the debate question of this section of this film. As we have seen in the set-up, the world labeled “Before,” the Thesis Statement of the world as is for these two guys, is one of immature, responsibility-free fun. And yet by going on “one last mission” — and the biggest challenge of their careers — we sense we are about to leave the “normal” world behind. As nutty as that world is, it is only the hint of the upside-down, Anti-Thesis world ahead.
Break into Two: Owen agrees to join Vince. But to get prepared, they do an unusual amount of research. By the time they arrive at the church where the wedding is to take place, they are ready. There is Christopher Walken, and just to let us know how powerful he is, we also see Senator John McCain and James Carville — power players from both sides of the aisle. Seeing this only stirs Vince’s juices even more. And yet! Owen is still not quite into it. But all that is about to change. Owen looks past Christopher. And “she” appears…
See what I mean?
All food for the lateral thinking part of my brain. And I need all the help I can get.