As much as I love “Save the Cat” and use it as a valuable instrument when I write scripts, it is arguable that Blake Snyder’s code-cracking of the screenplay’s DNA is as much a disservice than a benefit to cinema. Considered by most (including myself) the greatest how to write a screenplay book ever written, you see its influence in most movies today… usually not in the most flattering way. I don’t blame Snyder for this, I blame the depth film people are willing to go to understand how cinema works. It’s clear once many screenwriters have read “Save the Cat”, they became religious to it and stop there. A counter-book needs to balance the hard rules of STC, which I guess would be the far Right version of screenwriting books. We need a far Left version, that’s just as enlightening to counterweight the laws of STC. It turns out that book came out only a year after STC and was written by one, David Lynch.
I just never cared to pick it up because, like many, I had been David Lynched-out. I had read everything on Lynch up to that point, but I think, after sitting through “Inland Empire” and listening to him talk about it (usually a great experience, but I disliked the 3 hour plus “Inland” so much, even the usually entertaining Lynch wasn’t all the interesting to me).
And then, when I heard one of the greatest living film directors of our time became a children’s mediation teacher, I shrugged and thought, who cares? Mainly, I thought this would take away from David Lynch’s movie making. It did.
Yes, its been almost a decade and still no David Lynch movie… but there always was, just under my nose, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. A book so rich about movies, creativity, intuition and yes, meditation that feels like a dream when you’re reading it. In spirit with the book, I read it completely by chance, sleeping a couple nights at my friend, Dr. Bid Roy’s house. The Doc has a huge library. It’s really like sleeping at a book store. And he recommended this David Lynch book. He said it was a “quick read”, which is a combination of words almost as attractive as “bacon wrapped hot dog” to me.
I sat down and read the book in less than two hours, unable to put it down once I cracked it open. It was like falling into an subconscious state, day dreaming David Lynch’s life. Since Lynch is the only director in history to make “weird” very commercial, this was incredible insight to visit the depths of his mind.
Lynch talked about meeting Fellini and only a day later, he fell into a coma and never came out. Lynch talked about the luck of “Twin Peaks” being approved by a test audience. Lynch talked about Van Gogh and how suffering probably did not help him and theorizes his paintings provided the few moments of joy in his life. Lynch talked about asking “the idea” for guidance, whenever he is lost. Meaning, the original idea that led to whatever movie he’s making… that idea can be posed questions… and yes, the idea answers back.
You don’t read this book, you feel it… as it enunciates in the clearest way imaginable what the identity of an idea is. What it looks like, what it tastes like, where to find it, and what you might do to scare it, without realizing it. This is an idea manual from a man who made a career out of respecting “the idea” above all else. Lynch is a shaman turned movie director.
In many ways, “Save the Cat” and “Catching the Big Fish” say the same thing. The idea is the thing to worship, hone, shape. STC professes preparation, construction and critical thinking (you learn to tame the idea). CTBF teaches intuition, sensitivity and uniqueness (you learn to free the idea). But both are about the same “idea.” This is why you cannot read one without reading the other. They’re twin books, one dark, one light, one good, one evil… but the same blood runs through them.
Lynch shrinks you to microscopic size and puts you inside an idea bubble… and this idea bubble grows bigger and bigger and bigger… until you’re human size again. When the ride is over, you can’t describe anything, but you know this homo-sapien process more intimately than you ever could. And most importantly, you get its power and potential… and you can’t wait to use it again.
Written by: Norith Soth