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Blindsided by The Blind Side

By on December 8, 2009 in Beat Sheets

Cat! Jose Silerio scouted this past weekend’s #1 hit.

mv5bmjezote3odm3of5bml5banbnxkftztcwmzyyodi4mg_v1_sx94_sy140_If there ever was a surprise film of the season, it has to be The Blind Side. In fact, its remarkable run was even made more remarkable because it ended up number one at the box office after three weeks, a feat almost unheard of.

So, what did I think of The Blind Side? Honestly, I’m not sure. It definitely doesn’t have any of those big hooks you would find in a movie that’s grossed more than $100 million. (The Blind Side has already made $130 million.) No fancy special effects, no mind-boggling story twists, no big stars except for Cat! fave Sandra Bullock (but remember her last release, All About Steve, didn’t do too well), no aliens, no vampires, no zombies, no big explosions or car chases, no bloody rampages or kick-ass martial arts stunt sequences. Here I was sitting in the movie theater waiting and waiting and waiting for that … that thing that’s made this movie such a sleeper hit.

Adapted by John Lee Hancock (The Alamo, The Rookie), The Blind Side is not your daddy’s sports movie — it’s a story about relationships and emotions, about the triumph of the spirit and the potential for greatness that lies within us all. That’s where its magic comes from. The Blind Side doesn’t mesmerize us with the fancy camerawork of game shots that ESPN would be proud of, or last second game- winning touchdowns. It simply focuses on the primal, resonant stories of mother and child and husband and wife, and on the magic of transformation. Simple. Straightforward. STC!-certified structured. It’s called a story. And that’s what The Blind Side has: a simple straightforward story that is emotional, well structured, and well told. It has resonance.

Let’s go quickly through the beats:

The Set-Up introduces us to Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), an African American teenager coming from the wrong side ghettoof the tracks, abandoned by his crack-dependent mom and living on the couch of a neighbor. We are then introduced to Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) and Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw), an affluent white family caught in their world of private schools and sheltered lives. Opposites coming together.

Then comes the “double bump” that serves as twin Catalysts, which bring our two main characters together. First, Michael gets thrown out of the house where he has been living; and second, Leigh Anne sees Michael wandering in the freezing night, looking for a place to be warm.

The Break into Two comes when Leigh Anne decides to take Michael to her home. Welcome to your new world, Leigh Anne and Michael. And this is exactly what the Fun & Games is all about. Leigh Anne discovers the world Michael is from – the poverty, the drugs… the projects. She even says, “I’ve lived in Memphis all my life and never been anywhere near here.”

mv5bmtmwndkwmty4n15bml5banbnxkftztcwntkzmjg3mg_v1_cr341013651365_ss100_Michael learns what it’s like to be part of a family — and he learns to play football for the first time. Their bond begins to grow.

The Midpoint stake is raised when Leigh Anne decides to be Michael’s legal guardian. No turning back now, right?

In Bad Guys Close In, Leigh Anne learns the circumstance of Michael’s background; Michael learns that football can be cruel, not just violent; and as the college coaches come recruiting, Michael must pull his grades up if he is to make it to a Division I college.

images-61The All Is Lost comes when a NCAA investigation makes Michael question Leigh Anne’s true intentions as to why she took him in. He runs off and she doesn’t follow. Girl loses boy. Mom loses son.

Break into Three is all about getting back what she lost, as Leigh Anne gets in her car and searches for Michael.

The Finale finds Michael back in the projects. Changed by his experience with the Tuohys, he defends their honor when a neighborhood gangbanger insults them. Leigh Anne returns to the projects, and when the same gangbanger confronts her, she becomes what this story is truly all about: She is a Mother defending her Son. This wasn’t her world, hers was not his, but now, they are Family. No one will ever hurt him again. And that’s the Hightower Surprise the gangbanger didn’t see coming.

And with a true Dig-Deep-Down moment, just as any mother learning to let her son go for the first time, Leigh Anne tells Michael, “I want you to go wherever you want. It’s your decision. It’s your life.” The moment is emotional. It’s primal. It works… every time.

Maybe The Blind Side is not your kind of movie. But if there’s anything you can take from it — and its success at the box office — it’s that a well told story still trumps everything else.

So, look at what you’re writing. If you take out all the special effects, out-of-this-world art designs, or amazing stunts, are you still telling a story that keeps us listening? CG is nice, but story is better. Because a well-structured story will always protect your blind side — just like a really good left tackle.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the final STC! Contest for 2009 for a chance to win Save the Cat! Strikes Back and other STC! goodies. Submit your entries before the deadline on December 19, Midnight PST!

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Jose Silerio

About the Author

About the Author: José Silerio, a screenwriter who served as Blake Snyder’s Development Director, has been integral to the success of Blake’s workshops and classes as he worked alongside Blake schooling writers in the Cat! method. “José is my right-hand man when it comes to script consultations.”– Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!® Strikes Back – More Trouble for Writers to Get Into… and Out Of. .

There Are 14 Comments

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  1. Ralph Dobbins says:

    Great post Jose and I hope your beat sheet makes its way into the STC wiki.

  2. Gene says:

    That’s because America loves a good underdog story! Well, the whole world does. Look at Susan Boyle. I think her story would fit so well into 3 act structure! There are midpoints and pinches, hell, even a lowpoint!

    Did you guys hear that the TV Guide Network is airing an exclusive documentary about Susan’s rise to fame?

    I just read about it here:

    http://www.tvguide.com/special/susan-boyle/

  3. Patricia says:

    I found this site after reading the books, just a few months ago. I am so happy to see Mr. Snyder’s work alive! I kick myself for not taking a workshop but now I know I’ll take the next one. Thank you Mr. Jose for this and thank you Cats.

  4. Al Rodriguez Al Rodriguez says:

    Excellent post and break down of THE BLIND SIDE, Jose! I posted a link on our Austin STC! group Facebook page. This is one I’ve been wanting to see. Keep ’em coming.

  5. Art Fuller says:

    Jose, great review and breakdown of the beats. I thought it was a very well told story and am not surprised that people are enjoying it. Keep up the good work.

  6. Sarah Beach says:

    Excellent review of the film, Jose! And thanks for the reminder about the importance of the emotional story in our scripts.

  7. I was wondering why that movie did so well. BTW, ever since I found STC I’ve been spreading the word. Here’s a post on how it changed my way of writing novels:

    http://southernauthors.blogspot.com/

  8. Glenn Damato says:

    This story reminds me of Gran Torino – it’s a great story, but many Hollywood elitists feel compelled to turn up their noese to it because it is brilliantly, wonderfully politically IN-correct. They feel that if a movie touches on race relations, it must stay within the Marxist paradigm of class warfare: whites must be shown as the oppressor group, blacks as the victim group, end of story. Gran Torino got ripped at the Oscars and the Academy Awards because it offended the Tinsel Town Lefties – sadly, this movie will probably have the same fate.

    Audiences LOVED Gran Torino for the same reason they love Blind Side: the story is fresh – a huge departure from the usual stale, dusty old America-is-evil, capitalism-is-evil, western-civilization and white people are evil pap. Screenwriters: if you are willing to think and write out of the Marxist po-mo, deconstructionist box, you have a real leg up toward success.

  9. Bea says:

    @Glenn Damato – I must address your deliberately incindiery response.

    I am a self-described Hollywood Liberal. I’m a treehugger, a fact finder, a consciousness raiser … and I loved GRAN TORINO, especially as it addressed my Liberal roots / leanings of ‘we are people not labels”.

    It is the duty of the writer to challenge the American or (insert country here) dream; whether we write comedy, drama or absurdism, we must, MUST tell the truth. To prosletize a political bent is not truthful, for it is not objective, and the writer must always sustain objectivity.

    Cat! principles can make this happen. Whatever the genre, they ask for the best the writer can give. They serve story and truth.

  10. Bea and Glenn,
    I’m so glad to see you at one another.It reminds me of the good old days when Blake got us started and then egged us on.”Gran Torino”is a wonderfull gift to mankind as it celebrates the grit that gives us our freedom. As an apprentice boy in Charleston Naval Shipyard in the 60’s I worked for WW2 veterans who would have made “Walt Kowalski” look like a pussy.There is no way I would have bought a Honda or a BMW and parked it in the shipyard parking lot and claimed it.These old bastards were so mean to me because I did’nt serve in Viet Nam.It has taken me a life time to realize that they earned their rights and carried the horror of it. Gran Torino nails the grit without exaggeration.God bless the old bastards.They did teach me to hang.

  11. Patricia Nichols says:

    Jose–

    WELL DONE, Jose!!! Your piece on the Blind Side is first rate, AS USUAL! You broke it down in succinct and perfect STC beats. Blake would undoubtedly be most proud !!!!

    Secondly, I MUST agree with Captain Perry on seeing Bea and Glenn at odds over the political deviations of the storyline. This IS what Blake would sit back and smile over! It does, for all intent and purpose, make us search our inner selves for the heart of the story. At least that which is “in” us.
    I love it!

    Capt- I have to say, sir, Thankyou for your service as well…in whatever the capacity. It was service. Sure,the old buggers were tough on you…but it made you what you are today. My father was one of those crusty old brash Korean Vets. I treasured every rough moment I fought through with him.
    (Maybe NOT at the moment I was fighting them..lol)
    But I do now.
    God bless our fighting men and women. All of them.

  12. Claudia says:

    THANK YOU, JOSE for the wonderful blog… I SO needed it right now. Also thank you for the wonderful breakdown of The Blind Side… I was breaking it down in my head when I watched it.

    I loved what John Lee Hancock created, of course from an amazing true story. I loved the fact that it showed a real woman who is a take-charge, take no prisoners, go-getter who can see when something/someone needs help and has few qualms about stepping up to the plate ooops, mixed metaphor!) and doing the right thing! I also loved that this movie didn’t do what so many Hollywood movies do… put down Christianity. Putting down Christians seems to be chic in Hollywood… unless it’s from a movie that will make them a bundle of money. For those who beg to differ, watch how many fictional stories there are about someone who is supposedly Christian or Catholic or some other religion, but they drink, smoke, gamble, cheat on their spouse, ad nauseum. I’m not saying Christians don’t have faults, far from it… but why does Hollywood show negative traits/habit 99% of the time for people who wear crosses? Leigh Anne and Sean make no “excuses” for their beliefs, they just ARE what they believe, they walk the talk. It wasn’t preachy, far from it, but what they did reminds the world exactly what is in the Bible.

    I loved The Blind Side and I’m THRLLED that to date it’s made $184 million domestically. Perhaps Hollywood will look at that and realize we don’t need special effects, we just need a good story… and if you don’t insult us with your political agenda, we’ll not only buy a ticket but we’ll network to tell others to go see the movie as well!

  13. DBart says:

    I have a much different opinion about this film…

    Above, Claudia talked about Hollywood being unfair to Christians, and yes I can see that, but Hollywood has been promoting racial stereotypes for decades, too (and this movie is in that vein). Check out my opinion…

    http://d-bart.blogspot.com/2009/11/dont-get-blind-sided-by-this-crap.html

    … for a much more impassioned review based on my frustrations with Hollywood and the imagery it promotes.
    Major portions of the movie are MAKE BELIEVE! I tip my cap to any hard working people who try to help those in need, but this movie is far from EMOTIONAL when it does little more than affirm ubiquitous WHITE GUILT in America today. Mr. Oher is a much stronger and successful man by his own life choices. In this film, he is made to look like nothing more than an inaudible giant lug. In turn, Leigh Anne is made to be Christ-like in her resolve to get this kid’s life in order. In reality, the kid just fell in her family’s lap and they tried to help him! A film like this is great and dangerous all at the same time: it may lead more suburbanites to get involved in the inner-city; undoubtedly, it will promote the idea that black people can not succeed with out the help of white people (AND THE IDEA THAT BLACK PEOPLE CAN ONLY SUCCEED IN SPORTS)! Just be careful for what you take as FACE VALUE and when you are watching a film, ask yourself, “How is this film portraying the images of class, race, and gender and why?”

  14. Claudia says:

    DBart – BOTH Sandra Bullock AND Michael Oher TOTALLY disagree with you.
    Both of them reacted to that very criticism on the 20/20 special last week.

    Have YOU ever taken in another person and did whatever you could to help them and change their lives? I HAVE! In fact they’ve been living with me for the last 8 years and I have been equally blessed!

    While Michael knew and loved football before he came to live with them… he did NOT fall into their lap.

    While I agree Hollywood has stereotyped people of ALL races… not all films are that way.

    It does not matter what color or religion any of us are… KINDNESS matters, LOVE MATTERS. This story is a triumph of the human spirit, it shows a family that reached out to help another human being and it shows the strength and character of that human being to ACCEPT the help and use it to pull himself up by the bootstraps.

    We NEED more movies that show love and not hatred. PERIOD.

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