In Save the Cat! The Last Book On Screen Writing That You’ll Ever Need, Blake Snyder discusses the opening image as the very first impression of what a movie (or novel) is – it sets the tone, mood, and style of the movie. It introduces the main character by giving us a “before snapshot” prior to his life-changing journey we paid $10 to see. Snyder goes on to say that the final image should match the opening image. It’s the “after snapshot” and should show us how the hero grew or changed.
He uses Miss Congeniality as an example. “Opening Image: Sandra Bullock’s character in flashback as a playground tough. The image is Sandra surrounded by boys. Sandra is a tomboy and she’s beating them up. Sandra has issues. When we CUT TO: The Present, Sandra is still surrounded by boys, still a tomboy, but she’s an FBI agent, at home in the world of men – kind of. Final image: Miss Congeniality closes with the opposite of the opening image: Sandra is surrounded by women. Sandra is awarded the coveted Miss Congeniality Award by her fellows – quite a change!”
Okay, I see this. I understand this. It makes a lot of sense. BUT…then I read his next book, Save the Cat goes to the Movies, in which Snyder gives tons of examples of movies and breaks them down into his 15 beats. However, I found that most of the examples didn’t demonstrate a clear change in the characters from just viewing the opening image (beat 1) and closing images (beat 15).
For example, in Lethal Weapon Snyder writes, “Opening Image: Night. Atop a high-rise in LA, a girl does a line of coke and jumps out the window, plummeting to her death. Final Image: Having come to terms with his wife’s death, Mel Spends Christmas with Danny and his family. Danny is over his mid-life crisis, and Mel is no longer an insane person.”
I’m not seeing the bookends of the opening and closing image. Am I missing something? Many of the examples are like this. So how important is it to have a true “before” and “after” snapshot in the first and final images of a movie or novel? Does it matter as long as you can see the character growth over the course of the movie or book? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.