A little over two months ago, a buddy and old writing partner of mine, Scott Walker, called me up with an interesting proposition — how would I like to join him in writing a feature length comedy– Sorry, how would I like to join him in writing a feature length comedy… and get PAID for it?

I don’t even think I hesitated, “Yes!” spilled right out of my mouth.

Scott and I have been fortunate enough to find not only success in writing together, but friendship. When we write, it’s an interesting mix of perspectives and life experiences that emerge. And it’s always enjoyable. How often can you say that? “Yes, I’ve worked with this person for months on end, and each time we get together, I have a great time.” That’s pretty few and far between for me.

We began meeting with Dave Rich, the producer of the project and all-around awesome guy. Dave was the one who came up with original premise for Margarine Wars, and acted as our sounding board for some of the crazier ideas we came up with.

Scott and I began to meet once a week over a two month period. The first month was all set up, getting the story, characters and structure down. the second month was all writing. It had been a while since he and I had seen each other before our first meeting, so there was a lot of catch up involved. but when we finally started to talk about the project, one piece of information became invaluable – we were both ready to Save the Cat.

If you’ve never heard of Save the Cat, get ready to be enlightened. It’s not my idea though, it’s Blake Snyder’s book.

Appropriately subtitled, “The Last Book On Screen Writing You’ll Ever Need”, Save the Cat is just that. It lays out in beats, or moments in your script, that absolutely need to be there in order to fully resonate with your audience. Trust me, the author, Blake, did his homework.

Scott and I pulled out Save the Cat books out at the same time and sat in surprise looking at each other. “You know Save the Cat?” we asked in stereo. While the book doesn’t save lives, it honestly gave us 90% of the road map we needed to complete the script for Margarine Wars. So we set about creating our Logline for the movie.

The Logline needs to encompass the feel of the movie, the plot of the movie and the promise of what the movie will offer audiences. Coming up with it proved harder than we thought due to the irony of our main protagonist, an African-American Jewish Hippie.

Yeah, you read that right.

The Margarine Wars Logline:

Conservative small town America and the sixties’ Psychedelic Counterculture clash during the “Summer of Love” when an aspiring hippie Afro-Jew from New York dupes the son of a Swedish dairy farmer into smuggling outlawed margarine into butter-rich Wisconsin.

The feel of the movie, a bit silly, a lot of fun, and a throwback to the 60’s.  The plot of the movie, an aspiring hippie Afro-Jew suckers the simple son of a Swedish dairy farmer into smuggling illegal margarine into a conservative, small town in butter-rich Wisconsin. The promise of the premise, we’ll see a hippie battling “The Man” in small town America, as he smuggles illegal substances under their noses to make a quick buck and get the heck out of town.

Whenever we ran into a situation while writing that may have taken us away from our Logline, we redoubled our efforts and stuck to it. It proved to be extremely fruitful. We had a read through of the script recently with a fantastic cast, and after we were all done laughing and taking notes, the changes we had amounted to one additional half page scene, and minor tweaks to two other scenes. It was the shortest amount of re-writes I’ve ever had to make on a script. And I think we owe it all to that book.

Update: September 21st, 2010:
I saw Scott last night, and he and I already ramping up to write another script together. Dave emailed me earlier today to let me know he just got back from location scouting and signing paperwork in Michigan. That’s where the film will be shooting in April of 2011.

I’m still in shock that these guys brought me in, got me paid, and I’ll be able to see our movie on a big screen in a couple years. I’ll update with more progress as the start date approaches. In the meantime, screenwriters, if you’ve read Save the Cat, let me know what you think. If you haven’t, buy it, and thank me later. Hahaha…