Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blake Snyder 1957-2009: Dearest Friend, Mentor, In My Heart Forever 8/4/09

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the name of the screenwriter Blake Snyder.

It was through his encouragement that I first came to LA, having sent him the title and logline for my budding screenplay, Celebrity Stalker, in response to which I received the most incredible, encouraging e-mail.

I subsequently travelled to the city to do Blake’s Beats course, and it was the start of a friendship that would see me end up living 6000 miles across the Atlantic and pursuing my dream of being what I called a “real writer”.

Blake died suddenly this morning. I found out on Facebook, where I daily looked at his profile to see how many more inspiring stories there were from the people across the world whom he had helped in their screenwriting struggles.

His passion and enthusiasm for what he did never faltered, and everyone who came into contact with him became the beneficiary of that.

From my first contact with Blake in May 2008, he taught me many things, not only in relation to screenwriting. He was also a wonderful human being: full of compassion and love for his fellow men. The person I refer to in the blog Shopping For Niceness was him: a man who did not think that we were the best judges of other people’s foibles, and who saw the good in everyone he met.

When we had lunch two weeks ago, I remarked that although we had known each other face to face for just five months, it seemed that a lot had happened: I was living in LA, for starters. It was a move that he had positively encouraged, and he listened and supported me through what have been some very bleak moments.

I just cannot believe that he is gone, and my sympathies go out to his family, colleagues, and everyone whose lives were blessed to have been touched by this giving, wonderful man.

Facebook and his website are already full of entries expressing shock and disbelief at his sudden parting. But what comes through in all of them is his goodness, kindness, and ability to embrace people who reached out, both professionally and personally. He had that rarest of things: the gift of spirit.

My dearest Blake: my heart is breaking. In a screenplay, you would call it the All Is Lost moment that precedes Dark Night of the Soul. But as I sit here with your book before me – as you know, it never leaves my side – I look to the finale and the final image that follows. The final image, you say, is “the opposite of the opening image. It is proof that change has occurred and that it’s real.”

The image of my life now, compared to before you came into it, is very much the opposite of what it was, and I have you to thank for that.

I will celebrate your life, not with a drink (thank you for saving me from that, too), but by doing the work of which you constantly told me I was capable, and it will always be with immense gratitude and love that I remember you.

God bless, and, as you say in Save the Cat, when you describe dropping that script in the mail: “It is what it is.”

Your death is what it is.

Quite how we will all move on without you being among us is too early to say; but we will – and you will be with us in so many ways.

I told you over our last lunch that for me, everlasting life was about the things we left behind – the laughter, the ideas, the wisdom, the insight, the love – and that it was this, rather than any notion of God, that gave me great joy.

There's no joy today, and the Dark Night of the Soul looks never-ending.

But you will live on, my sweet, darling friend. Eternally.


  1. Hello, Jaci:

    I just wanted to tell you how touched I was by your posting. I heard about Blake's passing last night on Twitter and was incredibly affected by the news. I did not know Blake personally but I had started to feel his impact in my life. You see, I've been a film and video editor for about 14 years now. I had always wanted to write but felt incredibly intimidated by the proccess. I read Blake's book and felt like his insights into story were what I had been looking for all my life.

    For the past two months I've been busy with the Beat Sheet and The Board. Finally it was only yesterday that I put the first words to paper. With a full time job and a new baby I have to find the time to write but I am doing it. Five pages a day, before the baby wakes up should see me have a first draft by month's end.

    Anyway, I am rambling because I am still shocked. You said something that really touched me in your post: that everlasting life is about what we leave behind. This is precisely the theme of my story. Blake left a lot behind. The little I can do to honor him has to do with his legacy: I have gotten four of my co workers onto his teachings and we are having a blast crafting our stories.

    Thanks again for your words. You've inspired me. I wish you the best in all your endeavors. I will also keep following your blog.


    Auggie Rexach
    San Antonio, Texas

  2. Jaci,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with Blake and the impact he had on your life. I found his book endlessly inspiring and helpful even though I've written for a lot of years. He made sense of things I did instinctively, and helped me see why I was doing them, and when I somehow didn't do them, why things didn't work. His gifts were both his insights and wisdom and his enthusiasm and generosity. I heard him speak only once, but his connection with the roomful of people was instant and profound.

    His legacy will live on through his books and the people who have learned from them. But even knowing that, I feel a great sadness. My condolences to his family and friends.