Everyone Has Reversals

Story Lessons, Big and Small (Warning: Spoilers!)

August 05, 2009

In Honour of Blake Snyder & His Pope

I watched Smart People a while back. Thought it was sometimes charming and sometimes impenetrable. Mainly because it was so hard to get what Sarah Jessica Parker saw in Dennis Quaid. (And I speak as a longtime Quaid fan, here. And as a girl who had many a crush on an English professor.)

There were, however, tons of great story lessons in the film. And to honour Blake Snyder, who died suddenly this week, I’d like to point out that Smart People was the first time I ever noticed the “Pope in the Pool” rule in action. Snyder coined the phrase to describe any scene in which exposition is delivered while something visually interesting is distracting us. Need the Pope to deliver some boring/talky lines? Have him do it while swimming.

In Smart People, there’s a moment when Ellen Page finds her uncle, Thomas Haden Church, and asks him why he’s not staying with the family anymore. The scene could have taken place pretty much anywhere. It’s just talk. But she finds him while he’s walking down the street stapling “Lose Weight Now – Ask Me How!” flyers to telephone poles.

I saw that, and thought a whole bunch of things at the same time. I thought: Hey, I’ve never seen the people behind flyers like that. I thought: Of course it’s people like this guy, doing this kind of work! I thought: Wow, that’s much more interesting than this scene could have been. I thought: That Blake Snyder is one smart dude.

R.I.P. Blake – thank you for your wisdom and humour.



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