I'm just coming to the end of ten days away from work so I've managed to get into a proper groove with my life and its given me some much needed writing time. A while ago I purchased a copy of "Save the Cat" Blake Snyder. I probably went through the same process as most people do when they come across this book which is A) to wonder how you ever structured a screenplay without it to B)Yay, let's make a beat sheet to C) Let's put it all into practice to D) Crap that's really limited my work.
Of course structure is really important but insisting that each beat must be made, without exception on this page, this page, this page etc, is really, really limiting. Well, I found that at least. I'm sure someone will jump all over me and say I'm wrong. Hell, who's allowed an opinion these days? However, what I did find is that whilst constructing a script from scratch using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (c) was creatively limiting for me, when I checked already written scripts those beats had been hit anyway.
So, this is how I use a beat sheet now. I write the first draft like one big word vomit then I write out the beat sheet and say exactly where the beats hit home. I also add a few sections of ideas and action points and colour code them for my attention. I guess it's the same as some writers who use a spread sheet or colour cards they pin on boards etc. Whatever floats your boat. Once I've established where the plotholes lie and weeded out the problems I can use the beat sheet to pare down the bloated script to something more manageable and pull those beats together.
Blake Snyder's right, the beats are important; they give structure to the script and structure is everything but I think structure should come after you've worked out the plot and the characters not before. After all, that's what rewriting is for, isn't it?