Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting Hardcover – Apr 1998
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From Library Journal
Screenplay is one of the bibles of the film trade and has launched many a would-be screenwriter on the road to Hollywood. This third edition is updated to include the specifics of writing via computer.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
“Screenplay is one of the bibles of the film trade and has launched many a would-be screenwriter on the road to Hollywood.” —Library Journal
“Syd Field is the preeminent analyzer in the study of American screenplays.” —James L. Brooks, AcademyAward–winning writer, director, producer --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Field gives new students a good overview of what is important in a screenplay: formatting; setup, confrontation, resolution, known as the "arc;" and he is helpful in creating characters.
But it is my considered opinion that the best way to learn to write screenplays is to read screenplays. Personally, I would say that the person desirous of learning how to write a screenplay get his or her hands on as many screenplays as they possibly can. Reading them is what taught me to write them. And I had several bought, produced and shown in theaters and on TV. There is really no need to fill your shelves with textbooks on the subject.
So I give Field three stars. Not so much because his book is faulty (in some places it is out of date: the screenplay today should be closer to 100 pages long, not the recommended 120 pages in Field), but because I doubt the need for books to learn this craft. Still, one book, like Fields, can be useful as a quick reference for a problem.
A few examples: Field insists that a good screenplay's first plot point must occur around page thirty. The first plot point in Star Wars (a film Field makes reference to) occurs around page fifty. Additionally, I would love to see Field sort out the plot points of Pulp Fiction and fit it into his beloved paradigm!
Field insists that a good screenplay must have three acts. Shakespeare wrote the bulk of his works in five acts. Enough said.
Field claims that "a name is a name" as he names a character Sara Towsend in an example exercise. Would Huckleberry Finn have had the same magic if Huck had been named Jim Johnson? Dickens' names added another dimension to his stories, Oliver Twist for example. Other names to consider: Scarlett O'Hara, Yossarian, or even Dr. Wilbur Larch, as a more modern example. To Field's credit, he focuses on building a character in the same chapter that he downplays the importance of names. Undoubtably, what's inside a character is more important than the label slapped on him or her. But equally undoubtable is the ability of the perfect name to enhance an effective character.Read more ›
The things that I disliked: First, the basic premise that permeates the book, i.e., what we see in the movies is how screenplays should be written. What we actually see in the movies usually is very low quality. Syd Field may be right if your sole objective is to sell a script to Hollywood. If your objective is to advance the art, Field'paradigm is rather limiting. In fact, it is a straightjacket.
Second, there is a basic contradiction in the book: Field praises the screenplay of "Chinatown" as a brilliant example of screenwriting. Yet, the first time that he saw the film, he was "bored, tired, and dozed off during the screening" (p. 74), and so did I. Field says that Chinatown was "a very cold and distant film," and I have to agree with him. Then how come it was a brilliant screenplay? It is very hard to believe that Roman Polanski received a brilliant screenplay and managed to turn it into a boring movie. How about if the screenplay wasn't so great after all?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I red SCREENPLAY many years ago before righting my own movie, BILLY 'N' BILLIE. Iliked the book. It was reel good at showing you what elimints are need in construkting a movie... Read morePublished on June 29 2004 by STEPHEN T. McCARTHY
Enough with the negative reviews. Syd Field writes from the perspective of a reader who makes decisions to recommend movies to be made. Read morePublished on March 5 2004 by Gregory Olsen
Syd Field's SCREENPLAY is a great book for a beginner. The author takes the reader through the basic steps of writing a screenplay, from the first idea to fleshing out the... Read morePublished on Dec 30 2003 by Debbie Lee Wesselmann
I frankly purchased this book based on the 5 star rating offered by a 'Top Reviewer' and feel quite disappointed. Read morePublished on Aug. 27 2003 by NYCPatsfan
This is an appropriate primer if you've never attempted to write anything resembling a screenplay, or if you realize the efforts you've made are nothing like what you want your... Read morePublished on March 18 2003 by Amazon Customer
Syd Field is THE authority on how to write a Hollywood screenplay. That is, a cookie cutter, seen it a hundred times, time the pacing by your watch screenplay. Read morePublished on March 13 2003
This will only leave you dazed and confused. Writing by the numbers is the worst way to write anything. Read morePublished on Jan. 1 2003
Syd Field is big with pontification about screenplay structure, and his formula is famous. But what does he actually know about writing a screenplay? Has he ever sold one? Read morePublished on Oct. 31 2002
Syd Field's book is useful for those who are just starting to study Hollywood film structure. If you have no grasp of what an "act" is or the "steps" that take place in a typical... Read morePublished on Sept. 30 2002