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Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting [Hardcover]

Syd Field
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1998
From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script..

Here are easily understood guidelines to make film-writing accessible to novices and to help practiced writers improve their scripts. Syd Field pinpoints the structural and stylistic elements essential to every good screenplay. He presents a step-by-step, comprehensive technique for writing the script that will succeed.

•Why are the first ten pages of your script crucially important?

•How do you collaborate successfully with someone else?

•How do you adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a screenplay?

•How do you market your script?
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I am a teacher of screenwriting Aug. 13 2003
I am a professional screenwriter and I also teach advanced and beginning screenwriting at a prominent Bay Area university. Field is the benchmark teaching text, and I used it last semester to teach Screenwriting 1, the Basics. For this class, Field is as good as any text. I don't particularly like texts and don't usually use them to teach as I have a wealth of my own experiences to guide me and my students. But I did find Field useful, at least at this stage of the teaching process.
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
For the absolute beginner with no clue how to write a screenplay, this book (for better or for worse) is probably essential reading. It effectively describes the basic structure of a basic screenplay. The problem is that what Syd Field does not realize is that many truly great screenplays effectively break his "rules." Granted, that is only done by accomplished screenwriter who spent years following the rules when they wrote screenplays. But the fact of the matter is that if all screenwriters followed Field's advice to the letter, Hollywood cinema would be even worse off than it currently is!
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Generic May 19 2003
If there was ever a book that tried to teach you a formula for screenwriting, this is it. I've never understood the fascination with Syd Field by screenwriters. Some say this is the bible for screenwriters, but it really doesn't tell you much of anything. If you really want to learn about the art of scriptwriting, read Robert McKee's "Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting". That will give you the deeper understanding of screenwriting you'll be lacking after Syd Field.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Screenplay" has good and bad points May 2 2003
By kanenas
There are things that I liked and things that I disliked about "Screenplay." First, the things that I liked: It is a very well written, thoroughly researched, and instructive textbook. The constant repetition of simple concepts works for me. The points gets across. I disagree with the reviewer who thinks that Field is worthless because he has not authored a successful screenplay. Yes, it would help if he did. However, the job of a successful teacher (and I am a teacher myself) is to digest all the information out there and spit it back at you in a way that you can assimilate it. Field is successful at that. You don't have to build an actual living cell in order to effectively teach cellular biology. In fact, currently it is impossible to build a living cell from scratch. And, of course, you don't have to be a hen to judge an omelet.
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?
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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 more
Published on June 29 2004 by STEPHEN T. McCARTHY
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't listen to the frustrated reviewers
Enough with the negative reviews. Syd Field writes from the perspective of a reader who makes decisions to recommend movies to be made. Read more
Published on March 5 2004 by Gregory Olsen
4.0 out of 5 stars Start here . . .
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 more
Published on Dec 30 2003 by Debbie Lee Wesselmann
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading reviews
I frankly purchased this book based on the 5 star rating offered by a 'Top Reviewer' and feel quite disappointed. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2003 by NYCPatsfan
4.0 out of 5 stars Good starting point for the clueless
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 more
Published on March 18 2003 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Read the Rules, Then Throw Them Out The Window
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 more
Published on March 13 2003 by "safflowerangelica"
1.0 out of 5 stars waste of time and money
This will only leave you dazed and confused. Writing by the numbers is the worst way to write anything. Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars What has Syd Field written? Has he ever had a showbiz job?
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 more
Published on Oct. 31 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars A moderately useful but misleading book
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 more
Published on Sept. 30 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars ...
Quite simply, the book that ruined Hollywood movies. If you want to know how NOT to do it, then read this guide and file it under useless. Read Aristotle's Poetics instead. Read more
Published on April 29 2002 by Jon Bastian
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