A generation of screenwriters has used Syd Field’s bestselling books to ignite successful careers in film. Now the celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher, and bestselling author has updated his classic guide for a new generation of filmmakers, offering a fresh insider’s perspective on the film industry today. From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script, here are easily understood guidelines to help aspiring screenwriters—from novices to practiced writers—hone their craft. Filled with updated material—including all-new personal anecdotes and insights, guidelines on marketing and collaboration, plus analyses of recent films, from American Beauty to Lord of the Rings—Screenplay presents a step-by-step, comprehensive technique for writing the screenplay that will succeed in Hollywood. Discover:
•Why the first ten pages of your script are crucially important •How to visually “grab” the reader from page one, word one •Why structure and character are the essential foundation of your screenplay •How to adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a screenplay •Tips on protecting your work—three legal ways to claim ownership of your screenplay •The essentials of writing great dialogue, creating character, building a story line, overcoming writer’s block, getting an agent, and much more.
With this newly updated edition of his bestselling classic, Syd Field proves yet again why he is revered as the master of the screenplay—and why his celebrated guide has become the industry’s gold standard for successful screenwriting.
Sydney Alvin Field was an American screenwriting guru who wrote several books on the subject of screenwriting. He also conducted workshops and seminars on the subject of producing salable screenplays. Hollywood film producers have increasingly used his ideas on structure as a guideline to a proposed screenplay's potential.
It's a warm summer night. Crickets chirp rapidly. All the windows in the house are dark, except one on the second floor.
ZOOM SLOWLY ON WINDOW WITH LIGHT ON:
INT. A BEDROOM WITH ONE READING LIGHT- NIGHT
A woman is sleeping silently on the right side of the bed. On the floor, a small dog is curled up and lightly snores. A man is reading on the left side of the bed by the reading light.
THE MAN, a nerdy-type with glasses and a stack of books on his bedside table, slowly exhales while he turns a page. The bookmark rest between his fingers, which holding the cover of the book. The book is "Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting" by Syd Field.
ZOOM SLOWLY ON HIS FACE, KEEPING THE BOOK IN FRAME:
The man slowly turns the last page, finishing, and resting the book on the bedside table next to the lamp.
MAN Well, that was a pile of garbage.
WOMAN SHHHH! Turn off the light.
The man turns off the light and lies on his back, his eyes open staring at the ceiling. He thinks of the time he spent reading the book and how he will never get that time back. Defeated, he exhales slowly.
EXT. TWO-STORY NEW ENGLAND COLONIAL HOUSE- NIGHT
It's a warm summer night. Crickets chirp rapidly. All the windows in the house are dark.
If Save the Cat is like arithmetic, Screenplay is like algebra.
What’s fascinating to me is the type of person each of these books was written for, which can be gleaned from the movies recommended by the authors. Blake Snyder loves Legally Blonde and Four Christmases while Syd Field is more of an American Beauty and The Shawshank Redemption guy. Snyder wants to cash in on the mostly clueless get-rich-quick crowd whereas Field aims at aficionados who have good concepts but no idea how to execute; he harbors no illusions about the field’s financial outlook, instead focusing on the love of the work itself. As Field and I are much closer in terms of taste, I obviously recommend his book over Snyder’s.
What does it do well? For one, it breaks down several scripts line-by-line and explains not only why they work, but how they work. Turns out that the screenplay form has magical properties that novels, plays, and poems lack (vice versa, of course), and that understanding them is key to animating your text. The technical, visual, and emotional aspects are all covered, as are the common pitfalls that trap novice screenwriters. Field tells of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s failed foray into Hollywood, his students’ successes and failures, and interviews with prominent screenwriters. All of which are great fun.
David Foster Wallace offers: “Movies are an authoritarian medium. They vulnerabilize you and then dominate you. Part of the magic of going to a movie is surrendering to it, letting it dominate you.” Which is absolutely true. And from Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” So you see what cinema we watch is vital, and it is people like Field who have a hand in shaping its future. I, for one, prefer films that allow audiences to come to terms with our common humanity, as opposed to those which shape our worldview into something simple and zombified.
As such, the creation of a film is wrought with ethics through and through. Field gets extra brownie points for centering his philosophy around Hegel, who “maintained that the essence of tragedy derives not from one character being right and the other being wrong, or from the conflict of good versus evil, but from a conflict in which both characters are right, and thus the tragedy is one of ‘right against right,’ being carried to its logical conclusion. [p.132]” Example films that fit the bill include Hayao Miyazaki’s repertoire and, recently, Captain Fantastic.
You might ask why I only give this four stars, and the reason, ironically, has to do with form. Field practically invented the three-act structure, but it certainly isn’t the only paradigm (to use his term) through which a story can be told. While this was broadly true of Hollywood when the first edition of the book came out, it seems disingenuous to fit Memento and Pulp Fiction into the model – round pegs into square holes – much less the art cinema of Rive Gauche and Haneke or mind-benders like Primer. Movies, constrained by time, must have a beginning and ending, but how they are structured in between is not nearly as fixed as Field suggests.
I eagerly await the day someone makes a film whose ending is not the actual ending and whose actual ending must be deduced by the audience after the fact. I guarantee the first person to do this will be hailed as a genius. Oh wait, I've just read a couple screenwriting books. That could be me!
P.S. Watching Chinatown is required before you start reading; Field references it extensively.
Favorite quotes “I once taught a workshop in Germany for some fifty writers, and out of fifty stories, forty-six of them ended in death, suicide, mayhem, and destruction. [p.86]”
“All drama is conflict. Without conflict, you have no action; without action, you have no character; without character, you have no story; and without story, you have no screenplay. [p.25]”
“Point of view shades and colors the way we see the world. Have you ever heard phrases like: ‘Life is unfair,’ ‘You can’t fight City Hall,’ ‘All life is a game of chance,’ ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ ‘Life is unlimited opportunity,’ ‘You make your own luck,’ ‘or ‘Success is based on who you know’? These are all points of view. We all have points of view, singular and unique, individual to the personal experience and expression of each person. It should be mentioned that a point of view is acquired through personal experience. [p.65]”
“Film is behavior; action is character and character, action; what a person does is who he is, not what he says. [p.69]”
I thought this book was going to be a technical guide to formatting a screenplay.
I finished this book having no idea how to do that. Field spends half a chapter on formatting. Thank God for software like CeltX.
But I finished this book with a greater appreciation of the writing process. I now have a better idea of how movies are written, and thus a much more technical appreciation of the writer's creative decisions when I watch movies.
All movies are structured identically: 3 acts -- first, a kick-off incident which leads to a major turning point to set up the conflict; then problem after problem ratchets the tension to a serious turning point; then the movie plays out and all life happily ever after (most of the time). That frees your creativity: hang your screenplays on that structure and you can't go wrong.
I got more than I bargained for with this one, and it was worth every penny.
i'm going to say i've finished this book, though i skipped a lot of chapter 14 & left 15 for some other day, or need of reference.
syd field is a no-nonsense, bridle no shit, formulaic bastard - but this book is an indispensable reference to those who are, actually writing a screenplay. granted, this is more for those who are "writing to sell a screenplay to Hollywood" than those who want to experiment with the form. mr. field is relentlessly capitalist about his notion of a 'good script,' and backs up his theory & formula with examples from classic films like Chinatown, The Wild Bunch, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and, if you're reading this new updated version, many modern films as well. this book has supposedly been the industry standard for decades.
this is not the kind of book that will work for everyone. his tone in the ... manual, i've come to call it ... is overarching and sort of snobby, what with repeating key points in BOLD and in CAPITALS. then, in the section where he actually talks about actually 'writing' the screenplay, he says things like "Your dialogue will be bad at first."
i'm really torn on it, though. the theory of his 'paradigm,' which basically informs the entire book, is repeated to you, over & over again - but at the same time, it's an undeniable paradigm. it just seems like syd field has been patting himself on the back, lo these thirty-some-odd past years, for discovering it. the Columbus of Hollywood, and indeed, of Screenwriting.
This book was just what I needed to further clarify the screenplay structure. The more one searches about writing screenplays the more it seems everyone has their own "formula" for how a screenplay MUST be written. All the "experts" want to sell their course, book, or "rules" on the ultimate, "guaranteed" way to write a screenplay that Hollywood will buy. This book was refreshing because it was light on rules and only laid out the basic structure while reassuring that the "rules" can be bent and even broken. Interestingly, this book is written in a Three Act Structure. It starts off slow and too basic then gets into the meat of the material in the middle. The last chapters are mostly about professional situations and not about screenplay structure at all. I particularly found the part of the book about screenplay structure along with example screenplay inserts helpful as reading successfully-made Hollywood critically-acclaimed screenplays best illustrates a masterful execution of the subject material. After reading this book I feel better equipped to write a screenplay, which was my whole purpose for reading it. I can see why this book is considered the "gold standard" for screenplay writers. This is not a book that is best read in one sitting from cover to cover as parts of it need to be digested and internalized over a period of time.
كتاب مهم ليس فقط لمن يسعى لتعلم كتابة السيناريو ، لكن برشحة لكل حد بيحب السينما كمشاهد وعادى ولاى كاتب ، الكتاب فية بعض الفصول المهمة على مستوى العلاقات الانسانية وفصول اخرى مهم بالنسبة للكاتب ورحلتة مع الكتابة من استكشاف للذات ونجاحات وفشل
الكتاب لة ترجمة باللغة العربية لواحد عراقى مش متذكر اسمة لكن الترجمة صادرة فى السبعينات مشكلة الترجمة ان اسماء الافلام اللى مذكورة فى امثلة الكاتب فى النسخة القديم اغلبها مش معروف دلوقتى لكن فى النسخة الجديدة اغلب الافلام معروفة
كتاب جميل جدا لكتاب السيناريو المبتدئين، رغم ان الترجمة ليست بأفضل حالاتها ولكن المعنى استطاع ان يصل لي. سيدفيلد كاتب متمكن من انه يشد القارئ له ويجعله يستمتع حتى وهو يقرأ اسطر من التعليمات حول الكتابة والقصص.
I’ll preface by saying I’m a novelist, not a screenwriter. But I enjoyed and gleaned from this book on so many levels, not least in quenching my curiosity about some of the behind-the-scenes crafting of movies. Strictly from a novelist’s point of view, however, I found the book worthwhile for two primary reasons. 1) Its stripped-down, simple view of structure is fabulous. It allows you to see the basics of structure at a glance, break it down to manageable chunks, and realize the big picture. 2) It’s also valuable in its ability to help film-saturated authors (such as myself) realize the important differences in story on the screen and story on the page. Worth reading whether you’re a screenwriter, a novelist, or a short story writer. Or even just a film buff.
محبوبترین کتابِ سید فیلد به مباحث مختلفی در فیلمنامهنویسی میپردازه که خیلیهاشون میتونند برای نویسندگانی که در فرمی غیر از فیلمنامه مینویسند هم مفید باشند.
سید فیلد به گفتهی خودش در حدود دو سال، بیش از دو هزار فیلمنامه خونده و از بین اونها، فقط چهلتا رو برای تولید احتمالی فیلم به شرکای مالی تحویل داده. چون از فیلمنامهی خوب ممکنه فیلم بد ساخت، اما از فیلمنامهی بد نمیشه فیلم خوب ساخت. بازیگران محبوب، جلوههای ویژه و بودجهی زیاد نمیتونن این موضوع رو پنهان کنن که فیلم نخست به فیلمنامه و داستان خوب نیاز داره.
سید فیلد درباره اقتباس، فیلمنامهنویسی شریکی، رفع سد نوشتن، کپیرایت، فضای هالیوود، ساختار فیلمنامه، ظاهر متن فیلمنامه، شخصیتها، کشمکشها و... چیزهایی رو مینویسه که با تجربه بهشون رسیده و از آثار درخشان سینما مثل ارباب حلقهها، محله چینیها، زیبای آمریکایی، کوهستان سرد، سیبیسکویت، برتری بورن، تلما و لوئیز و... مثال میزنه و همچنین ماجراهایی رو تعریف میکنه که با شاگردان و مخاطبانش داشته.
الكتاب رائع وكعادة الكتب الأمريكية تهتم بالتفاصيل وإن كانت دقيقة ولكنها تميز المحترف عن الهاوي.لقد وجدت أن الأمر يختلف بطريقة كبيرة ما بين كتابة سيناريو لفيلم وكتابة رواية أدبية من حيث التكنيك والفنيات وهو ما ركز الكاتب عليه في كتابه إذ سرد أمثلة عدة من الأفلام ووضح الطرق العملية في كتابة سيناريو وحتى اقتراحاته التي بناها على خبرة واسعة في المجال. يعاب فقط على الكتاب الترجمة العربية الغير جيدة وأعتبرها حرفية وذلك أمر خاطيء خصوصا أن الإنجليزية هنا هي أمريكية التي تعتمد على العبارات المجازية التي قد لا تصلح معها الترجمة الدقيقة الحرفية ولا بد من ايجاد مصطلحات مشابهة لما يقصده الكاتب وهذا ما يميز مترجم عن آخر.سقطت مني معان كثيرة ولم أتعرف على أسماء معظم الأفلام التي وردت كأمثلة كي يتسنى لي مشاهدتها ولم أفهم كلمات عربية غير شائعة ككلمة :"جذاذة" التي ذكرت في تجربة عملية هامة شرحها الكاتب.ولن الكتاب إجمالا يعد كتابا قيما لمن يود أن يتعلم فن كتابة السيناريو السينيمائي.
Obviously this book was the OG, so respect for that, but I vastly prefer Save the Cat!
Save the Cat! has easily-distinguishable terms, clear concepts, and concise descriptions, whereas this book is verbose, repetitive, and contains lots of overlapping and similar terms for entirely different concepts, making it a much more confusing and less accessible read.
Snyder definitely refined the ideas Field came up with and made them easier to understand. I don't know that this book really added anything to my knowledge of screenwriting beyond what I learned from StC. But it certainly didn't hurt, either.
This book is considered a bible in the industry -- ALL Hollywood screenwriters now conform rigidly to Field's notions of screenplay structure -- and that's why I consider this book to be the Root of All Evil.
A única coisa que tenho a dizer sobre esse livro é que ele é fantástico e seu autor um gênio absoluto. Syd Field, não apenas domina a arte (técnica) da escrita de roteiros - técnica esta que, mutatis mutandis, se aplica a toda e qualquer escrita criativa -, como a própria psicologia da criação, ou seja, as ambigüidades, dilemas, obstáculos e dramas de todo artista, de todo aquele que tem de criar.
Acresça-se a isso o fato de que Syd Field é um expositor de mão cheia, um escritor maravilhoso que escancara todos os meandros da arte sem maiores dificuldades, sempre com clareza, sempre com translucidez, entregando todo o trabalho pronto na mão do leitor.
É impossível não se apaixonar pela arte de escrever roteiros - ou simplesmente de escrever criativamente - depois de ler esse livro. Se você não termina a leitura com a idéia fixa na cabeça de imediatamente começar a escrever o seu primeiro roteiro, das duas uma: ou você é ruim da cabeça ou doente do pé.
Esse livro não merece 5 estrelas. Merece muito mais. E eu as daria se o GoodReads o permitisse.
یکی از بهترین کتابهای آموزش فیلمنامه نویسی که من سالها پیش مطالعه کردم و درسهای خیلی خوبی از این کتاب یاد گرفتم چاپ سوم این کتاب سال ۱۳۸۳ است و من دوازده سال پیش این کتاب رو برای اولین بار خوندم و یکی از نکات مهمی که هنوز هم به خاطر دارم اینه که آقای syd field در کتابش گفته وقتی فیلمنامه ها رو میخواستم مطالعه کنم که ببینم به درد فیلم شدن میخوره یا نه این بود که ده دقیقه اول یا به عبارتی ده صفحه اول رو مطالعه میکردم و اگر منو به خودش جذب میکرد ادامه میدادم در غیر اینصورت مینداختم تو سطل زباله! الان هم وقتی به فیلم های سینمایی دقت کنید اگر فیلمی از بدو شروع تونست ببینده رو میخکوب کنه به صندلی مابقی فیلم هم خواننده رو جذب میکنه در غیر اینصورت اون فیلم به احتمال زیاد فیلم خوبی نیست این نکته رو هم ذکر کنم که هر صفحه معادل یک دقیقه است در فیلمنامه نویسی. برای کسانی که علاقهمند به سینما و فیلمنامه نویسی هستن این کتاب رو به شدت سفارش میکنم
I remember reading this in a previous form a few decades ago. It still holds up as a great tool for either starting in on a new idea to be put into a screenplay format or, like me, to take an existing idea that may have existed in another format (book, article, &c...) and fashion it into a screenplay. This is a must have for anyone with an interest in completing their first work.
After months of owning this book, I finally finished it this morning and I am so glad I did. In the beginning it took me a while to get into it, but around the chapter on characters, I started making it a goal to read a chapter a day. For such a little book, it is packed with tons of information from starting off to finishing a screenplay.
"Screenplay - the foundations of screenwriting" is exactly what it says it is. It's a book about the foundations of screenwriting. It gives you a strong base to begin your writing process, whilst also giving you insight into the life of professional screenwriters. The book focusses a lot on the story and making sure you keep it moving in order to keep the reader (and future audience) engaged throughout it all. With each step in this step-by-step guide you learn various techniques you can use, along with examples from some great movies, albeit some lesser known ones nowadays, including many screenplay excerpts the author then uses to showcase and further explain his point. Overall a very informative read.
Syd Field writes very condensed at times, to then repeat certain aspects again and again throughout chapters, to push the importance of those topics. He references certain movies a lot, possibly spoiling an ending or two here and there, which is why I recommend watching them beforehand, as following along and being able to compare script to film will also be more fun. The little summary at the end of each chapter makes it easy to use the book as a reference or for advice whenever you should stumble during the writing process. I mostly enjoyed the chapters on how to create appealing characters and a technique on how to start organizing your ideas into an order that will work for a ca.120 page screenplay. The book touches upon adapting a screenplay from a novel or theatre performance as well, as creating one from scratch is a bit different than having pre-existing source material written by someone else.
Field focuses a lot on feature film ready scripts for hollywood, meaning there isn't a single chapter on how to work towards a short film, though I assume most ideas would remain the same. Where most topics are fully fleshed out, they do adhere to a standard 3 Act story structure, as most films fit into that category. Other possibilities are not mentioned, so if you want more of an open view on writing itself, I recommend buying this book together with another. One thing I personally missed was more structural information. The author shows you a basic set up containing 4 essentials to create a story, and while I am now fully convinced it is possible to only work with these 4 points, I would have liked the extra information about where the Climax should sit, Confrontation points and more structure points in general, in a way like Dan Harmons Story Circle (with 8 points that describe most movies).
In the end, I repeat that I am glad I read this book. It has everything you need to begin writing a professional film screenplay, and actually manages to inspire and motivate you to do so throughout each chapter. From the first page onward you can tell that Syd Field is passionate about the world of writing and his love can be very contagious if you let it. Though I personally would have wished for more depth in certain aspects, in retrospect this book gives you everything you need to begin your journey to professionalism. The rest is just practice and learning from failure. I recommend anyone with a passion for film or screenwriting to read this book. For anyone wanting to delve into this profession, this book is a must-have.
I am glad I bought this book, and as an aspiring filmmaker, I know I will be coming back to it time and time again.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I first wrote shadow of Eden as a Screenplay and this book is on the must read list for screenwriters. Well, I must say, it is extremely useful for novelists as well. I learned several key things from this book: first: get in late, get out early. Second: make the scenes visual Third: every story had bones, structure. Know your structure and build on it. Otherwise you'll have no direction, no form and the reader will sense it in three pages and bolt - or give you a bad review.
Bonus: every movie worth its sale focuses the build up on one or two scenes. Create this buildup and have it payoff during the key scene(s).
Second bonus: create contrast. It make a photograph, incorporate it into your novels. Your hero must have ups and down, like life. Make your reader feel it. Even in Thrillers. Especially in Thrillers.
Well I wasn't goin to read the book cause I'd heard rumors about how simple the book is. But I decided to give it a try and there we go... the book is actually good, explaining the whole process very well especially to those who search for something fundamental about screenwriting and are about to write the two first feature scripts.
No book can help you churn out another Chinatown, but this was worth the time. I really hate books that preach "how to [insert action] " and was happily surprised this was not one of them. So, you think you have what it takes to be a screenwriter? Good. Read this book. It details the process in a concise, engaging way, unlike this review.
If you've ever taken a creative writing class, like, even in high school, then you don't need to read this book. And if you do read this book, be warned that it's extremely repetitive and could probably have given you everything you need in about sixty pages. I also got the companion Workbook, so we'll see if that's any more useful.
This is the first book about screenwriting I have ever read and I did learn some useful information. However, the book is very, very, very repetitive and the author references films that I have not seen, which made the book hard to follow sometimes. Nonetheless, the book contains good content and information regarding screenwriting.
All drama is about conflict, without conflict there is no action, without action there is no character, without character there is no story, without story there is no screenplay - Syd Field
Cinema is one of the exhilarating experience of all forms of entertainment, which also has the potential of an art. Understanding the process of filmmaking helps to know the movie better. Screenplay is one of the renowned book about screen writing. This is one such book which helps to understand screenplay better. Though Screenplay is an essential part, understanding needs some diligence. Syd field make it easy to understand through this book. Mainly this book is aimed for beginners, for both aspiring writers and moviegoers. The process of screenplay is explained through basic components of screenplay.
The components of screenplay like subject, character, character build up, scene, sequence, plot points... are explained very well using many scripts. Scripts of the movies like ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Collateral’ are often used to explain the brilliance of script writing. Many chapters are followed by exercises which induce the reader to try their hands on writing, for me character and character build-up chapters really stimulated to scribble some thing. The step by step process of writing a character keeping their professional, personal and private history of a person in mind is one great exercise to start with. Adaptation plays an important role in filmmaking in Hollywood, the author tried to explain the techniques of adaptation with the help of anecdotes about the particular script writing process.
The book mostly discussed template commercial movies of Hollywood and I don’t how it could fit the new wave of filmmaking. Most of the movies mentioned were typical Hollywood masala flicks. I personally enjoyed reading this book, and definitely this will change the way I watch movies. Easy and must read for beginners🙏
**Some of the movies need to watch before reading this book
Chinatown Collateral The wild bunch Seabiscuit The Shawshank redemption Terminator 2 - Judgement day The Matrix