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Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  5,242 ratings  ·  339 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, Newly Revised And Updated, 309 pages
Published November 29th 2005 by Delta (first published 1979)
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,242 ratings  ·  339 reviews

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Jul 09, 2015 rated it did not like it

It's a warm summer night. Crickets chirp rapidly. All the windows in the house are dark, except one on the second floor.



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 bedsi
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Richard Wu
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
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;
T.D. Elliott
Dec 03, 2007 rated it liked it
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,' a
K.M. Weiland
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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) ...more
Jamie Grefe
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dramatic-arts
Still stands as the "foundation." It was the first screenwriting book I read, and revisiting it is like scrubbing that old knowledge back to the surface. It feels good. It feels necessary.
Louis Kirby
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all fiction writers
Shelves: about-writing
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
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Field has very specific ideas on what constitutes a good screenplay, and if you share those ideas and the philosophical assumptions that underlie them, this is potentially a very rewarding book. However, Screenplay does not allow for the existence of good screenplays that violate its underlying ideology, nor does it recognize the need for screenplays that expand the grammar of screenwriting. This is a very good travel guide to a very small world for people who don't plan on making any additional ...more
Bahareh  Mahooti
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: screenwriting
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 myself 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.
Jul 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: screenwriters or film enthusiasts
structure is a beautiful thing. i carried this book around in my purse for weeks.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clear and straight to the point. Good practical knowledge and examples, still I wish Field would have used more than the same half a dozen books over and over again to prove his point. Would totally recommend for aspiring screenwriters of all ages and generations, this book has a few years on his hardcover but it still stands.
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm so inspired.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was great to understanding how and where to start writing a script although it’s lacking SOME info on formatting (font size? Etc.)
Amanda Erickson
I read this book because it was recommended in The DC comics guide to writing comics.

The idea was to use this book to help solidify an idea for a comic I'm wanting to create.

I'm really not sure how to review this book.

It's really bad in some areas and really good in others.

It has a few tips and tricks that I found helpful and a nice breakdown/description of all the different screenplay formatting and camera direction.

There are a couple exercises that are suggested that might be helpful (I haven
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-books
The author is truly a genius. This book is a guidebook written to teach the reader. I took copious notes while reading the book that I later highlighted in a notebook. The only negative thing I can think of is that because of the many examples of movies cited in his book, I started watching more movies than writing and watched them all with a critical eye. Now, It's more challenging than ever to enjoy a movie as I am always thinking, was that the best way to show this, should this be omitted, wa ...more
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like film, but I don't write screenplays. Maybe I'll write one some day, though I'd much prefer to adapt my bestselling, breakout novel, whenever I actually get around to writing it ;-). But I saw an old copy of this lying in my neighborhood's "tiny library" book exchange, so I figured I'd give it a try. It sounds like Field provides some really good, basic tips on constructing and writing a screenplay. As I said, I really had no intention of writing one when I read this, but I certainly felt ...more
Ayush Kumar
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The godfather of screenplay books. Any book on screenwriting written after this one will invariably pay homage to the pathbreaking work of Syd Field, and that's for a reason. Field goes into the 'why' of every aspect of screenwriting - why 3 Acts, why character analysis, and he lays down a clear path without being formulaic or an oversimplification. Unlike a lot of other screenwriting books, he also doesn't talk down to the reader. You're on a journey with him into the world of screenwriting, an ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is by far the best screenwriting manual that I have read! I came across it quite by accident in a used book store when I was first getting into screenwriting and it has helped me immensely. I liked the author, Syd Field, so much that I then went and purchased all his other books. If you were to only choose one of his many helpful writings, I would say this is the one to choose! This got me excited and motivated to write! I would recommend it for anyone who is either beginning in the industr ...more
Sharif Khan
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
When it comes to understanding story structure and mastering the craft of storytelling and writing cinematically - Syd Field's SCREENPLAY is on my 'top ten' bookshelf of valued story writing reference books.
S. Willett
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Even if I never write the screenplay, this book gave me a greater insight into writing in general. Learning about Plot Points enriched my idea of an outline giving me a better handle on my current work in progress.

I highly recommend this book to students and writers.
Jeremy Hung
Jul 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
"When I heard the last lines of the film, "Forget it, Jake....It's Chinatown," that's exactly what I wanted to do. By the time I got home, I had already forgotten about it."
Megan Rowe
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Outdated, repetitive, and condescending. Does not go into nearly enough depth when it comes to formatting, but if you want to learn the bare bone basics, this book could help.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very useful for the begining and understanding the basics. A bit repetetive. Ending relevant only for writers in US.
Rai Yuvraj
May 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. A filmmaker's lifetime companion.
Oct 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
This guy is so fucking annoying.
Omar Shehab
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A must for anyone who wants to appreciate film better.
D.G. Kaye
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are interested in learning about the nuts and bolts of writing for the screen, Field's book is the one to read. Writing for the screen is a different beast than writing novels and Field takes us through the whole process from inception of an idea to writing about, through the structure and format of writing for the screen. We learn the different actions a writer must take when telling their stories for the screen. In book writing, we are told to 'show don't tell'. In screen writing it is ...more
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I give Mr. Field the credit that he deserves as a screenwriting guru in a sense. The book is for the most part entertaining to read and with an engaging voice. The stuff he presents is definitely worth hearing and it set me in a mood to dissect every movie I see from now on, since it is my intention to transition from a prose writer to a screenwriter, a task that he mentions in the book a lot, in several anecdotes of fiction writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald, no less) who don’t quite make t ...more
John Major
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write a script, or at least want to know how. Scripts are the cornerstone to the film industry, an area of entertainment that makes more money than most countries a year. And this book is perfect in the area of letting you join that industry.

When you read it, the words are as smooth as silk, it's written like Syd Field is talking to you, so it seems more real. It goes step by step into the process of writing a screenplay, from coming up with the idea
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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.
“Confusion is the first step toward clarity” 16 likes
“Action is character. What a person does is what he is, not what he says.” 14 likes
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