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Description

Product Description

Hollywood''s script guru teaches you how to write a screenplay in "the ''bible'' of screenwriting" (The New York Times)—now celebrating forty years of screenwriting success!

Syd Field''s books on the essential structure of emotionally satisfying screenplays have ignited lucrative careers in film and television since 1979. In this revised edition of his premiere guide, the underpinnings of successful onscreen narratives are revealed in clear and encouraging language that will remain wise and practical as long as audiences watch stories unfold visually—from hand-held devices to IMAX to virtual reality . . . and whatever comes next.

As the first person to articulate common structural elements unique to successful movies, celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher and bestselling author Syd Field has gifted us a classic text. From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script, here are fundamental guidelines to help all screenwriters—novices and Oscar-winners—hone their craft and sell their work.

In Screenplay, Syd Field can help you discover:

  • Why the first ten pages of every script are crucial to keeping professional readers'' interest
  • How to visually "grab" these influential readers from page one, word one
  • Why structure and character are the basic components of all narrative screenplays
  • How to adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a saleable script
  • Tips on protecting your work—three ways to establish legal ownership of screenplays
  • Vital insights on writing authentic dialogue, crafting memorable characters, building strong yet flexible storylines (form, not formula), overcoming writer''s block, and much more

Syd Field is revered as the original master of screenplay story structure, and this guide continues to be the industry''s gold standard for learning the foundations of screenwriting.

Review

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

From the Inside Flap

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?

From the Back Cover

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?

About the Author

Acclaimed as "the guru of all screenwriters" (CNN), Syd Field (1935-2013) is still regarded by many Hollywood professionals to be the leading authority in the art and craft of screenwriting. 
The Hollywood Reporter called him "the most sought-after screenwriting teacher in the world."
Field''s internationally acclaimed best-selling books "Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting," "The Screenwriter''s Workbook," and "The Screenwriter''s Problem Solver" have established themselves as the "bibles" of the film industry. "Screenplay" and "The Screenwriter''s Workbook" are in their fortieth printing and are used in colleges and universities across the country. They have been translated and published in more than 25 languages.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


What Is a Screenplay?

“Suppose you’re in your office. . . . A pretty stenographer you’ve seen before comes into the room and you watch her. . . . She takes off her gloves, opens her purse and dumps it out on the table. . . . She has two dimes and a nickel—and a cardboard match box. She leaves the nickel on the desk, puts the two dimes back into her purse and takes her black gloves to the stove. . . . Just then your telephone rings. The girl picks it up, says hello—listens—and says deliberately into the phone, “I’ve never owned a pair of black gloves in my life.” She hangs up . . . and you glance around very suddenly and see another man in the office, watching every move the girl makes. . . .”

“Go on,” said Boxley smiling. “What happens?”

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. “I was just making pictures.”

—The Last Tycoon

F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the summer of 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald, drinking far too much, deeply in debt, and drowning in the suffocating well of despair, moved to Hollywood seeking new beginnings, hoping to reinvent himself by writing for the movies. The author of The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, This Side of Paradise, and the uncompleted The Last Tycoon, perhaps America’s greatest novelist, was, as one friend put it, seeking redemption.

During the two and a half years he spent in Hollywood, he took the craft of screenwriting “very seriously,” says one noted Fitzgerald authority: “It’s heartbreaking to see how much effort he put into it.” Fitzgerald approached every screenplay as if it were a novel and often wrote long backstories for each of the main characters before putting one word of dialogue down on paper.

Despite all the preparation he put into each assignment, he was obsessed with finding the answer to a question that haunted him continuously: What makes a good screenplay? Billy Wilder once compared Fitzgerald to “a great sculptor who is hired to do a plumbing job. He did not know how to connect the pipes so the water could flow.”

Throughout his Hollywood years, he was always trying to find the “balance” between the words spoken and the pictures seen. During this time, he received only one screen credit, adapting the novel Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque (starring Robert Taylor and Margaret Sullavan), but Joseph L. Mankiewicz eventually rewrote his script. He worked on rewrites for several other movies, including a disastrous week on Gone With the Wind (he was forbidden to use any words that did not appear in Margaret Mitchell’s novel), but after Three Comrades, all of his projects ended in fail- ure. One, a script for Joan Crawford called Infidelity, was left uncompleted, canceled because it dealt with the theme of adultery. Fitzgerald died in 1941, working on his last, unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon.

He died believing himself to be a failure.

I’ve always been intrigued by the journey of F. Scott Fitzgerald. What resonates with me the most is that he was constantly searching for the answer to what made a good screenplay. His overwhelming external circumstances—his wife Zelda’s institutionalization, his unmanageable debts and lifestyle, his excessive drinking—all fed into his insecurities about the craft of screenwriting. And make no mistake: Screenwriting is a craft, a craft that can be learned. Even though he worked excessively hard, and was disciplined and responsible, he failed to achieve the results he was so desperately striving for.

Why?

I don’t think there’s any one answer. But reading his books and writings and letters from this period, it seems clear that he was never exactly sure what a screenplay was; he always wondered whether he was “doing it right,” whether there were certain rules he had to follow in order to write a successful screenplay.

When I was studying at the University of California, Berkeley, as an English lit major, I read the first and second editions of Tender Is the Night for one of my classes. It is the story of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients, who, as she slowly recovers, exhausts his vitality until he is “a man used up.” The book, the last one Fitzgerald completed, was considered technically faulty and was commercially unsuccessful.

In the first edition of the novel, Book I is written from the point of view of Rosemary Hoyt, a young actress who shares her obser- vations about meeting the circle that surrounds Dick and Nicole Diver. Rosemary is on the beach at Cap d’Antibes on the French Riviera, watching the Divers enjoying an outing on the sand. As she watches, she sees them as a beautiful couple who appear, at least from her point of view, to have everything going for them. They are, she thinks, the ideal couple. Rich, beautiful, intelligent, they look to be the embodiment of what everyone wants for himself or herself. But the second book of the novel focuses on the life of Dick and Nicole, and we learn that what we saw through Rosemary’s eyes was only the relationship they showed to the world; it was not really true. The Divers have major problems, which drain them emotionally and spiritually, and ultimately destroy them.

When the first edition of Tender Is the Night was published, sales were poor, and Fitzgerald thought he had probably been drinking too much and might have compromised his vision. But from his Hollywood experience, he came to believe he did not introduce his main characters early enough. “Its great fault,” Fitzgerald wrote of Tender Is the Night to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, “is that the true beginning—the young psychiatrist in Switzerland—is tucked away in the middle of the book.” He decided that when the second edition was printed, he would interchange the first section with the second and open the novel with Dick Diver in wartime Switzerland in order to explain the mystery about the Divers’ courtship and marriage. So he opened the book focusing on the main character, Dick Diver. But that didn’t work either, and Fitzgerald was crushed. The book was financially unsuccessful until many years later, when Fitzgerald’s genius was finally acknowledged.

What strikes me so vividly is what Fitzgerald didn’t see; his opening section focusing on how Rosemary saw the Divers was more cinematic than novelistic. It’s a great cinematic opening, setting up the characters as others see them, like an establishing shot; in this first edition, Fitzgerald was showing us how this model couple looked to the world, beautiful and rich, seeming to have everything. How we look to the outside world, of course, is a lot different from who we really are behind closed doors. My personal feeling is that it was Fitzgerald’s insecurity about the craft of screenwriting that drove him to change that great opening.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an artist literally caught between two worlds, caught between his genius as a writer and his self-doubt and inability to express that genius in screenplay form.

Screenwriting is a definite craft, a definite art. Over the years, I’ve read thousands upon thousands of screenplays, and I always look for certain things. First, how does it look on the page? Is there plenty of white space, or are the paragraphs dense, too thick, the dialogue too long? Or is the reverse true: Is the scene description too thin, the dialogue too sparse? And this is before I read one word; this is just what it “looks” like on the page. You’d be surprised how many decisions are made in Hollywood by the way a screenplay looks—you can tell whether it’s been written by a professional or by someone who’ s still aspiring to be a professional.

Everybody is writing screenplays, from the waiter at your favorite bar or restaurant to the limo driver, the doctor, the lawyer, or the barista serving up the White Chocolate Dream Latte at the local Coffee Bean. Last year, more than seventy-five thousand screenplays were registered at the Writers Guild of America, West and East, and out of that number maybe four or five hundred scripts were actually produced.

What makes one screenplay better than another? There are many answers, of course, because each screenplay is unique. But if you want to sit down and spend six months to a year writing a screenplay, you first have to know what a screenplay is—what its nature is.

What is a screenplay? Is it a guide, or an outline, for a movie? A blueprint, or a diagram? Or maybe it’ s a series of images, scenes, and sequences strung together with dialogue and description, like pearls on a strand? Perhaps it’s simply the landscape of a dream?

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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Michael
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Too much / Not enough
Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2018
I don''t think this book is nearly as good as it''s cracked up to be. It''s just way too verbose and doesn''t actually deliver information and ideas in a way that''s useful. I only got half way through because it was so tedious. The chapters lack focus, for one thing.... See more
I don''t think this book is nearly as good as it''s cracked up to be. It''s just way too verbose and doesn''t actually deliver information and ideas in a way that''s useful. I only got half way through because it was so tedious. The chapters lack focus, for one thing. Discussions about character, plot points, theme, context, etc. are presented in a really jumbled up way. And when you get down to the specifics, there isn''t very much meat. He says, for example, that plot points move the story forward, without specifying (at least in the parts I read) what "moving the story forward" actually means. As for the examples, they are just way TMI. It isn''t necessary to tell and retell the plots of movies over and over again to get a point across. He could have referred to examples in a much more concise way, leaving it to readers to view the films that interest them. K.M. Weiland''s books are much better in this regard. She summarizes relevant parts of a movie (or novel) in a real concise way, quickly getting to what matters. As a result, the how, what, and why of a good screenplay really pops. Reading Screenplay (even though I just read half) was a claustrophic experience for me because it''s just so dense and verbose.
27 people found this helpful
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Joseph P.
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Illuminated the craftsmanship of screenwriting
Reviewed in the United States on February 7, 2016
This book explains the foundations of screenwriting including the structure of a film, the structure of a script, and strategies for writing a screenplay. Strategies include "all character is revealed through action" (not inner dialog) and "all drama comes from... See more
This book explains the foundations of screenwriting including the structure of a film, the structure of a script, and strategies for writing a screenplay. Strategies include "all character is revealed through action" (not inner dialog) and "all drama comes from conflict." As a newcomer to this form of writing, this book gave me a comprehensive understanding of screenwriting. It gave me a much greater appreciation for screenwriting as an art form and showed me how different it is from other forms of writing. Although I don''t plan to write a screenplay any time soon, I picked up a bunch of great ideas for my everyday writing.

One of the best parts of the book is it illustrates the concepts through numerous examples of films that employ these concepts. This not only helped with my understanding, but turned me on to some great films I had not yet seen. Since reading this book, I''ve watched Chinatown and American Beauty. The knowledge I gained from Screenplay heightened my enjoyment of watching these films because I now have a better appreciation for the craftsmanship that went into the creation.

Highly recommended!
36 people found this helpful
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Chris
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Probably wouldnt Recommend
Reviewed in the United States on May 30, 2019
Okay so, ive read the introduction at the moment and skimmed the book. Reading the headline you''re thinking why not? I thought it would at least teach some about the format but its about the mechanics of story plain and simple. The examples used, to me seems like its okay... See more
Okay so, ive read the introduction at the moment and skimmed the book. Reading the headline you''re thinking why not? I thought it would at least teach some about the format but its about the mechanics of story plain and simple. The examples used, to me seems like its okay to write like that with camera angles etc, but that would be so very wrong, spec scripts arent written like the examples shown. They would get thrown in the garbage. In a lot of the pages it seems the author is just talking about himself to be honest. Granted, my first book is the screenwriting bible ( i finished reading) and that book grasps much better, much better. Also Character Arcs is a good book too. This book can be good from a historical standpoint, but I will keep reading it, chances are I wont like it.
5 people found this helpful
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UniversalWolf
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Reputation Well-Deserved
Reviewed in the United States on April 3, 2018
This book has a reputation as the best you can get if you want to learn how to write a screenplay. Having read it, I don''t doubt that''s true. It''s packed from cover to cover with succinct, useful information and advice on all aspects of the craft. It''s not the -only-... See more
This book has a reputation as the best you can get if you want to learn how to write a screenplay. Having read it, I don''t doubt that''s true. It''s packed from cover to cover with succinct, useful information and advice on all aspects of the craft. It''s not the -only- text on the subject, or the -only- one you should read, but it should be the -first- one you read.

You don''t have to be interested in screenplays to find it worthwhile, either. Anyone involved in any kind of storytelling should find something of value here.
11 people found this helpful
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Dallas Gorham
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good primer for any writer
Reviewed in the United States on November 5, 2017
Syd Field has seen it all and will share his experience with you. I write the Carlos McCrary, Private Investigator, Mystery/Thrillers. Mr. Field gives good advice about how the action should move,how the setting contributes to the plot, and how the characters should arc... See more
Syd Field has seen it all and will share his experience with you. I write the Carlos McCrary, Private Investigator, Mystery/Thrillers. Mr. Field gives good advice about how the action should move,how the setting contributes to the plot, and how the characters should arc through the story.
6 people found this helpful
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Karen DeGennaro
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
On the fence with this one
Reviewed in the United States on October 6, 2019
I have found some insightful info in this book, but really more of the structure helped me. I am actually nuts and wrote my script FREEHAND in Word. So the book helped me with that. Info and advice for second acts seemed very sparse. If you want to know a lot about... See more
I have found some insightful info in this book, but really more of the structure helped me. I am actually nuts and wrote my script FREEHAND in Word. So the book helped me with that. Info and advice for second acts seemed very sparse. If you want to know a lot about beginnings and endings, this book is helpful.
4 people found this helpful
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Book Maven Reviews
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Essential reading
Reviewed in the United States on August 12, 2014
Being a screenwriter is about attaining a certain set of writing skills. Like any profession, there are standards that the industry requires. It''s not enough to come up with a story. A good chuck of being a screenwriter is figuring out how to present that story in the... See more
Being a screenwriter is about attaining a certain set of writing skills. Like any profession, there are standards that the industry requires. It''s not enough to come up with a story. A good chuck of being a screenwriter is figuring out how to present that story in the proper format. My colleague, USC screenwriting instructor, Syd Field''s book "Screenplay" is the quintessential guide to format. What script readers in Hollywood expect to happen by what page is information writers must know. Even if you decide to violate the rules, you must know them first before you do. So many problems in scripts is the result of poor structure. Field helps you shortcut that and figure out how to do it right.
10 people found this helpful
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Ariel Elliott
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Resourceful read.
Reviewed in the United States on October 1, 2017
Field applies both his knowledge and experience to inform the reader. He provides many examples from himself and other''s works to futher delve into the subject, providing a greater understanding for screenwriting. He focuses not solely on successful screenwriting and useful... See more
Field applies both his knowledge and experience to inform the reader. He provides many examples from himself and other''s works to futher delve into the subject, providing a greater understanding for screenwriting. He focuses not solely on successful screenwriting and useful techniques, but also advises how to proceed in the movie-making industry.
6 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

the_Se7enth
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Necessary book for screenwriters, Filmmakers
Reviewed in India on August 17, 2019
I''ll say this is the starter of screenplay writing. First book that you should read. Terms here are explained really well with great examples from movies. It provides directions for writing screenplay. gives you the vision as to where to look for ideas. Once you''ve read...See more
I''ll say this is the starter of screenplay writing. First book that you should read. Terms here are explained really well with great examples from movies. It provides directions for writing screenplay. gives you the vision as to where to look for ideas. Once you''ve read this you can advance to Anatomy of a story, Story - Robert Mckee, art of dramatic writing and other great books. It focuses on Three act structure but you should read 8 steps circle too. Book''s binding is a bit tender so keep a watch. please click helpful only if my review actually helps you.
40 people found this helpful
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Calico Cat
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
No Excuse for not writing a screenplay after reading this!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 25, 2020
This is the most comprehensive book on screenwriting I have read with lots of films exampled with script excerpts to clarify some of the points. I highly, highly recommend. Even if you are an actor rather than a writer it is a fascinating read and gives a great...See more
This is the most comprehensive book on screenwriting I have read with lots of films exampled with script excerpts to clarify some of the points. I highly, highly recommend. Even if you are an actor rather than a writer it is a fascinating read and gives a great understanding of film making.
2 people found this helpful
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Mr. A. J. Tennant
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An excellent book about screenwriting
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 10, 2014
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting is an excellent book from screenwriting guru Syd Field 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...See more
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting is an excellent book from screenwriting guru Syd Field 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. Although this book gives tips on writing scripts for films, I believe it also serves as a good book for people wanting to write scripts for television as well as for film. An example of tips given in this book includes writing cue cards for his paradigm "Three act structure" (Act I, Act II and Act III) and how many cue cards to write for each act of your film and/or TV drama (whether the TV drama be a one-off or a series). I very highly recommend this book because it can help people with how to write a good screenplay, whether it be for film or television.
4 people found this helpful
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RS
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Rather disappointment
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 9, 2020
It is really just an introduction to screenwritting, do not expect anything else. Already a tiny book could have been reduced even more given how repetitive certain chapters are. The book is usually a part of screenwritting curriculum at most film schools (including the...See more
It is really just an introduction to screenwritting, do not expect anything else. Already a tiny book could have been reduced even more given how repetitive certain chapters are. The book is usually a part of screenwritting curriculum at most film schools (including the most prestigious ones) but I would consider it a bit overvalued and honestly expected much more from this book.
2 people found this helpful
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Skywood
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 4, 2013
This is perhaps my favourite book on screen writing. Why? Because it''s so fluently written that it''s enjoyable for its enthusiasm, clarity and fluency. It is not a listings formula, being written in solid chapters, but the information it provides is excellent. I prefer it...See more
This is perhaps my favourite book on screen writing. Why? Because it''s so fluently written that it''s enjoyable for its enthusiasm, clarity and fluency. It is not a listings formula, being written in solid chapters, but the information it provides is excellent. I prefer it to the slick ''Save the Cat'' series, which is okay in its way, but perhaps a bit TOO formulaic. Sid field was the first in the field and in my opinion the best, the most readable and the most clear. Recommended.
8 people found this helpful
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