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A good second semester with Syd Field
on January 28, 2000
There is a huge gulf between writing books and screenplays. Books must paint mental pictures, where movies ARE pictures, usually accompanied by dialog. "Usually," I said, because I saw a fine feature movie in Zurich once that had no dialog. Background sounds were there, and it wasn't until halfway through that the absence of dialog dawned on me. The movie was made for viewing by audiences of any language.
Field handles the subject of screen writing visually. His book "Screenplay" was immensely helpful to me, even if I did have to get darned serious with it and plow through it several times. But, describing the elements of good screen writing is, after all, much more complex than explaining in words how to make a tasty stew.
The stew recipe could be followed by most anybody and the result would likely be okay, but Field's subject is much more complex and subjective. Nevertheless, anyone who pays attention and will apply themselves can benefit from this book, and from "Screenplay" as well.
Many readers of books on writing will never write anything, but this one has a side benefit for those who sort of want to write but won't: It's a movie-appreciation course, too. I saw "Thelma and Louise" (one of the 4 studied here) years ago, liked it, then left it alone. Working through Field's books over and over required that I watch this fine movie again. Gosh, Susan and Geena, I hardly even knew 'ya. Another once was not enough -- now I've seen "Thelma and Louise" a dozen times and never tire of it. Not only is it a splendid "how-to" on script writing, it's a wonderful movie adventure.
Field preaches that we should enter scenes late and exit early. That's demonstrated again and again in "Thelma and Louise". He stresses that, because movies are visual, don't insert dialog when an expression or body language will do. After Thelma talks to Darryl for the last time ever, it's evident that she has cut the cord with him (about time, too). Up to now she hasn't agreed to go with Louise to Mexico, but after answering Louise's question: "So, what did Darryl have to say," Thelma asks matter-of-factly, "So when to we get to goddam Mexico?" Louise's response is a small, complacent smile. 'Nuff said.
There's a lot here if you're serious about screenwriting. Thanks, Syd. You've been a big, big help to me, and I appreciate it.