Customer Reviews: Four Screenplays: Studies in the American Screenplay
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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.
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on March 25, 2007
I think what throws everyone off is that they think they can learn the creative process of writing from Syd Field. I don't think you can. In my mind writing is two activities. Learning to create/write (which is not something you are going to learn from any of syd field's books) and learning to edit your work into a format where it makes sense and you can edit it. He comes entirely from the perspective of an editor. The problem is that he's marketing his services to people who are writing, and if you read all the complaints they are people who aren't getting what they need on the creating end of the deal. I think if you buy his books keep in mind that is only for the editing part. A lot of writers don't like the editing part, but it is necessary. I also write poetry for instance, and there are so many poets who just create and never edit what they do, and they just leave it like they created it but it isn't fine tuned. It's not like a snapshot. All Mr. Field is really trying to say is that there are firm rules by which this process operates and they expect to see x happen on y page, or back it goes. That's an important thing to keep in mind, and I'm thankful he's shared his perspective. Even if a person may not like him, that doesn't matter. He offers an important perspective, and without it a lot of writers wouldn't have the firm guidelines that they need. They need to know the rules. i don't think we like rules, but it's good to know what they are. Like it or not. Hopefully that clarifies things a little. For the creating part get books from someone else, for the editing part, Mr. Fields books are helpful.
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on March 18, 2010
The title is somewhat misleading. I was expecting four complete screenplays to study. This book contains snipits of screenplays to back up the authors observations and opinions of the movies listed. I love Syd Field I just wasn't looking for that kind of book when I ordered this.
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on April 10, 2002
...The main thing that bugs me about Syd Field is that he writes from the point of view of the story editor, not of the screenwriter. He focuses on how to evaluate, not on how to create. Which is fine, but not how his books are marketed, and not what i'm looking for.
I'm a novice screenwriter, just starting my first screenplay. I've read a number of books, including Keane, Field, and Trottier and found little new or interesting here. Field even repeats a fair bit from his other books, rather than showing how his other books principles would apply. What little there was might be marginally helpful if I want to be a story critic, but not at all helpful if i want to write and create.
He basically gives a rehash of plot and shows some scenes intended to illustrate principles. Since I've seen all the movies, about 60% of what he writes is redundant. His example of showing good screenwriting were simplistic and his analysis of why it works were, from my view, just plain wrong.
Look at Trottier's book for a better example of how to create a scene using the good screenwriting principles, and as a better example of why a scene was created the way it was.
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on February 2, 2015
I am not a Screenplay writer. I am a wanna-be novelist. Two different things! I have read plenty of books on writing, fiction writing, characters, settings, you name it, I have it. I was intrigued by Four Screenplays simply because I also love movies. If you ask me, I wouldn't even know how to begin writing a screenplay. But does it matter? No. This book was enlightenment! And now I approach my writing in a different way, understanding how to drive and hold a story together.

Even if you aren't a screenplay writer, but you love writing, pick up this book. It'll blow you away! I will not say more, but highly encourage writers from any field, to give this book a read. It is outstanding.

Now I am off to buy Screenplay, also by Syd Field and I can't wait to see what treasures I might discover that can turn into jewels for my own writing.
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on October 19, 2011
What do you want out of a screenwriting book? This book, by Syd Field, looks at 4 screenplays. He goes beyond the screenwriting to cover directorial moves and even some special effects, but Syd is all about writing well. It is the story and what contributes to the telling of that story that matters. Here you learn by observing. It's that you are observing with one of the best teachers of the art.
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on May 12, 2009
Mr. Field provides an excellent analysis as to why these four screenplays are so different and yet so successful. Any writer telling a story and contemplating a future screenplay will discover why books adaptations are so difficult and challenging. Perhaps reading "Four Screenplays" before making a final revisions to the story will enhance the process and make the screenwriter's job easier. The analyses were outstanding!
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on March 26, 2015
This is just a fun read in terms of analyzing professionally written screenplays. It looks at why these stories are good, how we can relate to them, and why they stand out.
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on August 24, 2014
If you want to know about writing screenplays, this is the book for you because the author illustrates specific points with actual scenes written in classic screenplays.
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on November 4, 2007
I guess I've drank enough coffee this morning to write a review about a book - you know this isn't your regular book, it's like this portal into the world of scriptwriting. I was assigned to purchase this book for my scriptwriting course here at the Art Institute of Jacksonville and I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity - ok, so if you think i'm still full of crap, just know that this book is an interactive book. I can easily read a section of the book and watch the movie after finish reading it. It really follows the story and explains how the writer and director worked together to make the movie. Well, thanks for reading this - If you're on this page then you should probably click add to cart because it gets to your house super fast if you buy it new and no - i am not a representative for amazon - just a film student.

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