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Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting Paperback – November 29, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 207 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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?

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Revised edition (November 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385339038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385339032
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Acclaimed as "the guru of all screenwriters" (CNN), Syd Field (1935-2013) is regarded by many Hollywood professionals to be the leading authority in the art and craft of screenwriting in the world today. The Hollywood Reporter calls him "the most sought-after screenwriting teacher in the world."

His internationally acclaimed best-selling books Screenplay, 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 more than 400 colleges and universities across the country and have been translated and published in 29 languages.

Field was also a special consultant to the Film Preservation Project for the famed Getty Center, was the first inductee into the prestigious Screenwriting Hall of Fame of the American Screenwriting Association and is a recipient of the distinguished Final Draft Hall of Fame Award.

Field chaired the Academic Liaison Committee at The Writer's Guild of America, West, was on faculty at the USC Master's of Professional Writing Program, has taught at Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, the AFI and many other noted institutions. He has been a special script consultant to 20th Century Fox, the Disney Studios, Universal and Tristar Pictures.

He was a creative screenwriting consultant to the governments of Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Norway, and had collaborated with such noted filmmakers as Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Y Tu Mama Tambien), James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets), Luis Mandoki (When A Man Loves A Woman), Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields, The Mission), and Tony Kaye (American History X).

Field has taught screenwriting workshops in Berlin, Bombay, Brussels, Buenos Aires, the Canadian Film Industry in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton, in Frankfurt, Johannesburg, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, South Africa, Sydney, Warsaw, and by special invitation of the Ministries of Culture in Vienna and Zurich. He was the keynote speaker at the International Film Festivals in Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and Oslo, Norway, and the President of the International Film Jury at the Flanders International Film Festival, Ghent, Belgium.

Some of Field's former students include Oscar winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Y Tu Mama Tambien), Golden Globe nominated writer/director Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids, Girls), three time Oscar nominated writer/producer Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Walking Dead), Oscar nominated writer Anna Hamilton Phelan (Mask, Gorillas in the Mist), two time Oscar nominated writer/director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice), Randi Mayem Singer (Mrs. Doubtfire), Laura Esquivel (Like Water For Chocolate), and Kevin Williamson (Vampire Diaries, Scream 1 - 4).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
To sum up my opinion of the book in a short sentence: it's not the most amazing book ever, but I don't regret having read it. The good side of it is that the three act structure and all sound like a good plan to start working on a script. It does help a tonload to be able to cover so much ground in such a short time and with such big lines. I won't deny that. The card system is quite nice too, but you don't need 300 pages to learn that.

The thing that struck me the most was how redundant Field could get. Seriously, there are entire blocks of sentences that you will read over and over again. At first I thought that sounded really bad... I mean, if you're a famous script-writer and all, your writing should reflect that. So I was confused. Then, and I don't know if that saves it or not, I figured that the repetition was perhaps not so bad, since it kept hammering the same basic things in your mind, and since that helps to remember. It's a bit like a class, I guess.

I'm not saying that Field can't write, however, I think he merely opted for a personal style, oral if you want, and I don't think it's any fair to criticise too much on this aspect as other critics did. He's not writing a novel, he's writing about screenplay and he's talking to you.

I didn't buy this because I wanted to write a movie, I was curious about the script as a form of writing. Now I feel secure enough to consider writing a whole movie even though I never intended to, and that's pretty cool, I have to admit.

On the flip side, I have my doubts about Syd Field. Now, maybe I'm a dumb person, but I wasn't able to find a single movie written by him. And he doesn't mention any of his own scripts!
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Format: Paperback
I liked this book. Coupled with Syd Field's Screenwriter's Workbook, I managed to write a first draft of a screenplay. I've never been able to complete a play or screenplay before reading these books! This book gives you the background of screenplays and writing, plus his theory of what makes a good Hollywood screenplay. The workbook gives you a step by step process of writing one.

One drawback is that this book was written in the 80's. Sometimes it sounds so dated. The other drawback is it only explains one type of screenplay, the standard Hollywood 3-act narrative.

Overall, this book was a great help in writing a readable well structured screenplay.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Larry Brooks, whose "Story Engineering" I swear by, swears himself by this book. I couldn't wait to read it.

I was disappointed. Brooks presents Syd Field's information far more concisely, and in a much less anecdotal manner. If you buy "Story Engineering," you can skip this one.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting" by industry giant Syd Field is considered to be the bible of modern screenwriting texts, and has been for many years. It's a well-deserved badge of honor.

Field approaches the art of screenwriting logically, positively, explaining step by step the hows, whats, and whys of the biz. He addresses the technical points of length, description, planning, all in a way that makes absolute sense to any reader... regardless of their knowledge of the film industry, educational level, or age. He uses popular film examples to underscore his methods, which help enormously. This book gives any reader the right foundation to begin a screenplay with absolute confidence.

As an aside..... let's also not forget that the way Syd Field writes--his prose--is so reader friendly, and so understandable... he could be writing completely random crap and it would still be an absolute pleasure to read it. I've found that most writing "how-to" texts are extremely boring, procedural... very INSTITUTIONAL... this book is not at all institutional, and it's very easy on the eyes and brain when you're reading it.

My only criticism with this book is a big one... though it doesn't necessarily diminish the importance of the work itself. This book is 18 chapters long, but for all intents and purposes, it basically ends after Chapter 13 ("Screenplay Form").

Chapters 14-18 discuss extreme subjects unrelated to the "foundations of screenwriting." They discuss adaptation and collaboration... matters FAR ABOVE (and not particularly applicable) the neophyte, aspiring screenwriters that would be reading a book such as this one. Yet, Chapters 14-18 also discuss very simplistic matters that are likely FAR BENEATH those that would be reading this...
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Format: Paperback
Reviewed by C.J.Singh

This review focuses on the latest edition of Syd Field's SCREENPLAY: The Foundations of Screenwriting, published in December 2005.

Syd Field published the book in 1979, the first book ever on the subject. In his memoir, GOING TO THE MOVIES -- A Personal Journey Through Four Decades of Modern Film, published in 2001, he says: "There were three printings within the first six months of publication, and it wasn't long before many of the major college and universities across the land were using it as a text (p 239)."

Introducing the SCREENPLAY book, Syd Field writes, "This not a `how-to' book....I call it a 'what-to' book, meaning if you have an idea for a screenplay, and you don't know what to do or how to do it, I can show you (p 8)." Very well, let's see.

Write down your answers to the following three questions. First: What is your story about? Who is the main character? What is the dramatic situation? ("You've got approximately ten pages of screenplay or approximately ten minutes of screen-time to establish this.") Second: What is your screenplay's ending? Third: What is your screenplay's inciting incident? -- defined as the incident "that sets the story in motion; it is the first visual representation of the key incident, what the story is about, and draws the main character into the story line (p 129)."

The major structuring form, Syd Field emphasizes is the classic three-act paradigm: Act I, set-up; Act II, confrontation; Act III, resolution. The typical length of a screenplay is 120 pages and the three acts take 30, 60, and 30 pages. Next, he introduces the concept of plot points: How do you get from one act to the next? "The answer is to create a Plot Point at the end of both Act I and Act II.
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