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Four Screenplays: Studies in the American Screenplay Paperback – August 1, 1994
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From Library Journal
What does it take to write a great script? You'll find the answer here, in the latest of Field's critically acclaimed books on the subject of screenwriting (e.g., Selling a Screenplay, LJ 10/1/89). This time he tackles four box office behemoths, explaining what makes these films work and why. In discussing Thelma and Louise, Terminator 2, The Silence of the Lambs, and Dances with Wolves, Field focuses on structure, characters, and story. His interviews with the films' screenwriters are of particular interest. Whether you're a James B. Cameron wannabe or just a fan of the silver screen, this is Field's masterpiece and a required purchase for all film collections.
Marty D. Evensvold, Magnolia P.L., Tex.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"I based Like Water For Chocolate on what I learned in Syd's books. Before, I always felt structure imprisoned me, but what I learned was structure really freed me to focus on the story."—Laura Esquivel
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.