on July 12, 2007
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! He mentions those of others, oh yes, that he does, but I can't recall him mentioning one of his own personal scripts. (My bad and apologies if he did and I didn't see or forgot.)
Syd Field hated "Pulp Fiction" when he first saw it. That's bad. I mean, if you can't see right off that "Pulp Fiction" is a great movie, moreover, as a specialist of films, then I worry. I saw it years ago when I was a teen and it struck me as special even though I was no film specialist. So I don't know. It seems that Field eventually liked it when he was able to put it in his 3 act structure, by dividing the stories as units onto themselves. Fine, but do you need that to enjoy a movie or think it's great? No. In fact, if you are rendered unable to enjoy a movie because of that, then it majorly worries me.
As to the 3-act theory itself, I think it's a great tool to use for structure and for the writing of a movie, but I wouldn't base everything on it more than that. See, I think anything has a beginning, middle, and end, and that you can find those 3 things anywhere. It's too vague to be really meaningful, although it can be useful. I see it as something like construction lines in drawing: you use them, but then you erase them. And I think that's also how Field sees it; he doesn't think of his "paradigm" as impossibly rigid.
Other thing that worried me about Field is that he claims to write biographies for his characters that encompass their parents, grandparents, and, yes, past lives. Alright, that can always give you cool ideas that you'd not think of if it hadn't been for the character's past life as a fisherman in Antarctica, but that sounds far-fetched.
There are other things in Field's style that antagonised me from the beginning. Cliché zen analogies and such didn't do much to make like the text, and repeating the same things without backing them up doesn't convince more.
Also, and maybe I'm dumb, but I would have started the book with the form of script-writing. That's the first thing you look at when you consider writing a script! That's what I bought the book for, originally. Very little of the book is consecrated to that, and it's among the final chapters.
So what's the result of my reading this book? Well, I feel like I could start working on an actual movie script right now, and that alone isn't so bad, but I don't know that another book couldn't have done the same. The read itself wasn't too bad, although the redundancy can get seriously annoying. I also felt like the chapters weren't properly delimited, like you'd talk of a topic in this chapter and 4 chapters further, you find yourself reading about the same thing again.
I would recommend that to anyone who's interesting in scrip-writing, but be careful. It does give you a good basis for working up the spine of a script, and that's what the book was written for, so even though I gave it only 3 stars, I'd still recommend it (for lack of a better, since I never read anything else on script-writing).