Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field
Syd Field is one of the three big screenwriting gurus, alongside Blake Snyder and Robert McKee. And for my money, rightly so. His book, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” is a must-have addition to the aspiring screenwriter’s library.
Although the copy I own was published in 1982, a lot of the principles therein are still relevant. Many agents, managers and screenwriting instructors are constantly instilling the idea of characters being the most important thing about a great script. This is a great starting point for figuring out how to write a great character.
For example, this book contains several very useful charts that I’ve included below. They show how to plot your script and how to plot out your character. Also included is a list of questions that will help you develop a much more rounded character. The questionnaire method is mentioned in this great post by Carson over at Script Shadow. As a side note, this is a great article by Carson over at Scriptshadow about how to develop your character. In that article is a link to another really great questionnaire sheet that I strongly recommend. Carson has done several great articles on figuring out your characters that I’ll link to below.
The book discusses characters and plotting at length and it goes to show the importance of structure. Like any screenwriting instructor worth their salt, the methods he preaches about can be seen in a multitude of solid screenplay examples. (“Chinatown,” “Three Days of the Condor,” etc.) Since the version I have is dated so long ago, I am curious to find out what other titles the recent editions might include.
Speaking of which; there is a bit of an asterisk I would include when I recommend this book: The actual screenwriting portion. Countless books and websites will tell you how to properly format your script, as well as tell you the difference between writing a spec script and a shooting script. My blog posts will mainly be focused on writing spec scripts, so that is generally the information I will try and highlight. I bring this up because at the time this book was published, the trend was to include transitions and some camera directions in your scripts. That is not the case these days. I’ll touch on how to combat that habit in a later post.
The back flap of the book promises to address the following points:
- Why are the first ten pages of your script so 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?
If these sound like some questions burning inside of you, rest assured, they will be answered thoroughly. If you still need to be convinced, check out the links below to see some of the charts from the book.
Like I said, this book is a terrific resource for screenwriters wanting to really get a solid grasp on their characters. Just be wary of the information, and make sure to double check anything that doesn’t make absolute sense to you.
Until next time, Movie Buffs!
Book: Amazon Link
Scriptshadow articles on creating characters:
- Character Generator
- Character Flaws
- Character Backstory
- Adding Character Depth
- Popular Character Breakdowns