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Screenwriting Book – Screenplay

Screenplay_Syd Field

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!

Links:

Book: Amazon Link

Scriptshadow articles on creating characters:

Downloads:

Screenwriting Book – Scriptshadow Secrets

Scriptshadow BookScriptshadow Secrets (500 Screenwriting Secrets Hidden Inside 50 Great Movies) by Carson Reeves

This is the book that really changed the way I watched movies. When I came across Carson’s site, I thought I knew all there was to know about movies. Boy, was I wrong. From character flaws, to inner goals to the use of GSU (Goals, Stakes and Urgency), Carson’s site is a resource no screenwriter should be without.

On his site, you’ll find several free examples of writing tips from a bunch of great films. (“The Godfather,” “GoodFellas,” “Trainspotting” and “The Big Lebowski” among them.) The examples gained from each movie go to prove that Carson knows his stuff. All the practices and techniques he’s described in the past come into play in EVERY script.

At the time of this writing, the Kindle edition of this book is available for $5. That is a mere fraction of what this opus should cost. This is a link to an excerpt from his book that he published on his site: Link.

Here is a list of all the movies he covers in his book:
Aliens, Stand By Me, Up, The Bourne Identity, District 9, The Proposal, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Good Will Hunting, Big, Avatar, Die Hard, Taken, American Beauty, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Star Wars, Lethal Weapon, Back to the Future, Fargo, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Fugitive, The Hangover, Crash, Notting Hill, Inception, The Empire Strikes Back, Bridesmaids, Training Day, Jerry McGuire, The Social Network, Rocky, Pulp Fiction, The Goonies, Pretty Woman, Juno, Super 8, The Shawshank Redemption, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, When Harry Met Sally, Office Space, The Princess Bride, Psycho, The Ring, Titanic, The Matrix, The Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, Star Trek, Taxi Driver and Terminator 2.

I can assure you that this is the most worthwhile screenwriting book worth having.

Available here: Link.