Syd Field Tribute

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

The Film Industry is mourning Syd Field, who passed away Nov 17th at the age of 77. He is an internationally acclaimed author and was without doubt one of “the most sought-after screenwriting teacher in the world”. He had a long association with Hollywood and a great passion for film. myETVmedia had the honor of interviewing Syd in Oct. 2011 in Toronto. He shared some of his personal experiences, current projects and discussed his famous “three act structure to screenwriting”. Syd’s lifetime contribution to the film industry has been immense.

The interviews are re-shared here because of their intimacy and relevance to Syd Field’s life and work.


myETVmedia: Syd Field in Conversation with Alfredo Romano Oct 2011

Guru of Screenwriting, Author & International Lecturer


Syd Field is a name that is highly respected in the Film Industry. If you have had anything to do with the film world it is most likely that you have heard of Syd Field. Filmmaking was in his genetics and his books on screenwriting are legendary. Screenplay (1982) has been translated into at least 20 languages and The Screenwriter’s Workbook and The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver are the “bibles” for all screenwriting courses. A best selling author, Syd was also international creative consultant to several governments, a script consultant, a teacher, international lecturer and a really gracious, interesting man to spend time with. Syd was without question the international expert on screenwriting and certainly one of the most inspiring.

Syd was also developing an iPhone App called the Syd Field Script Launcher App designed to guide the user through the screenwriting process by applying Syd’s Paradigm of the “Three Act Structure”. This articulation of the ideal Paradigm lies at the core of Syd’s teachings. It is such a powerful explanation of the method necessary to apply to screenwriting that it has become the only format that Hollywood film producers expect when accepting a script.


Syd Field’s “Three Act Structure”

The “three act structure” in screenwriting terms is a delineation of the process necessary to follow in order to successfully write a screenplay. It is laid out so that within the first 20 to 30 minutes of the script the protagonist is introduced to the story, there is the plot point which is the key to the story and moves it forward, the ‘Confrontation period’ during which the protagonist strives to achieve the goal, a midpoint at about half way through the script (page 60) when the confrontation takes a turn that has devastating effects on the protagonist. The final quarter of the film script deals with the struggle back by the protagonist, the attainment or not of the goal and the final outcome for the protagonist. This screenplay must embody this “three act structure” to be successful. The idea must be tied to the subject and the subject to the character arc and development. Any screenwriter will acknowledge that this process sounds rigid but in actual fact when applied it is tremendously freeing allowing the writer to focus on the telling of the story.

Syd Field’s Advice:

“Screenwriters should know the emotional journey of the character from beginning to end.”

This is the character’s arc and must be clearly in the writer’s mind. “Action and character, those are the two things to follow during the unfolding of the script.” Then the writer can start “to build the story and character utilizing the emotional journey as one of the major leads into the physical journey. The structure holds the action and character, emotionally and physically together.” “I wanted writers to understand just how the character’s arc can frame the narrative through line of the story. This is critical to the screenwriting process.”
- Syd Field, Writers Store Q&A



Special thanks to: Raindance Canada and Derek Christopher for arranging this conversation.

Over his 50+ years career, Syd Field was involved as special script consultant with many major film industry corporations including 20th Fox Century, Walt Disney Studios, Tri-Star Pictures and Universal. He was the first inductee into the Screenwriting Hall of Fame of the American Screen Association, also inducted into the Final Draft Hall of Fame (2006) and a chair of the Academic Liaison Committee at The Writer’s Guild of America.

Syd Field’s Credits (abbreviated from the Writers Store) include:

- Syd Field taught at USC (Master’s of Professional Writing Program), Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, the AFI among others.

- Syd taught workshops taught in: Buenos Aires, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Mexico City, Paris, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rio di Janeiro, Rome, Vienna, Zurich, Johannesburg, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and London.

- Syd has been a keynote speaker at major international film festivals including: Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Olso, and Norway. He was on the International Film Jury for the Flanders International Film Festival. He was also a special consultant to the Film Preservation Project for the Getty Centre.

- Syd was the creative screenwriting consultant to Alphonso Cuaron (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). Syd also chaired the Academic Liaison Committee at the Writer’s Guild of America.

- Some of Syd’s former students include Anna Hamilton (Mask, Gorillas in the Mist), John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice), Randi Mayem Singer (Mrs. Doubtfire), Laura Esquival (Like Water For Chocolate), Michael Kane (The Color of Money), and Kevin Williamson (Scream, Scream 2 &3).

- Syd wrote and produced the TV series Men in Crisis, Hollywood and the Stars, National Geographics and the Jacque Cousteau Specials (1963-1965).

Syd Field’s Books:

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting – 1979
Screenplay: The foundations of Screenwriting; a step by step guide from concept to finish script – 1984
The Screenwriter’s Workbook – 1988
Selling A Screenplay – 1989
Four Screenplays 1994
The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver – 1998
Going to the movies – 2001
The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting – 2003

#screenplay, #screenwriter, #screenwriting, #plotpoints @fieldink

Syd Field will be sadly missed.

Moira Romano

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