Screenplay: Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field helped me more than any other book when I went on to write over 100 screenplays. When I was a teen and in my twenties, Syd Field, Dwight Swain, and Jack Bickham influenced me more than any other ten writing gurus. Somewhat surprising, this book helps me just as much writing fictional novels or nonfiction books.
Suppose you’re in your office. . . . A pretty stenographer you’ve seen before comes into the room and you watch her. . . . She takes off her gloves, opens her purse and dumps it out on the table. . . . She has two dimes and a nickel—and a cardboard match box. She leaves the nickel on the desk, puts the two dimes back into her purse and takes her black gloves to the stove. . . . Just then your telephone rings. The girl picks it up, says hello—listens—and says deliberately into the phone, “I’ve never owned a pair of black gloves in my life.” She hangs up . . . and you glance around very suddenly and see another man in the office, watching every move the girl makes. . . . ―Syd Field explaining screenplays and the screenwriting process
Screenplay: Foundations of Screenwriting is considered the screenplay bible by many screenwriters, filmmakers, and authors smart enough to read Field's books. Field built a reputation for dissecting stories and knowing instantly what would and would not work.
James L. Brooks, Academy award-wining director and producer said, "Syd Field is the preeminent analyzer of American Screenplays."
As a college student, I turned in a story for a project and the professor responded by gifting me a copy of Screenplay: Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. In regards to my development as a screenwriter, I consider gift greater than if the professor had given me a million dollars.
I read the book over and over until I went to California and looked up the legend himself. He was kind enough to have lunch and answer dozens of questions. He invited me to participate in one of his workshops. Having already committed to interviews on Capitol Hill, I went to Washington DC instead, a decision I've always regretted.
I can say, however, Syd Field's books were instrumental in me going on to write dozens of screenplays, and directing six independent movies.
Yes, I recommend writers of all types read and master the 12 books included in this list of must-have books for writers. Although formats differ, storytelling is storytelling, and the best screenwriting experts carry a large bag of writing tricks.
Syd Field's Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting earns a distinctive position on our list of 12 writing books every author should master.
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