“Adaptation is both a skill and a challenge.” These are the words of legendary author and screenwriter, Syd Field (1935-2013), acclaimed as “the guru of all screenwriters” (CNN). Syd goes on to say, in his seminal book, Screenplay – The Foundations of Screenwriting: “The verb to adapt means ‘to transpose from one medium to another.’ Adaptation is defined as the ability ‘to make fit or suitable by changing, or adjusting’ – modifying something to create a change in structure, function, and form… It is a singular art.”
From the Blog
In his last interview on November 8, 2013, Syd spoke about his passion: “The whole purpose of my teaching is to inspire people to access their own creativity, that mission has driven me forward all the way from the beginning. Let people know, and give people the tools to access their own inspiration, and then they’ll do the rest.”
View this video for a small glimpse into Syd’s teaching life. To read more about him at USC Dornsife’s Master of Professional Writing program visit: http://dornsife.usc.edu/news/stories/1565/in-memoriam-syd-field-77/
In all my screenwriting courses and workshops around the world, I’ve read thousands and thousands of screenplays. Exactly how many, I really don’t know. I lost count many years ago. But no matter what country or city I happen to be in, I am usually asked the same question over and over again: what do I find to be the biggest and most common problem of screenwriters?
1. Make sure your characters and story are set up within the first ten pages. Did you introduce your main character(s), establish the dramatic premise, and indicate the dramatic situation, the circumstances surrounding the main character?
Make no mistake; pitching is an art. Every screenplay begins with an idea and if you want to write a screenplay based on your idea, then the chances are you’re going to have to pitch it to someone; it could be a producer, a director, a production executive, an agent or anyone in the business.
Guest Contributors to the SydField.com Blog and Articles
WRITER, PRODUCER, AUTHOR
Ms. Woods began writing when, as a struggling actress in New York, she couldn’t find suitable audition material for women of color. This led her to write a book of audition monologues, Something for Everyone (50 Original Monologues). The book was initially self-published and is now published by renowned theatrical play publisher, Samuel French, Inc.
SCREENWRITER, ACTOR, DIRECTOR & ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE LOS ANGELES PERFORMING ARTS CONSERVATORY
Artistic Director, Natalia Lazarus is at the helm of The Promenade Playhouse and it’s subsidiaries: Promenade Conservatory, now LA Performing Arts Conservatory, a degree granting University. 3rd Street Comedy, The Promenade Players Theatre Company, and the Creative Keys to Success Series, the Acting, Writing, Directing and Personal Growth technique that she created and developed.
SCREENWRITER & VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR
Jim came to Los Angeles in 1979 as an artist, animator and musician. He began his career in computer graphics at a small start-up company in 1985 in Pasadena, CA, while simultaneously attending The Art Center College of Design. He worked hard, learning the engineering side of the craft over the next several years while garnering his first television, location-based entertainment and feature film credits in the 1980s. In 1987, after helping a friend writing the ending of her film, he started writing his first screenplay.
"What I learned in Syd Field's class was here's how Annie Hall works, and here's how Witness works and then I begin to think, 'OK now how would I do it differently than that?' That concept of 'Always being in learning mode' has stuck with me to this day. Even now, I think, "Well I'm not fantastic visually, so how could I do it better? I hire somebody to do it for me...."
Judd Apatow, Writer/Director - The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People/ Creative Screenwriting, July/August 2009
"I sat down with Syd Field's book about how to write a screenplay, wrote a few and when John Grisham saw one, we started working together."
T.R. Pearson, Novelist/Screenwriter, Co-Writer with John Grisham on The Runaway Jury
[When I wrote Mean Girls] "I did a million drafts. And I did the thing everybody does. I read Syd Field and I used my index cards."
Tina Fey, Writer - Mean Girls, Saturday Night Live
"Syd Field is God!"
Kevin Williamson, Writer - Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer
"The Guru of all screenwriters."
"I read a book that literally changed my life - Syd Field's Screenplay."
Ed Burns, Writer/Director - The Brothers McMullen
"Syd Field takes the screenwriter on an exciting journey...and he gives you a 'no-get lost' map to hold onto during the trip."
Anna Hamilton Phelam, Screenwriter - Gorillas in the Mist