Syd Field - “the guru of all screenwriters” (CNN)

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Syd Field ScreenplayOn March 22. 1979
Screenplay – The Foundations of Screenwriting became an instantaneous bestseller!
The seminal work continues to inspire and
support Storytellers worldwide!

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5-part ScreenPlay Interview Series of archival interviews from 2010. Hosted by Syd Field with acclaimed Hollywood screenwriters.

SYD FIELD’S PASSION AND MISSION

Syd FieldSyd was deeply enthusiastic about storytelling, movies and teaching.  While a writer’s inspiration may come from the heart, Syd wanted the world to know that the craft of screenwriting could be learned. Writer/Director Judd Apatow said, “Syd Field wrote screenwriting books which did exactly what they were supposed to do – they made screenwriting seem possible.”

Syd’s love of film, his masterful understanding of storytelling, and his skillful expression of his ground-breaking paradigm for screenplay structure, has benefited writers, directors, studio executives, independent filmmakers, and ultimately the global audience. Mentoring writers delighted and excited Syd, who recorded and filmed a number of webinars and classes, many of which are yet to be released.

Aviva Field, Syd’s wife, as well as his long-time protégés and contributors to this website, are devoted to honoring his mission. This site is imbued with Syd’s heart and spirit, embodied here as an internet resource for screenwriters and storytellers. We are committed to bringing projects to fruition that were started by Syd.  A documentary about the impact of his teachings around the world will be produced by Aviva.

It is our fervent desire to sustain Syd’s legacy; to ensure that his method stays true in its intention, continuing to motivate and empower the creation of compelling screenplays by new and seasoned writers for generations to come.

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"I've gone from reading his books, to being taught by him in courses! I think one of us must have done something right! I thank him all the time for inspiring me."

Frank Darabont, Writer/Director ``Shawshank Redemption``

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Four Screenplays by Syd Field
Selling a Screenplay by Syd Field
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Contributed Posts and Articles

Hitting the Wall – An Opportunity
By Valerie Woods

For many writers, the start of a new year is the time to set deadlines for the next twelve months. You may have hit all the deadlines you charted the previous January, or maybe not. The dawn of a new year has such potential. There’s nothing to be done about the year gone by. Let it go. You either made your deadlines, or you didn’t.

As this year draws to a close, I made most of my deadlines. But before moving on to the coming year so full of possibilities, I decided to take a look back. How did I miss some of the deadlines I set for myself?

In Syd Field’s book The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver, I read something that helped me reconcile the progress of my writing, or intermittent lack thereof: “Writer’s Block. It happens all the time. To everybody. The difference is how you deal with it. How you see it.”

How did I deal with it? I did other things. I teach. I go to two different writer’s groups. I met friends for coffee. Read other people’s scripts. You know, things other than figuring out why I wasn’t finishing what I started. I basically, as Syd calls it, “hit the wall.”

Syd goes on to say: “If you can look at it [writer’s block] as an opportunity, you will find a way to strengthen and broaden your ability to create character and story. It shows you that maybe you need to go deeper into your story, and strive for another level of richness, full of texture and dimension.”

This brought me to a few critical questions. First of all, why tell this story? Why tell it now, at this point in time? Sometimes I find that I’m writing a story to make sense of a personal experience. Other times, it’s just an intriguing idea sprung from my subconscious or the zeitgeist or a response to something I’ve witnessed or read, and felt strongly that it needed to be dramatized. As Dr. Maya Angelou said: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

What was my untold story? Did I even have something to say? Of course, the inner critic has a few things to say about this. Things like, ‘What even made you think this was a good idea?’ Or something along the lines of ‘Why didn’t you take that Write-a-Screenplay-in-30-days” challenge? Actually, when I’ve tried those 30-day challenges, I can do them. It’s just those 30 days aren’t consecutive; I’d write five straight days one month, but only two the next, and none for six weeks, while other life situations took over, and on and on. I would be distracted and at loose ends. I’d need to pause and ask, ‘What was it I was trying to accomplish, again? ‘

This brought me to another quote of Syd’s, this one near the conclusion of his book Going to the Movies. Syd is speaking about why he teaches: “I wanted filmmakers to make great movies that would inspire audiences to find their common humanity.”

This statement hit a chord with me. “…inspire audiences to find their common humanity.” Wasn’t this why I became a storyteller? To make a connection? To understand the commonalities of the human experience no matter who we are?

Scientists and anthropologists tell us that we are a species of storytellers, even before the written word, as seen in prehistoric cave drawings. Apparently, we humans have always told stories to makes sense of the chaos and share whatever insights we’ve gleaned to connect with others. Stories are not merely entertainment – they are learning experiences, culture creators, expressions of the heart and compassion – stories tell us who we are. Or at least, who we hope to be.

We’ve evolved from drawings on cave walls, but that’s just an evolution of storytelling technology – from cave to screen.

Syd teaches: “Movies are all about story. No matter who we are, or where we live, or what generation we may belong to, the singular aspects of storytelling remain the same.

This is echoed by George Lucas, creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and founder of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, when he states: “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”

I followed Syd’s advice to look at writer’s block as an opportunity to go deeper into my story. Soon, it became clear that the block arose because I had become so caught up in the process of putting the words on paper, that I’d lost sight of why I was telling the story. I had to come back to the core purpose of writing a screenplay – to tell a good story.

The time it took to become re-acquainted with my initial inspiration was a release. The opportunity to step deeper into my character’s dramatic need allowed me to be firmly established in the origin of their journey and ultimate goal. Now, there is no wall to hit, only creative opportunities to explore. Perfect timing as I set deadlines for the coming year!

As we move into the New Year, may your writing flow with ease… and if you hit a wall, remember these words from Syd Field to carry you through:

“If you understand that being dazed, lost, and confused is only a symptom, this “problem” becomes an opportunity to test yourself. Isn’t that what life’s all about – putting yourself on the line in a situation where you test yourself to rise to another level? It’s simply an evolutionary step along the path of the screenwriting process.”
–The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver

Happy New Year!

Finding the Character’s Dramatic Need
By Natalia Lazarus

CEO, Founder, L.A. Performing Arts Conservatory, laconservatory.com

Being an actress first, when I began to study screenwriting with Syd Field, one of the major principles that he taught me: Dramatic Need – really struck a chord with me. Below is a discussion of how now, years later, I teach dramatic need to actors, writers, and directors.

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The Paradigm In Singapore by Shari Goodhartz

To my astonishment, the first three months of 2017 found me in cosmopolitan Singapore. Employed as the Project Director of a professional training program entitled WritersLab, I was there to help evolve the quality of television writing for the local market, and hopefully, make it more competitive across Southeast Asia. It was a ten-week, TV pressure cooker that leveraged pretty much every skill I’ve acquired over thirty-five years in the entertainment industry.

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Screenplay Interview Series

Contributors

Valerie Woods

Valerie Woods

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.

Sharon Buckingham

Sharon Buckingham

WRITER, PRODUCER

Sharon Buckingham is a well-known screenwriter and producer with both television and feature credits. She teaches the Syd Field screenwriting method® and acts as a script editor and consultant.

Natalia Lazarus

Natalia Lazarus

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.

Jim Hillin

Jim Hillin

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.

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