In memoriam: Syd Field 1935 -2013
Syd Field, long considered by the global film community as “the guru of screenwriting,” died on Sunday, November 17 of hemolytic anemia at his home in Beverly Hills surrounded by his wife, family and friends. He was 77.
Field was the author of eight best-selling books on screenwriting. The first of these, Screenplay was initially published in 1979, and is universally considered to be “the Bible” of screenwriting. It revolutionized how screenwriters and filmmakers approached story and the art of filmmaking and has been published in 23 languages and is used in over 400 colleges and universities around the world.
Born on December 19, 1935 in Hollywood, California, Syd Field received his B.A. in English Literature at University of California, Berkeley in 1960. He began his career at Wolper Productions in the shipping department, earning $75 a week. Field went on to research and write for the original Biography television series, among other Wolper Productions.
Acclaimed by CNN as the “guru of all screenwriters,” and by The Hollywood Reporter as “the most sought after screenwriting teacher in the world,” Field is celebrated as the first writer to outline the paradigm that most screenplays follow, which is the classic three-act structure.
During his more than 50-year career, Syd Field has chaired the Academic Liaison Committee at The Writer’s Guild of America, West, served as lecturer on the faculty at University of Southern California and AFI and has been a special script consultant to 20th Century Fox, the Disney Studios, Universal, Tri-Star Pictures as well as an annual The Visual Art of Storytelling workshop for the scientists of JPL and NASA.
Syd Field was inducted into the Final Draft Hall of Fame in 2006 and was the first inductee into the Screenwriting Hall of Fame of the American Screenwriting Association. He was also a special consultant to the Film Preservation Project for the famed Getty Center.
By special invitation of numerous Ministries of Culture, Field has taught throughout Europe, Asia, South America and Canada. His books and workshops have influenced many of the leading writers and producers in the film industry. Producer Lynda Obst (Sleepless in Seattle, The Fisher King, Contact) has said of Field’s workshop: “This course is a virtual must for screenwriters.”
Judd Apatow, Writer/Director/Producer (Bridesmaids, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People), has said: “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, okay now, how would I do it differently than that? That concept of ‘Always being in learning mode’ has stuck with me to this day.”
Tina Fey, Emmy-Award winning Creator and Writer (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live), commented: “I did a million drafts. And then I did the thing everybody does — I read Syd Field, and I used my index cards.”
Frank Darabont, Writer/Director of Shawshank Redemption praises Syd Field’s works: “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.”
In his final speaking engagement in September 2013, Syd delivered the Keynote Address at STORY EXPO in Los Angeles. His talk on “Why We Are Storytellers” brought the packed room to its feet with a long, standing ovation.
A longtime meditator, Field was a longtime student of Baba Muktananda, an Indian meditation master who founded Siddha Yoga Meditation. He continued as a student under Baba’s successor, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.
Syd Field is survived by his wife, Aviva Field, and his brother, Dr. Morton Field, both of Beverly Hills; Rika Hofmann, sister-in-law, of Phoenix; Lisa Arcos, daughter, of Atlanta, Georgia; and Gloria Kessler, cousin, of Los Angeles. A memorial service will be announced soon.
In lieu of flowers, charitable donations in Syd’s name can be made to:
- SYDA Foundation, Donations, PO Box 600, S. Fallsburg, NY 12779, www.siddhayoga.org
- The PRASAD Project, 465 Brickman Road, Hurleyville, New York 12747, www.prasad.org
- A Tower Hematology Oncology Medical Group, 9090 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, www.toweroncology.com
For more information, contact: Derek Christopher, (310) 980-2335, firstname.lastname@example.org
Press images available for download: Syd Field Headshot | Syd Field teaching | Syd Field and Jean Renoir (Director, Jean Renoir cast Syd in his play, Carola while an artist-in-residence on campus when Syd was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. Syd, an English major, graduated in 1960.)