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Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting [Anglais] [Broché]

Syd Field
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Description de l'ouvrage

29 novembre 2005
A generation of screenwriters has used Syd Field’s bestselling books to ignite successful careers in film. Now the celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher, and bestselling author has updated his classic guide for a new generation of filmmakers, offering a fresh insider’s perspective on the film industry today. From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script, here are easily understood guidelines to help aspiring screenwriters—from novices to practiced writers—hone their craft. Filled with updated material—including all-new personal anecdotes and insights, guidelines on marketing and collaboration, plus analyses of recent films, from American Beauty to Lord of the RingsScreenplay presents a step-by-step, comprehensive technique for writing the screenplay that will succeed in Hollywood. Discover:

•Why the first ten pages of your script are crucially important
•How to visually “grab” the reader from page one, word one
•Why structure and character are the essential foundation of your screenplay
•How to adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a screenplay
•Tips on protecting your work—three legal ways to claim ownership of your screenplay
•The essentials of writing great dialogue, creating character, building a story line, overcoming writer’s block, getting an agent, and much more.

With this newly updated edition of his bestselling classic, Syd Field proves yet again why he is revered as the master of the screenplay—and why his celebrated guide has become the industry’s gold standard for successful screenwriting.

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Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting + The Screenwriter's Workbook (Revised Edition) + The Screenwriter's Problem Solver: How to Recognize, Identify, and Define Screenwriting Problems
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Descriptions du produit


Chapter One

What Is a Screenplay?

“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. . . .”

“Go on,” said Boxley smiling. “What happens?”

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. “I was just making pictures.”

—The Last Tycoon

F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the summer of 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald, drinking far too much, deeply in debt, and drowning in the suffocating well of despair, moved to Hollywood seeking new beginnings, hoping to reinvent himself by writing for the movies. The author of The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, This Side of Paradise, and the uncompleted The Last Tycoon, perhaps America’s greatest novelist, was, as one friend put it, seeking redemption.

During the two and a half years he spent in Hollywood, he took the craft of screenwriting “very seriously,” says one noted Fitzgerald authority: “It’s heartbreaking to see how much effort he put into it.” Fitzgerald approached every screenplay as if it were a novel and often wrote long backstories for each of the main characters before putting one word of dialogue down on paper.

Despite all the preparation he put into each assignment, he was obsessed with finding the answer to a question that haunted him continuously: What makes a good screenplay? Billy Wilder once compared Fitzgerald to “a great sculptor who is hired to do a plumbing job. He did not know how to connect the pipes so the water could flow.”

Throughout his Hollywood years, he was always trying to find the “balance” between the words spoken and the pictures seen. During this time, he received only one screen credit, adapting the novel Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque (starring Robert Taylor and Margaret Sullavan), but Joseph L. Mankiewicz eventually rewrote his script. He worked on rewrites for several other movies, including a disastrous week on Gone With the Wind (he was forbidden to use any words that did not appear in Margaret Mitchell’s novel), but after Three Comrades, all of his projects ended in fail- ure. One, a script for Joan Crawford called Infidelity, was left uncompleted, canceled because it dealt with the theme of adultery. Fitzgerald died in 1941, working on his last, unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon.

He died believing himself to be a failure.

I’ve always been intrigued by the journey of F. Scott Fitzgerald. What resonates with me the most is that he was constantly searching for the answer to what made a good screenplay. His overwhelming external circumstances—his wife Zelda’s institutionalization, his unmanageable debts and lifestyle, his excessive drinking—all fed into his insecurities about the craft of screenwriting. And make no mistake: Screenwriting is a craft, a craft that can be learned. Even though he worked excessively hard, and was disciplined and responsible, he failed to achieve the results he was so desperately striving for.


I don’t think there’s any one answer. But reading his books and writings and letters from this period, it seems clear that he was never exactly sure what a screenplay was; he always wondered whether he was “doing it right,” whether there were certain rules he had to follow in order to write a successful screenplay.

When I was studying at the University of California, Berkeley, as an English lit major, I read the first and second editions of Tender Is the Night for one of my classes. It is the story of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients, who, as she slowly recovers, exhausts his vitality until he is “a man used up.” The book, the last one Fitzgerald completed, was considered technically faulty and was commercially unsuccessful.

In the first edition of the novel, Book I is written from the point of view of Rosemary Hoyt, a young actress who shares her obser- vations about meeting the circle that surrounds Dick and Nicole Diver. Rosemary is on the beach at Cap d’Antibes on the French Riviera, watching the Divers enjoying an outing on the sand. As she watches, she sees them as a beautiful couple who appear, at least from her point of view, to have everything going for them. They are, she thinks, the ideal couple. Rich, beautiful, intelligent, they look to be the embodiment of what everyone wants for himself or herself. But the second book of the novel focuses on the life of Dick and Nicole, and we learn that what we saw through Rosemary’s eyes was only the relationship they showed to the world; it was not really true. The Divers have major problems, which drain them emotionally and spiritually, and ultimately destroy them.

When the first edition of Tender Is the Night was published, sales were poor, and Fitzgerald thought he had probably been drinking too much and might have compromised his vision. But from his Hollywood experience, he came to believe he did not introduce his main characters early enough. “Its great fault,” Fitzgerald wrote of Tender Is the Night to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, “is that the true beginning—the young psychiatrist in Switzerland—is tucked away in the middle of the book.” He decided that when the second edition was printed, he would interchange the first section with the second and open the novel with Dick Diver in wartime Switzerland in order to explain the mystery about the Divers’ courtship and marriage. So he opened the book focusing on the main character, Dick Diver. But that didn’t work either, and Fitzgerald was crushed. The book was financially unsuccessful until many years later, when Fitzgerald’s genius was finally acknowledged.

What strikes me so vividly is what Fitzgerald didn’t see; his opening section focusing on how Rosemary saw the Divers was more cinematic than novelistic. It’s a great cinematic opening, setting up the characters as others see them, like an establishing shot; in this first edition, Fitzgerald was showing us how this model couple looked to the world, beautiful and rich, seeming to have everything. How we look to the outside world, of course, is a lot different from who we really are behind closed doors. My personal feeling is that it was Fitzgerald’s insecurity about the craft of screenwriting that drove him to change that great opening.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an artist literally caught between two worlds, caught between his genius as a writer and his self-doubt and inability to express that genius in screenplay form.

Screenwriting is a definite craft, a definite art. Over the years, I’ve read thousands upon thousands of screenplays, and I always look for certain things. First, how does it look on the page? Is there plenty of white space, or are the paragraphs dense, too thick, the dialogue too long? Or is the reverse true: Is the scene description too thin, the dialogue too sparse? And this is before I read one word; this is just what it “looks” like on the page. You’d be surprised how many decisions are made in Hollywood by the way a screenplay looks—you can tell whether it’s been written by a professional or by someone who’s still aspiring to be a professional.

Everybody is writing screenplays, from the waiter at your favorite bar or restaurant to the limo driver, the doctor, the lawyer, or the barista serving up the White Chocolate Dream Latte at the local Coffee Bean. Last year, more than seventy-five thousand screenplays were registered at the Writers Guild of America, West and East, and out of that number maybe four or five hundred scripts were actually produced.

What makes one screenplay better than another? There are many answers, of course, because each screenplay is unique. But if you want to sit down and spend six months to a year writing a screenplay, you first have to know what a screenplay is—what its nature is.

What is a screenplay? Is it a guide, or an outline, for a movie? A blueprint, or a diagram? Or maybe it’s a series of images, scenes, and sequences strung together with dialogue and description, like pearls on a strand? Perhaps it’s simply the landscape of a dream?

Well, for one thing, a screenplay is not a novel, and it’s most certainly not a play. If you look at a novel and try to define its fundamental nature, you’ll see that the dramatic action, the story line, usually takes place inside the head of the main character. We see the story line unfold through the eyes of the character, through his/her point of view. We are privy to the character’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, words, actions, memories, dreams, hopes, ambitions, opinions, and more. The character and reader go through the action together, sharing in the drama and emotion of the story. We know how they act, feel, react, and figure things out. If other characters appear and are brought into the narrative line of action, then the story embraces their point of view, but the main thrust of the story line always returns to the main character. The main character is who the story is about. In a novel the action takes pla...

Revue de presse

Screenplay is one of the bibles of the film trade and has launched many a would-be screenwriter on the road to Hollywood.” —Library Journal

“Syd Field is the preeminent analyzer in the study of American screenplays.” —James L. Brooks, AcademyAward–winning writer, director, producer

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 336 pages
  • Editeur : Delta (29 novembre 2005)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0385339038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385339032
  • Dimensions du produit: 20,6 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 31.411 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Bien 25 novembre 2009
Les concepts exposés dans Screenplay, il y a trente ans, ont été digérés par toute l'industrie et on les retrouve dans un grand nombre d'ouvrages. La présentation est un peu rébarbative (mise en page à la PUF...). Mais on y trouve de très bons conseils, pragmatiques à souhait, dont la pertinence prend racine sur une expérience immense. Mérite le coup d'oeil.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.4 étoiles sur 5  133 commentaires
26 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Mixed Feelings 12 juillet 2007
Par Nick - Publié sur
To sum up my opinion of the book in a short sentence: it's not the most amazing book ever, but I don't regret having read it. The good side of it is that the three act structure and all sound like a good plan to start working on a script. It does help a tonload to be able to cover so much ground in such a short time and with such big lines. I won't deny that. The card system is quite nice too, but you don't need 300 pages to learn that.

The thing that struck me the most was how redundant Field could get. Seriously, there are entire blocks of sentences that you will read over and over again. At first I thought that sounded really bad... I mean, if you're a famous script-writer and all, your writing should reflect that. So I was confused. Then, and I don't know if that saves it or not, I figured that the repetition was perhaps not so bad, since it kept hammering the same basic things in your mind, and since that helps to remember. It's a bit like a class, I guess.

I'm not saying that Field can't write, however, I think he merely opted for a personal style, oral if you want, and I don't think it's any fair to criticise too much on this aspect as other critics did. He's not writing a novel, he's writing about screenplay and he's talking to you.

I didn't buy this because I wanted to write a movie, I was curious about the script as a form of writing. Now I feel secure enough to consider writing a whole movie even though I never intended to, and that's pretty cool, I have to admit.

On the flip side, I have my doubts about Syd Field. Now, maybe I'm a dumb person, but I wasn't able to find a single movie written by him. And he doesn't mention any of his own scripts! He mentions those of others, oh yes, that he does, but I can't recall him mentioning one of his own personal scripts. (My bad and apologies if he did and I didn't see or forgot.)

Syd Field hated "Pulp Fiction" when he first saw it. That's bad. I mean, if you can't see right off that "Pulp Fiction" is a great movie, moreover, as a specialist of films, then I worry. I saw it years ago when I was a teen and it struck me as special even though I was no film specialist. So I don't know. It seems that Field eventually liked it when he was able to put it in his 3 act structure, by dividing the stories as units onto themselves. Fine, but do you need that to enjoy a movie or think it's great? No. In fact, if you are rendered unable to enjoy a movie because of that, then it majorly worries me.

As to the 3-act theory itself, I think it's a great tool to use for structure and for the writing of a movie, but I wouldn't base everything on it more than that. See, I think anything has a beginning, middle, and end, and that you can find those 3 things anywhere. It's too vague to be really meaningful, although it can be useful. I see it as something like construction lines in drawing: you use them, but then you erase them. And I think that's also how Field sees it; he doesn't think of his "paradigm" as impossibly rigid.

Other thing that worried me about Field is that he claims to write biographies for his characters that encompass their parents, grandparents, and, yes, past lives. Alright, that can always give you cool ideas that you'd not think of if it hadn't been for the character's past life as a fisherman in Antarctica, but that sounds far-fetched.

There are other things in Field's style that antagonised me from the beginning. Cliché zen analogies and such didn't do much to make like the text, and repeating the same things without backing them up doesn't convince more.

Also, and maybe I'm dumb, but I would have started the book with the form of script-writing. That's the first thing you look at when you consider writing a script! That's what I bought the book for, originally. Very little of the book is consecrated to that, and it's among the final chapters.

So what's the result of my reading this book? Well, I feel like I could start working on an actual movie script right now, and that alone isn't so bad, but I don't know that another book couldn't have done the same. The read itself wasn't too bad, although the redundancy can get seriously annoying. I also felt like the chapters weren't properly delimited, like you'd talk of a topic in this chapter and 4 chapters further, you find yourself reading about the same thing again.

I would recommend that to anyone who's interesting in scrip-writing, but be careful. It does give you a good basis for working up the spine of a script, and that's what the book was written for, so even though I gave it only 3 stars, I'd still recommend it (for lack of a better, since I never read anything else on script-writing).
13 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Hollywood of the 80s 17 août 2007
Par Robert Baumgardner - Publié sur
I liked this book. Coupled with Syd Field's Screenwriter's Workbook, I managed to write a first draft of a screenplay. I've never been able to complete a play or screenplay before reading these books! This book gives you the background of screenplays and writing, plus his theory of what makes a good Hollywood screenplay. The workbook gives you a step by step process of writing one.

One drawback is that this book was written in the 80's. Sometimes it sounds so dated. The other drawback is it only explains one type of screenplay, the standard Hollywood 3-act narrative.

Overall, this book was a great help in writing a readable well structured screenplay.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A good book, but disappointing 6 décembre 2012
Par Ell Bee - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Larry Brooks, whose "Story Engineering" I swear by, swears himself by this book. I couldn't wait to read it.

I was disappointed. Brooks presents Syd Field's information far more concisely, and in a much less anecdotal manner. If you buy "Story Engineering," you can skip this one.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Amazing Book (at least the first two thirds of it) 19 mars 2010
Par Aerosynth929 - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
"Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting" by industry giant Syd Field is considered to be the bible of modern screenwriting texts, and has been for many years. It's a well-deserved badge of honor.

Field approaches the art of screenwriting logically, positively, explaining step by step the hows, whats, and whys of the biz. He addresses the technical points of length, description, planning, all in a way that makes absolute sense to any reader... regardless of their knowledge of the film industry, educational level, or age. He uses popular film examples to underscore his methods, which help enormously. This book gives any reader the right foundation to begin a screenplay with absolute confidence.

As an aside..... let's also not forget that the way Syd Field writes--his prose--is so reader friendly, and so understandable... he could be writing completely random crap and it would still be an absolute pleasure to read it. I've found that most writing "how-to" texts are extremely boring, procedural... very INSTITUTIONAL... this book is not at all institutional, and it's very easy on the eyes and brain when you're reading it.

My only criticism with this book is a big one... though it doesn't necessarily diminish the importance of the work itself. This book is 18 chapters long, but for all intents and purposes, it basically ends after Chapter 13 ("Screenplay Form").

Chapters 14-18 discuss extreme subjects unrelated to the "foundations of screenwriting." They discuss adaptation and collaboration... matters FAR ABOVE (and not particularly applicable) the neophyte, aspiring screenwriters that would be reading a book such as this one. Yet, Chapters 14-18 also discuss very simplistic matters that are likely FAR BENEATH those that would be reading this... things such as getting into the mood to write, devoting time to your writing, dealing with family who may be opposed to you spending so much time writing, et cetera. These same chapters are also filled with personal, broad philosophical observations about writing in general, the process... observations that any B-average Freshman English student could spit out without thinking too hard. There are also boring, stereotypical observations about the film industry and Hollywood society... things that any resident of Los Angeles can tell you even if they've never in their life been involved in the entertainment industry.

I recently discussed this book with my best friend, a USC grad who had read this book as part of a film course in college. I was shocked, but very soothed, to hear him exactly echo my sentiments about the last third of this book. I hope Field spices this text up a bit if he does another revision.

Yet, despite my disappointment with the latter third of the book, the first two-thirds are absolutely brilliant. This book is a must-read... dare I say a REQUIRED READ... for anyone interested in the whole screenwriting process.

Kudos to Field. I really learned a lot from this book. I most certainly recommend it.
26 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 A disappointment 4 juin 2008
Par Natalia Tikhonova - Publié sur
Two years ago I was so anxious to read this "most sought after" screenwriting book I could hardly sleep until the Amazon courier knocked on my door. My God... What a disappointment. This book turned out to be the worst book on screnwriting I had ever read (and I read quite a few being a UCLA film student). Is the author seriously suggesting that, for example, plot point 1 MUST happen on a certain page??? That every 10 pages we MUST have a car chase, an explosion, a death - anything to keep the audience interested? Well... Why don't let a good solid story take care of that? The problem is that a good solid story is not usually based on the plot point/page correlations. Many reviewers here have praised Field's book for analyzing the structure of a story. Alas, no. What Field is offering is not a structure but a formula. Rigid, frosen, still formula. Knowing the principles of storytelling is mandatory for a writer; applying a formula without understanding the foundations is simply useless. And not in the least creative. Sadly, in spite of the title, Field does not give the reader any explanation as to what these foundations are. Again, many reviewers said how helpful this book could be for a beginning screenwiter. Frankly, I don't see how. Field does not present a clean solid introduction to what a story is, does not show the driving forces behind a good story - something any writer must know. Field simply offers you crutches. Here, if you fear you story will fall down, use these - make something important happen on page 27 (or is it 29?). Can a truly inspiring script be written by following Field's rules? I seriously doubt it.

Finally, o God, his writing style is so impossibly dull!
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