Screenwriting Revolutionary Syd Field Has Died

The guru, whose works have been cited by leading screenwriters for years, was 77 years old.

Syd Field, whose work helped re-shape the film industry and influenced generations of writers, died on Sunday of hemolytic anemia, his family announced. He was 77.

Considered one of the most influential experts and voices in screenwriting, Field was the author of eight books, including his 1979 classic Screenplay: The Foundations of Film Writing, which has become an industry standard. His follow-up books included Selling a Screenplay and Going to the Movies: A Personal Journey Through Four Decades of Film.

Field’s books often provided a step-by-step guide to writing a full script, and he was famously an advocate of the three act structure — which he called a “paradigm” — and its attendant plot points, creating a skeleton on which aspiring writers could hang their stories.

A professor and consultant to several major studios, Field was the first inductee into the Screenwriting Hall of Fame of the American Screenwriting Association.

An obituary circulated by his family cited quotes from several top writers:

Judd Apatow: “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.”

Tina Fey: “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: “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.”

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