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He Taught Hollywood How to Write Screenplays

Syd Field was one of the most famous names in Hollywood screenwriting – even though, by his own account, the only movie script of his ever produced was an obscure Argentine film, Los Banditos. “I never saw the film,” he once explained. “But it was a pretty good script, as I remember.”

Syd FieldField, who died on Nov. 17 at age 77 in Beverly Hills, became famous by analyzing the art of screenwriting and then giving other writers tips on how to do it. In 1979, he published Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, which became a bible for countless writers who dreamed of seeing their name in the credits, and quite a few who eventually did. Among the students in Field’s screenwriting workshops were Frank Darabont, who went on to write and direct the 1994 megahit The Shawshank Redemption, and Judd Apatow, auteur of recent smash comedies such as Bridesmaids, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People.

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Emmy-winning actress-writer Tina Fey once explained her method this way: “I did a million drafts. And then I did the thing everybody does – I read Syd Field and I used my index cards.”

Here are some interesting facts about Field:

 

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Here’s a video in which Field talks about what he learned from director Sam Peckinpah, whom he met while the latter was writing his classic western The Wild Bunch.

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Photo: University of Southern California

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