Syd Field, a legendary screenwriting instructor who tried to boil down filmmaking into an easily emulated “three act structure,” died Sunday of hemolytic anemia at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 77.
A script consultant for major studios and a lecturer, Field authored eight best-selling books on screenwriting and influenced a range of writers such as Judd Apatow, Kevin Williamson and Frank Darabont. Field’s first and most influential book, Screenplay, was published in 1979, and has been labeled “the Bible” of screenwriting.
Field’s death was announced by the Raindance Film Festival, which the man labelled the “screenwriting guru” was supposed to attend.
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In a career that spanned five decades, Field chaired the Academic Liaison Committee at The Writer’s Guild of America, West, served as lecturer at University of Southern California and AFI and was a script consultant to major studios such as 20th Century Fox, the Walt Disney Studios and Universal.
He remains best known, however, for his workshops and seminars, in which he would take writers through the essence of film construction. Marketable scripts set up the film’s plot within the first 20 minutes and build the action toward some kind of confrontation, Field argued. There is also a moment mid-way through the film when a character’s fortune’s shift.
Field is survived by his wife and daughter.