Screenplay (book)

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Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
Screenplay by Syd Field Book Cover.jpg
Expanded Edition
AuthorSyd Field
CountryUnited States
SubjectFilmmaking, Screenwriting
PublisherDell Publishing Company
Media typePrint

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting is a non-fiction book and filmmaking guide written by Syd Field. First published in 1979, Screenplay covers the art and craft of screenwriting. Considered a bestseller shortly after its release, to date it has sold millions of copies. It has served as a reference for Judd Apatow, James Cameron, Frank Darabont, Tina Fey and many other professional screenwriters. Now translated into more than a dozen languages, Screenplay is considered the "bible" of the screenwriting craft.[1]


Screenplay is noted as the first book to identify the three-act screenplay model.[2] At the heart of Field's explanation of how his screenplay model worked was the paradigm.

The Paradigm[edit]

In the book, Field outlines the paradigm to which he says most successful screenplays adhere. In Field's view, successful screenplays are made up of three distinct divisions. He calls these setup, confrontation, and resolution, and each of them appears in its own act within a screenplay.

  • Act I contains the setup. It is approximately the first quarter of a screenplay, and reveals the main character, premise, and situation of the story.
  • Act II contains the confrontation. It lasts for the next two quarters of the screenplay, and clearly defines the main goal of the protagonist.
  • Act III contains the resolution. This is the final quarter of the screenplay. This answers the question as to whether or not the main character succeeded in his or her goal.

Between each of these acts, the paradigm states that there is a plot point—an event that spins the plot into a new direction, and transitions into a new act of the screenplay.


  • After selling millions of copies, the book is credited with starting the "how-to-write-a-movie-script industry."[3]
  • Screenplay is used in more than 400 colleges and universities worldwide.[4]
  • Filmmaker Judd Apatow said, "Whenever I write a screenplay, I take out his book and reread see if I screwed anything up."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yardley, William (November 19, 2013). "Syd Field, Author of the Definitive Work On Writing Screenplays, Is Dead at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  2. ^ Jill Chamberlain (1 March 2016). The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting. University of Texas Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-4773-0866-0.
  3. ^ Elder, Robert K. (November 9, 2004). "Scripted program; Dan Decker's Screenwriters Group gives aspiring writers a creative path to follow". Chicago Tribune.
  4. ^ Deadline Team, The. "R.I.P. Syd Field". Deadline. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  5. ^ Newspapers, Tribune (November 20, 2013). "Notable deaths elsewhere". The Baltimore Sun.