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Please read this before you buy the book
am 17. August 1999
I am writing a follow-up to my previous review because I think your customers need to know something about this author.
In one section of this book, Field discusses the necessity for "ten pages and a whammy." Meaning, every ten pages in your script you need to have a "whammy," defined in the book as violent occurence such as an explosion, car chase, etc. that will excite the audience.
Anyhow, a friend of Field's once said to him, When you're writing a script, ten pages and a whammy. And then Field says to us, when you're writing a script, ten pages and a whammy. Don't let ten pages get past you without making a whammy happen.
What the hell is he talking about? Seriously, folks...
I recommend this book for one thing and one thing only: read it to learn how NOT to write a screenplay. Eight years ago, when I first picked up this book -- and it was my first book on screenwriting -- I was thrilled, surprised, utterly charmed. But then I realized that Field had designed a system that is tepid and forumulaic to the worst extreme.
Fine. Read the book. Ignore completely all of the other authors whose efforts discuss in far more detail aspects of character development, myth, storyline, etc.
One more example, and then I'm done.
Field slobbers over the film, Chinatown, written by Robert Towne. Granted, the film is a wonderfully written masterpiece, but Field reduces its entire meaning to WHICH PAGE THE PLOT POINT IS ON.
In fact, in one section he discusses how he's told his seminar students for years that the plot point for Chinatown happened on page 27, when finally, one of his "enterprising" students pointed out that the plot point did, in fact, happen on page 33, and that Field contested it, but later realized that the student was right. And then he writes, in a kind of amazement, Here I was, telling them for years that the wrong plot point was the plot point!
But you see, he's missed the point entirely!
One more thing you might want to consider: Field claims, I believe, that he has "worked on films" for years. I have never seen any film whose credits included Syd Field. If you ask me, the old joke comes in handy: "Those who can't do teach." When you get past all of the Final Draft videotape and seminar stuff, you've found an author who has been doing very little writing over the years and has been doing a lot of moneymaking: he makes money on those people who go to seminars.