Quotes from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

Syd Field ·  309 pages

Rating: (4.5K votes)


“Confusion is the first step toward clarity”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“Action is character. What a person does is what he is, not what he says.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“But over the years, I've learned not to believe too much in luck or accidents; T think everything happens for a reason. There's something to be learned from every moment, every experience we encounter during the brief time we spend on this planet. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it what you will; it really doesn't matter.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“The writer's job is to write the screenplay and keep the reader turning pages, not to determine how a scene or sequence should be filmed. You don't have to tell the director and cinematographer and film editor how to do their jobs. Your job is to write the screenplay, to give them enough visual information so they can bring those words on the page into life, in full 'sound and fury,' revealing strong visual and dramatic action, with clarity, insight, and emotion.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“During the writing process you're going to discover things about yourself you never knew. For example, if you're writing about something that happened to you, you may re-experience some old feelings and emotions. You may get 'wacky' and irritable and live each day as if you were on an emotional roller coaster. Don't worry. Just keep writing.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting



“Joseph Campbell reflects in The Power of Myth that in mythic terms, the first part of any journey of initiation must deal with the death of the old self and the resurrection of the new. Campbell says that the hero, or heroic figure, 'moves not into outer space but into inward space, to the place from which all being comes, into the consciousness that is the source of all things, the kingdom of heaven within. The images are outward, but their reflection is inward.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“What's great about writing a screenplay is that the subtext of the scene, what is not said, can sometimes be more important that what is said. Again, dialogue serves two basic functions in the scene: Either it moves the story forward or it reveals information about the character.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“In The Shawshank Redemption, there's a short scene between Andy and Red that reveals the difference in their points of view. After almost twenty years in Shawshank Prison, Red is cynical because, in his eyes, the concept of hope is simply a four-letter word. His spirit has been so crushed by the prison system that he angrily declares to Andy, 'Hope is a dangerous thing. Drives a man insane. It's got no place here. Better get used to the idea.' And it is Red's emotional journey that leads him to the understanding that 'hope is a good thing.' The film ends on a note of hope, with Red breaking his parole and riding the bus to meet Andy in Mexico: 'I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“Having a character change during the course of the screenplay is not a requirement if it doesn't fit your character. But transformation, change, seems to be an essential aspect of our humanity, especially at this time in our culture. I think we're all a little like Melvin (Jack Nicholson) in As Good as it Gets. Melvin may be complex and fastidious as a person, but his dramatic need is expressed toward the end of the film when he says, 'When I'm with you I want to be a better person.' I think we all want that. Change, transformation, is a constant of life, and if you can impel some kind of emotional change within your character, it creates an arc of behavior and adds another dimension to who he/she is.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“The Chinese say that "the longest journey begins with the first step", and in many philosophical systems "endings and beginnings" are connected; as in the concept of yin and yang, two concentric circles joined together, forever united, forever opposed. If you can find a way to illustrate this in your screenplay, it is to your advantage.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting



“«Τίποτα στον κόσμο δεν αξίζει όσο η επιμονή. Ούτε το ταλέντο: παντού βλέπετε αποτυχημένους ταλαντούχους.
Ούτε και η ιδιοφυία: οι ιδιοφυίες που δεν τις αναγνώρισαν είναι κοινός τόπος.
Ούτε η μόρφωση: ο κόσμος είναι γεμάτος παραπεταμένους μορφωμένους.
Μόνο η επιμονή κι η αποφασιστικότητα είναι παντοδύναμες».”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“All drama is conflict. Without conflict, you have no action; without action, you have no character; without character, you have no story; and without story, you have no screenplay.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“Many times you may feel the urge to sit down and start writing a screenplay but you don't really know what to write about. So you go looking for a subject. Just know that when you're looking for your subject, your subject is really looking for you. You'll find it someplace, at some time, probably when you're least expecting it. It will be yours to follow through on or not, as you choose.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“By doing research - whether in written sources such as books, magazines, or newspapers or through personal interviews - you acquire information. The information you collect allows you to operate from the position of choice, confidence, and responsibility. You can choose to use some, or all, or none of the material you've gathered; that's your choice, dictated by the terms of the story. Not using it because you don't have it offers you no choice at all, and will always work against you and your story.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“Hegel, the great eighteenth-century German philosopher, maintained that the essence of tragedy derives not from one character being right and the other being wrong, or from the conflict of good versus evil, but from a conflict in which both characters are right, and thus the tragedy is one of "right against right," being carried to its logical conclusion.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting



“When you're in the paradigm, you can't see the paradigm.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“Life consists in action,' Aristotle said, 'and its end is a mode of action, not a quality.' The same with Hamlet, or Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, or Neo in The Matrix: characters who have overcome their doubts and fears, then pushed them aside and acted. It is this action that elevates them into the realm of 'heroic figures.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“Sometimes incidents and events in our lives bring out the best in us, or the worst. Sometimes we recover from these events and sometimes we don't - but they always impact us. At other times how we act and react, or deal with a particular situation, reveals our "true" nature and tells us who we really are.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


“There is only now, today, this present moment, this point in time. Waiting for 'someday' is, like striving for perfection, really just an excuse. 'Someday' is a concept that, to quote my mentor, Jean Renoir 'exists only in the mind, not in reality.”
― Syd Field, quote from Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting


About the author

Syd Field
Born place: in Hollywood, California, The United States
Born date December 19, 1935
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