I normally don’t comment when an author of an academic nature dies, as that person might be noteworthy solely to me and a group of that individual’s followers, but I was deeply saddened to learn that Syd Field, who is pictured below, passed away last year at age 77. Anyone who has attended a creative writing workshop series of mine will have been asked to pick up a copy of SCREENPLAY, THE FOUNDATIONS OF SCREENWRITING by Mr. Field, as I have long considered this book and SCREENWRITING by Irwin Blacker as marvelous resource material to assist writers at developing an understanding of pacing.
At first pass it might be easy to ask what writing a screenplay has to do with learning pacing, and the answer is “everything.” Most people new to writing are unaware that a page of screenplay normally equates to one minute of stage or air time. When I have asked in my workshops how many pages are written for a two-hour movie, I generally hear from 600 to 1,000 pages–and not the more miniscule reality of 120. I always explain to my group that this goes to show just how important a director is to a play or a movie, as this person has to set up the scenes based on what is little more than a snapshot of information provided by the screenwriter. And directors require (read “demand”) screenplays at this minimalist level, so please don’t consider revolutionizing the industry by sending David Cameron a 1,500-page opus in an attempt to make his job easier.
I strongly urge anyone who is serious about writing to pick up a copy of Mr. Fields’s book, SCREENPLAY. I continue to keep it handy for reference, and the dogeared condition of the pages are are clear testimony to how often throughout the years I’ve sought his wisdom. RIP, Mr. Field. You made a tremendous contribution to arts and letters that will endure forever.