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For eons, storytellers have woven tales of myth and history. From sitting around campfires came African griots, classic Greek theater, roving troubadours, bards, and more… until the dawn of the 20th century, when a new kind of narrative sharing emerged — Visual Storytelling — the Movies!

Early narrative filmmakers built their story-action so it peaked every 10 minutes or so, the length of time it took a single reel of celluloid to run through a projector.

At first, there were only one- and two-reelers, because producers and theater owners didn’t believe an audience would sit through a longer movie, especially before the invention of “talkies” (synched-sound).

But around the globe, audiences adored movies. By the middle of the 20th century, most feature films had running times of 80-90 minutes, which meant movies were eight-reels long.

These eight-reels were the only standard, so filmmakers had to craft stories that dramatically played across eight reels. Some of these stories are legendary, most weren’t.

For decades, screenwriting was mostly an instinctive, imitation-driven business… until the end of the 1970s, when everything changed:

Syd Field’s bestseller Screenplay was released in 1979.

This first-of-its-kind, How-to Guide introduced a three-act structure defined by Plot Points (a term coined by Field): the Paradigm, which revolutionized the art of screenwriting, offering practical tools to master storytelling specifically for film and television. 

Field’s methods are grounded in his analysis of thousands of screenplays and produced films, but also deep psychological and spiritual insight. The Paradigm is strong, but also flexible, allowing individual writers – and also directors, producers, editors and studio executives – to understand how emotionally satisfying stories can be consciously structured, and tailored across cultures and through time.

“Form, not formula,” is one of Field’s most potently democratizing contributions to filmmaking. All of this means that Syd Field’s work is evergreen. It’s as relevant now as it was in 1979, and will continue to be in 2079, 2179 and beyond.

If you share Syd Field’s – and our – vision for human growth through storytelling in all formats, please support our efforts.

Your tax-deductible donation will help: The filming of critical interviews, research, and acquisitions of archival materials.


Our documentary feature What’s the Story? will explore how Syd Field – an actor, producer, writer and teacher – became “the guru of all screenwriters” (CNN). How he influenced award-winning filmmakers, such as Alfonso Cuaron, Tina Fey, Judd Apatow, Callie Khouri, John Singleton and James Cameron.  Screenplay became the bible for everyone dreaming of writing a film script, and many Hollywood development professionals.

“… a virtual must for screenwriters.” – Lynda Obst, Producer – Sleepless in Seattle, Interstellar

“I did a million drafts [of Mean Girls], and I did the thing everybody does: I read Syd Field and I used my index cards.”
– Tina Fey, Writer/Producer – Girls5Eva, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock, SNL

Syd Field also toured internationally, giving lectures and seminars far beyond Hollywood. Shepherding the global filmmaking community, he enabled diverse voices to craft authentic films, reflecting their unique cultural heritages.

“For a writer, the most important thing is to put things on paper. [Field] helped you put things on paper.”
– Alfonso Cuarón, Writer/Director – Roma, Y Tu Mamá También, Gravity

Alongside studio films and independent features, Field’s story-structure technique continues to work for television, and all streaming media. We’ll unfold Field’s life and career using archival footage and onscreen interviews with writers, filmmakers and students from around the world; all of whom will affirm Field’s singular contribution to the art of visual storytelling.

What’s the Story? will celebrate Syd Field’s ongoing legacy: A well-told story has the power to change us. To show us who we are. And often, who we truly hope to be.”

If you share Syd Field’s – and our – vision for human growth through storytelling in all formats, please support our efforts.

Your tax-deductible donation will help: The filming of critical interviews, research, and acquisitions of archival materials.