The screenwriting guide Syd Field was a screenwriter and producer, script consultant for major studios, author, and teacher. He was generous in sharing what he knew about scriptwriting; for many aspiring screenwriters, he has been their first guide to the art of crafting a screenplay.
An Experienced Guide
Syd Field passed away in 2013, so he won’t be personally engaging with aspiring screenwriters anymore. But his books and the rest of his legacy will continue to guide them. Syd Field was mentored by Jean Renoir, so he himself experienced the value of a knowledgeable guide to the art of screenwriting.
Explaining the Three-Act Structure
Field was best known for explaining the three-act structure of films, starting with his book, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting,” first published in 1979 and described as the “manual/bible of scriptwriting technique.”
His first book made such an impact because he was the first to describe the three-act structure common to most screenplays.
According to Field, the first act, about one quarter of the movie, sets up the conflict that moves the protagonist into the second act, generally half the movie’s time, where he/she tries to achieve a goal. In the final quarter of the movie, the third act contains the final struggle wherein the protagonist either achieves the goal or fails.
Best Reference Source
Even though Syd Field wrote other best-selling books, his first is still regarded as the screenwriting “bible” that sets the standard for teaching the art of successful screenwriting. The classic book contains guidelines that help screenwriters refine their craft, irrespective of whether they are beginners or practiced writers. It also contains insights, information about collaboration and marketing, and other helpful information.
From the original concept and creating the characters from the first scene to the end, readers will be better off after they have become disciples of Syd Field. Many screenwriters have relied on his follow-ups and new material as the reference sources to improve their work and learn about the industry.
A Teacher at USC
Despite his busy career, Syd Field made time to personally connect with film students as a lecturer at USC’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Jean Renoir’s student didn’t forget the gratitude he felt towards the person who as a teacher (he once said in an interview) changed his life.
For aspiring screenwriters, Syd Field is a good place to start learning how to become successful. His guidance comes from an expert who succeeded in everything he did related to his profession and the art of screenwriting and film making.
Completing a book typically requires a lot of rewrites, so what is the value of the first draft? The first draft can be the most important draft, depending on the final product. The National Novel Writing Month, after all, was started to get people to write at least 50,000 words.
Since 2006, more than 470 books have been written during this month that were later published with traditional publishers, and more than 100 books were self-published. Some books written in this period have reached the New York Times Best Seller List.
How the First Draft Benefits the Completed Product
The Writer Writes It Down
This is the first step of every effort. In the writing of the draft, the creative process unleashes the characters that will live in the story and may even develop a life of their own that was unplanned at the start.
The Draft Enlightens the Writer about What Works
It is where the writer tells the story but after completion may find it is imbalanced in some way. Imbalance can reveal, for instance, that some of the characters do not belong in the story, or that the story is missing a character, or a character needs to become more dominant.
In the writing, the writer may decide to change the intended story line or the point of view, and add more or less background information. To keep the writing going and creative juices flowing, it is better to make notes about changes and keep moving forward to tell more of the story.
In the First Draft, the Writer Decides the Book’s Genre
The writer may decide the story is one genre, but in writing this draft may decide to change it. It is an explorative venture that enriches the process of refining the final product.
After the First Draft
In completing the first draft the writer becomes an author, even if not a published one. An important milestone is passed en route to the final product. A completed first draft means it is not a false start, even though this draft is still an imperfect product.
The potential to be a writer has been realized; the story has been told. Next, the first draft needs to be refined through the editing process and however many rewrites and content discarding that involves.
After completing the draft, the writer should take time off before coming back to edit to make this process more effective. Yes, some writers edit during the first draft, but for other writers editing dampens the creative process.
A business plan is a written description of a company’s present and future. It lays out what the business is, what its chief executive plans to do and how he/she plans to accomplish it. The strategic document presents a roadmap for success. It projects three to five years ahead and outlines the intended path for revenue growth in that period.
The business plan reveals the current position and capacity of the business, and then how it plans to expand its revenue base, capacity, and associated factors between the present and the projected future.
How to Make the Business Stand Out in the Business Plan
What makes the business unique? Presenting this effectively will help you differentiate your business from its competitors and show that you understand the value of the business to the market or markets it is targeting.
Essential Elements of the Business Plan
The Executive Summary
Readers see the executive summary first, and it summarizes the business plan. In one or two pages, you emphasize the positive and play down the negative (when pitching to investors nor creditors). It can include vision and goals.
It should include a brief presentation of the main elements of your business plan:
Description of the Business
The business description provides information about the business, what differentiates it from others, and the market or markets the business serves or intends to serve.
Every business is structured differently. Discover the optimal organizational structure for the type of business and compare how yours stacks up against that model. Discuss the pros and cons.
Services or Products
What does the business offer? How does it benefit its current and potential customers? What is the product lifecycle of the products, if any? These are some of the important elements to include in this section.
Here research about the business industry, markets, and competitors is presented. Thorough research is needed to show you understand the market and the value of the company’s services or products.
Marketing and Sales
How does the business plan to market itself? What is the sales strategy? How many sales people does it have and what are their specialties and experience? These are some of the elements you need to include in this section.
If the business is seeking funding, include the necessary information investors want.
If funding is needed, providing financial projections to back up the funding request is essential. Find out what information you need to include in the financial projections for the business.
An appendix is not an essential part of a business plan, but it is a useful section for including specific backup documents, such as resumes.
The business plan functions as a roadmap for the business and as a pitch for funding from investors. The amount of information you include in each section will depend on its intended readers.
The Santa Fe-based Institute of American Indian Arts (“IAIA”) provides a Native American art and culture-centric curriculum. Since 2012, the IAIA has offered a MFA in creative writing. In 2014, IAIA established a bi-annual writers’ festival; and in 2017, it awarded its first Sherman Alexie Scholarship of $7,500 per semester.
A Unique Institution
IAIA is the only multi-tribal higher education institution in the country, originally established in 1962 as an art-focused high school. This unique institution is dedicated to the study, creative application, contemporary expression, and preservation of Native American culture and art. Indigenous students from the U.S, Canada and other countries benefit from what the Institute has to offer.
IAIA also offers Associate and Bachelor degrees in Indigenous liberal studies, creative writing, the cinematic arts and technology, studio arts, and museum studies. The MFA program in creative writing is a low-residency program (requiring five residencies) that also provides off-campus online education.
MFA in Creative Writing
The MFA in creative writing program allows writers to work on their craft and learn more about the process of getting published and associated issues. Sherman Alexie teaches for the program, and do two of its first graduates, Terese Marie Mailhot and Tommy Orange. Mailhot and Orange are also the authors of the critically acclaimed “Heart Berries,” a memoir, and novel “There There,” respectively.
First Sherman Alexie Scholarship Recipient
The Sherman Alexie Scholarship’s first recipient, Jamie Natonabah, a Diné, is an alumnus of the IAIA, whose favored medium is poetry. She already has a distinguished resume. She is a winner of the New Mexico Slam Poetry Competition. “Red Ink: An International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts & Humanities” has published her work. She has also contributed to “Bone Light” and “Fourth World Rising,” two of IAIA’s literary anthologies.
Chelsea Hicks Bryan, an Osage, and Grace Randolph, a Wampanoag, were selected as runner-up and third-place recipients of the award, respectively. The MFA program provided more than $200,000 in scholarship money in 2017, including the Alexie scholarship.
Applicants for the annually awarded scholarship must belong to a Native American tribe or First Nation and submit a work sample. The deadline for the 2018 award was February 15.
The IAIA provides terrific Associate, BA, and MFA programs for Indigenous writers to help them improve and refine their skills. Since the 1970s, Native American writers have increasingly published their work for an English-reading audience. The IAIA wants to build on that foundation and nurture more talent by offering dedicated educational programs. However, since its expertise is also open to non-American writers, Indigenous writers who may not have such educational opportunities in their home countries should take advantage of IAIA opportunities.