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Syd Field, author of the seminal book 'Screenplay,' dead at 77

Syd Field, author of one of the most essential guides to screenwriting, has died at age 77. According to his website, Field passed away at home in Beverly Hills on Sunday.

Originally published in 1979, "Screenplay" quickly became a bestselling staple of the trade. It was updated many times, most recently in 2005, and has been translated into 23 languages.

He was a popular speaker and held workshops and seminars for writers hoping to grasp Hollywood's magic formula. Writers who learned from Field -- including Tina Fey, John Singleton, and Frank Darabont -- worked in all genres of film and television.

His lessons had become such a standard that Judd Apatow once said, “What I learned in Syd Field’s class was here’s how 'Annie Hall' works, and here’s how 'Witness' works, and then I begin to think, ‘OK now how would I do it differently than that?’" -- something Field appreciated, posting it on his own website. 

Field was born Dec. 19, 1935, in Hollywood and attended UC Berkeley, where he received a degree in English literature in 1960. He began his career in a production studio's shipping department and went on to work as an international script consultant and lecturer at USC and the American Film Institute.

For all his influence, Field was not a widely produced screenwriter. He has three writing credits in the Internet Movie Database: writing three episodes of the 1960s television show "Men in Crisis," the 1967 Las Vegas documentary "Spree" and the story concept behind the 2002 short "Mnemosyne."

As an author of books, however, Field was a bestseller. In all, he published eight books, all focused on Hollywood. In addition to his seminal "Screenplay," his books included "Selling a Screenplay," "Going to the Movies," and "The Screenwriter's Workbook."  

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 carolyn.kellogg@latimes.com

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