The founding father of modern screenwriting theory, my colleague Syd Field, passed away a couple of days ago, leaving a gap that can never be filled. I was in London last weekend, participating in a “Screenwriters Summit” with colleagues Linda Seger, John Truby and Michael Hauge, when we got the news, hours after we had finished. Syd, our peerless leader, was supposed to be there with us but obviously couldn’t because of his illness.
I only got to know Syd a little in recent years, either meeting him in airport waiting areas as we were going off to various screenwriting events, or appearing with him in a couple of Screenwriters Summits. But I saw him speak about his ground-breaking approach to story structure back in the ’80s when he gave a presentation at Disney Feature Animation. It was a jaw-dropping revelation; a simple, clear analysis of the natural and necessary turning points in any well-told story. I was working out my own theory of story structure at the time and though I tried hard to be skeptical of Syd’s approach, I couldn’t. It just made sense. It still does.
I could sense even then that Syd Field was a unique character, combining an easy-going, reassuring manner with a thread of something more profound. You could just tell this was a highly evolved, spiritually aware guy. I didn’t find out until much later that Syd’s meditation practice and deep exploration of Eastern philosophy were the sources of his positive vibe.
Lots of words come to mind as I think of Syd. Kind. Open. Inspiring. Generous. Encouraging. With every breath he sent the message, rare in Hollywood, that “You can do it.” I’ll miss him, as will thousands who were touched by him. There will never be another. So long, Syd. Good show.