Screenwriting guru: Bad screenplay = bad movie


Posted at Mar 12 2009 01:50 AM | Updated as of Mar 16 2009 06:09 PM

Aspiring screenwriters in the country are expected to sign up for the Screenwriting Masterclass of international screenwriting guru Syd Field over the weekend.

Field is acclaimed as the “leading authority of screenwriting” after he released the best-selling books Screenplay, The Screenwriter’s Workbook, and The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver, which are being used in more than 395 colleges and universities. His books have been translated into 19 languages.

His prominent students include John Singleton (Poetic Justice), Randi Mayem Singer (Mrs. Doubtfire), and Laura Esquivel (Like Water For Chocalate).

The screenwriting guru gave Mornings@ANC his reaction to being called a guru, saying “as long as I don’t believe it, I’m fine.”

He explained that in India, the word gu means dark while ru is light. He then said that a guru takes one from the “darkness of ignorance to the light of illumination.”

Field also expects to be enlightened in the seminar as he said it will involve an exchange of ideas between him and the participants on culture, language and where the Philippines film industry is in terms of screenwriting.

He said that “anyone interested in making a film” is welcome to join the masterclass, noting that other film industry players can take part in the seminar whether one is an actor, director, producer, development executive, film editor or sound technician.

Screenplay as foundation

“A screenplay is the foundation of a movie. If it’s not there, like in any building, it’s gonna weaken and crumble” he told

He also said on ANC’s morning show that the “screenplay is very unique in terms of distinction. It is a story with pictures.”

Unfortunately, Field said the screenplay is “the weakest link” because “people think they can just take a camera and go out and shoot. But there's a real form to it.”

“People kind of disregard the writer…and people write screenplays in order to direct,” he added.

With this reality, Field said he hopes to explore the art and craft of screenwriting in order to “shape, sharpen and hone the Philippine screenplay” given the presence of “great talent and potential” in the country.

Screenplays that sell

Aside from teaching how to make a good screenplay, Field is also set to talk about how to make screenplays that sell.

The screenwriting guru described a saleable movie as one that “involves the emotions of the audience, and the audience responds to the storyline.”

Field also noted that a screenplay moves the story forward.

A good screenwriter’s job is to “keep the reader turning pages, engage the reader in an emotional situation that we can relate to,” he said.

Field added that such human emotion should “transcend language, culture, philosophy and color.”

When asked by if a good screenplay automatically translates into a good movie, Field answered a fervent “no.”

Bad screenplay, bad movie

But he stressed that “you can never make a good movie out of a bad screenplay.”

He mentioned factors that could cause a good screenplay to be made into a bad movie, including the unpreparedness of the market, unavailability of actors, and high-priced budgets.

He said “these variables come into play now that film is so expensive.”

He even mentioned the ongoing changes in films in the U.S., citing the film’s evolution and revolution due to digital technology.

Field noted that while the classic film Casablanca said everything in dialogue, movies like Slumdog Millionaire, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum said the same spoken information in Casablanca visually. 

Syd Field’s Screenwriting Masterclass will be held on March 14 to 15 at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Conference Center in Makati City.

(For tickets, you can get them online at or or call thinkCreative Productions at 0919-836-9559. Student rate is P5,500; special rate for non-students is P9,500.)