James Hazeldine


HND Creative Media Production

Does the Memento conform to Syd Fields structure?

1 Contents

Pg 3. Abstract

Pg 4. Introduction

Pg 5. Review

Pg 6-8. Research

Pg 9. Conclusion

Pg 10. Appendices

Pg 11. References

Pg 12. Bibliography

2 Abstract

Syd Field wrote his book in 1979, since then there have been several revisions of the book however they all still carry the same message. The first edition of his book introduced a three act structure that people should follow when writing their and that most films follow the structure. Since then he has updated this structure to include plot points included in the structure that help to add a twist to the plot. This study looks into the Memento (2001), its non-linear structure and discusses whether or not the film conforms to Syd Fields structure. It also looks into what other have said about the structure of Memento and their views on whether the film follows Syd Fields three act structure. The study found that the film, although not in chronological order does have the three acts and two plot points presented by


3 Introduction

This long essay is being written to look into the of Christopher

Nolan's Memento (2001) to find if it conforms to the three act narrative structure presented by Syd Field in his book Screenplay (1979). This is being researched and looked into due to the film being shown in a non-linear fashion therefore making it potentially confusing to viewers who are used to films that are linear and follow Syd

Field's structure, it will allow me to settle the argument that people have had about if the film follows the structure and will also allow me to find out that if the film does not follow the structure does that mean that the three act structure is not crucial to writing a fantastic screenplay. I will be conducting my research mainly through the methodology Practice Research as to find the structure I will be reading Syd Field's screenplay (1979) and analysing the plot of Memento (2001) as well as the hidden linear edit of Memento on the DVD. I will then attempt to find interviews with the film makers on the plot of the film and hope to find them discussing Field's structure to see what they have to say about it, I will also be looking to see if Field has written or said anything about the film to find his perspective on it.

4 Literature Review

Looking at the structure of the plot for Memento, other people have created charts showing the order of the scenes, the black and white scenes are numbered 1-22 and the colour scenes are lettered A-V. The black and white scenes are shown in order from 1-22 where as the colour scenes are shown backwards from V-A with black and white scene 22 morphing into colour scene A (at the ending of the film) see appendix

B for an image of the chart further highlighting the structure of the scenes, as well as where key moments of the film take place. The scenes being ordered this way was first put forward by Andy Klein writing for Salon magazine "Credits, 1, V, 2, U, 3, T, 4,

S, 5, R, 6, Q … all the way to 20, C, 21, B, and, finally, a scene I’m going to call

22/A" (Klein, A, 2001).

5 Research

Beginning with Syd Fields book Screenplay (1979), I will be looking at his Narrative

Structure and how he believes a screenplay should be written. In his book, he discusses his paradigm and says that most successful films follow this structure. The structure is split up into three acts, he calls these the Setup, Confrontation and

Resolution (see Appendix A).

Discussing Act 1, Field says the following:

“The screenwriter set’s up the story, establishes , launches the dramatic premise (what the story is about) illustrates the situation (the circumstances surrounding the ), and creates the relationships between the main character and the other characters who inhabit the landscape of his or her world.” (Field, S.

2005, p23)

Field suggests that as a writer you have “10 minutes to establish this” (Field, S.

2005) as within those first 10 minutes of a film a viewer will subconsciously decide if they like the film or not. Talking about the average Hollywood film, Field says that they are all around 2 hours in length, or 120 minutes, he says that this is around 120 pages of script, so a minute of film per page of script. During Act one comes the first plot point, this, according to Field should come in between pages 20 and 30. The

Paradigm has two plot points that according to Field “the plot point is any incident, episode or event that hooks into the action and spins it around in another direction”.

(Field, S. 2005, p143) According to Field plot points are an imperative part of the writing process, he says “you need to know only four things to structure your story

6 line: the ending, the beginning and plot points I and II” (Field, S. 2005, p143) Field states that the plot point at the end of Act 1 is used to propel the story into Act 2, it also changes the direction of the film and starts something or asks something that needs to be resolved by the end of the film.

Moving onto Act 2, Field calls this Act the Confrontation. Act 2, according to Field takes up the second and third quarter of the film (Act 1 takes up the first quarter and act 3 takes up the fourth). Field states “During the second act the main character encounters obstacle after obstacle that keeps him/her from achieving his/her dramatic need” (Field, S, 2005, p25) Act 2 will follow the through his or her journey and the will see them overcome the obstacles to achieve their dramatic need. Field states that "If you know your characters dramatic need, you can create obstacles to it and then your story becomes your character, overcoming obstacle after obstacle to achieve his/her dramatic need" (Field, S, 2005, p25). The whole premise for Act 2 in Fields structure is for something to get in the way of, or stop the protagonist fulfilling their goals, this then allows for a better payoff with a greater feeling of achievement for the audience when the protagonist finally does what they set out to do. The plot point in Act 2, the second plot point overall, is used in the same way as the first plot point, it is to keep the story anchored down but also to spin the plot in another direction, this can add more intrigue to the plot and also to keep the momentum of the film moving forwards.

Finally we discuss Act 3 in Syd Fields paradigm, according to Field act 3 is the resolution, he says that "I think it's important to remember that resolution does not mean ending; resolution means solution" (Field, S, 2005, p26). Does the main

7 character survive the events of the film? Do they win or lose? These are the questions that become answered during act 3, Field then states that "Act III is that unit of action that resolves the story. It is not the ending: the ending is that specific scene or shot or sequence that ends the script" (Field, S, 2005. p26)

Now looking at the film Memento. Memento is a 2000 neo-noir psychological directed by Christopher Nolan. Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a man who suffers from a form of amnesia, as he tries to find and kill the man who raped and murdered his wife. The film is shown as two sequences coinciding with each other, colour scenes that are shown backwards and black and white scenes that are shown forwards. These sequences are then interspersed which many people find confusing, this was deliberate by the film makers who wanted to hide the same information from the audience as was hidden from the protagonist, Nolan states that ”If you tell the story backwards, the audience is denied the knowledge

Leonard is denied,” (Entertainment Weekly, 2001) The black and white and the colour sequences meet at the end of the film completing the narrative and showing how Leonard came to make the decisions he makes later in the narrative (although it has already been shown due to the colour scenes being shown backwards).

8 Findings

The finding area of this essay will be included in an attached video essay on my wordpress blog at jhazeldine22496.wordpress.com.

9 Conclusion

To conclude my essay, after looking through my research into Syd Field's narrative structure and watch the film Memento (2001) I feel that the film does indeed follow

Syd Fields structure.

The reason I believe this is that Syd Field himself says in his book that all films have a "beginning, middle and an end, not necessarily in that order" (Field, S, 2005, p20).

Field achknowledges that the structure doesn't have to be in chronological order and after viewing the linear and non-linear edit of Memento (2001) I feel that both edits follow the structure but that the non-linear edit is a far better film. Through hiding the same things from the audience that he hid from the protagonist, Nolan was able to create a film that is at first confusing and difficult to understand with several twists, however when viewing it again the film makes you as the audience feel how the protagonist Lenny feels. I believe that the structure of the film is far better when not in chronological order and that this is the reason so many people enjoy the film.

Through my research I know that some people did not enjoy the film as they felt it was confusing, although people did enjoy it when they understood the structure of the film and watched it again. For me the film has a clear beginning middle and end, and although these are not in chronological order the film does follow Syd Fields narrative structure as it also has plot points 1 and 2 in act 1 and 2 respectively.

10 Appendices

(Appendix A - sourced from: http://www.sydfield.com/paradigm.pdf)

(Appendix B - sourced from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Memento_Timeline.png)

11 References

Field, S (2005). Screenplay. 4th ed. New York: Bantam Dell. p23.

Field, S (2005). Screenplay. 4th ed. New York: Bantam Dell. p143.

Field, S (2005). Screenplay. 4th ed. New York: Bantam Dell. p143.

Field, S (2005). Screenplay. 4th ed. New York: Bantam Dell. P25.

Field, S (2005). Screenplay. 4th ed. New York: Bantam Dell. P25.

Field, S (2005). Screenplay. 4th ed. New York: Bantam Dell. P26.

Field, S (2005). Screenplay. 4th ed. New York: Bantam Dell. P26.

Fierman, D. (2001). ''Memento'' takes film noir in a new direction. Available: http://www.ew.com/article/2001/03/30/memento-takes-film-noir-new-direction. Last accessed 29th April 2016.

Klein, A. (2001). Everything you wanted to know about “Memento”. Available: http://www.salon.com/2001/06/28/memento_analysis/. Last accessed 29th April


12 Bibliography http://www.scriptmag.com/features/structure-and-breaking-in-an-interview-with-syd- field http://sydfield.com/interviews/qa-with-syd-field/ http://sydfield.com/writers-tools/the-paradigm-worksheet/ https://www.writersstore.com/interview-with-syd-field/ http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/interview-with-screenwriting-guru-syd-field-part-

1.html http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/interview-with-screenwriting-guru-syd-field-part-

2.html http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/interview-with-screenwriting-guru-syd-field-part-

3.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screenplay_(book) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syd_Field