Field's most important contribution has been his articulation of the ideal "three act structure". In this structure, a film must begin with about half an hour of 'setup' information before the protagonist experiences a 'turning point' that gives him or her a goal that must be achieved. Approximately half the movie's running time must then be taken up with the protagonist's struggle to achieve his or her goal: this is the 'Confrontation' period. Field also refers, sometimes, to the 'Midpoint', a more subtle turning point that should happen in the middle (approximately at page 60 of a written screenplay) of the Confrontation, which is often an apparently devastating reversal of the protagonist's fortune. The final quarter of the film depicts a climactic struggle by the protagonist to finally achieve (or not achieve) his or her goal and the aftermath of this struggle.
In 1999 the German media scientist, movie maker and game developer Dr. Michael Bhatty expanded the Field-paradigm in the media science thesis (Interaktives Story Telling, 1999) for narrative role-playing and computer games, combining it with Christopher Vogler's Hero's Journey and defining the chaos paradigm.
While Field's structures have helped many screenwriters to tailor their ideas to the Hollywood model, his rigorous demands (sometimes stipulating that the first turning point must happen in exactly the 27th minute of the film) have been accused of stifling innovation and experimentation, and it is said that many studio executives have now become reluctant to consider a screenplay that does not perfectly match the three-act structure. Field himself, however, does not consider his guidelines for screenplay structure (or his 'paradigm') to be so rigid.
In addition to his occasional workshops, Syd Field currently teaches screenwriting at the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California
Field is also included in the screenwriting software program Final Draft under the section "Ask the Expert" which gives help on writing screenplays.
In Jan 2007, Field began a series of interview webcasts with screenwriters called Screenplay Series with Syd Field. The project will attempt to give a voice to the generally silent, creative force behind today's films - the screenwriters. The series will focus on writers and films whose work is current, relevant and challenging. Interviews will cover a broad range of topics surrounding a particular film & the specific writer's career. The event will take place via: