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Writing Short Films: Structure and Content for Screenwriters

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Writing Short Films is one of the bestselling university text books on writing short film screenplays. This updated and revised edition includes several new chapters.


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Writing Short Films is one of the bestselling university text books on writing short film screenplays. This updated and revised edition includes several new chapters.

30 review for Writing Short Films: Structure and Content for Screenwriters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sunrise

    Although not all that entertaining to read, Cowgill does breakdown narrative structure well, and her re-iterations ought to help clarify for first time 'story tellers.' Her references are dated, but are also great examples worth further study. Although not all that entertaining to read, Cowgill does breakdown narrative structure well, and her re-iterations ought to help clarify for first time 'story tellers.' Her references are dated, but are also great examples worth further study.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Abdullah H.

    It was what I expected: not a let down. First year students at Arizona State University are very privileged to be using this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeweleye

    Good information for someone who wants to understand the structure and process of writing a screenplay. Although the title indicates it's for short films, any aspiring screenwriter would benefit. I had a bit of a hard time getting through it, to be honest. The examples helped a lot. One reviewer complained that she used the same short films over and over for different aspects of writing, but I found it helpful to not have to revisit a new film every time she needed an example. I also enjoyed wat Good information for someone who wants to understand the structure and process of writing a screenplay. Although the title indicates it's for short films, any aspiring screenwriter would benefit. I had a bit of a hard time getting through it, to be honest. The examples helped a lot. One reviewer complained that she used the same short films over and over for different aspects of writing, but I found it helpful to not have to revisit a new film every time she needed an example. I also enjoyed watching some of the short films she referenced, e.g., "Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life," and hope to watch others as well.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kassie

    Very good instructional material. Only fault would be that I wish she would have used more examples instead of returning to the same one to illustrate her various points.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    When I was in college, I loved book-buying time. I loved going into the bookstore at the student union and finding what books were required for my upcoming classes, but I also loved browsing the shelves to see what books were being used in other classes. I remember that one semester in graduate school I found the shooting script for Fargo, and I admit that I bought it, hoping the professor had printed extra copies. Well now that my son is in college, I returned to my browsing habits when we went When I was in college, I loved book-buying time. I loved going into the bookstore at the student union and finding what books were required for my upcoming classes, but I also loved browsing the shelves to see what books were being used in other classes. I remember that one semester in graduate school I found the shooting script for Fargo, and I admit that I bought it, hoping the professor had printed extra copies. Well now that my son is in college, I returned to my browsing habits when we went to get his books. I’m happy to report that I didn’t buy anyone else’s books, but I did take a couple of pictures of books for a screenwriting class. One of those books was Linda J. Cowgill’s 2nd edition of Writing Short Films. I put it on my Christmas list for 2019, and now that work has slowed down due to the coronavirus outbreak, I have gotten around to reading it. This is an excellent book. It is relatively short (under 200 pages of instructional text), and it breaks everything down into manageable chunks, so you have plenty of breaks to stop and process what has been presented. It does a great job of pulling from a limited set of examples (most readily available in this age of streamed programming) to keep the text and the reader both focused. The book binds itself to the practical art of screenwriting while pointing briefly to the larger philosophical issues involved in storytelling. And finally, it manages to be about scriptwriting in general and the short film in particular. I’m impressed. If someone was burning to write the script for a short film and had an idea in mind, I believe this book would provide the guidance needed to bring that script from idea to the page all on its own. There are exercises at the end of each chapter that are designed to help you move that script from idea to fully fleshed out scenes in a logical progression. The book is divided into three main parts. In the first part, Cowgill covers the fundamentals of storytelling in the visual medium of film. In the second part, she looks at the general concerns of the beginning, the middle, and the end of those stories. And in the third part, she looks at what the construction looks like at the level of the scene. It’s a solid design. She even provides and weighty appendices that includes everything you need to know for formatting the script, references to more reading and viewing, and a complete script of one of the short films she references in the book. On top of it all, Cowgill has an easy writing style and a skill for fullness and brevity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ramon Galeana

    I feel ready! I'm glad Life Lessons is used for examples throughout the book. It helps you see how the different concepts dovetail into a satisfying final product. You see lots of angles of the same - high quality - narrative, so you get to know the screenplay/film pretty well, and this leads to understanding and learning. There are other frequently mentioned short films, but Life Lessons is the only one I bothered to watch and it was sufficient enough to understand each new concept well. I think I feel ready! I'm glad Life Lessons is used for examples throughout the book. It helps you see how the different concepts dovetail into a satisfying final product. You see lots of angles of the same - high quality - narrative, so you get to know the screenplay/film pretty well, and this leads to understanding and learning. There are other frequently mentioned short films, but Life Lessons is the only one I bothered to watch and it was sufficient enough to understand each new concept well. I think a reader of this book should at minimum watch Life Lessons before reading this. It adds another dimension to the experience. It's pretty good :p

  7. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    I read this book in preparation for my annual participation in a 48 hour film competition. Certainly this book does not envision you getting the idea for a short film and writing it in the next 12 hours - BUT it was quite helpful for me. It's certainly "basic" information, but needed basic information. I enjoyed the many short film examples cited - I only managed to look up a few of them, but I look forward to watching more of them later. The author helps provide a needed framework of character, I read this book in preparation for my annual participation in a 48 hour film competition. Certainly this book does not envision you getting the idea for a short film and writing it in the next 12 hours - BUT it was quite helpful for me. It's certainly "basic" information, but needed basic information. I enjoyed the many short film examples cited - I only managed to look up a few of them, but I look forward to watching more of them later. The author helps provide a needed framework of character, conflict, and everything else to keep in mind when writing a short film. I hope to re-read it every year to keep me on the straight and narrow of good storytelling.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daisy

    Quality Rating: Five Stars Enjoyment Rating: Four Stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Urrutia

    I find the process of writing short films more complicated then writing an actual film with a proper three act structure. That’s a bit of a loaded statement, I must admit, but, with three act structure, you have time to properly flesh out your characters and plot. With short films, you have a finite timeframe (30 minutes or less, usually) to do everything a 90 minute film does. With all this being said, this book is more then a great place to begin if you hope to properly attempt such a feat. Pa I find the process of writing short films more complicated then writing an actual film with a proper three act structure. That’s a bit of a loaded statement, I must admit, but, with three act structure, you have time to properly flesh out your characters and plot. With short films, you have a finite timeframe (30 minutes or less, usually) to do everything a 90 minute film does. With all this being said, this book is more then a great place to begin if you hope to properly attempt such a feat. Particular note should be taken, when reading the chapters about scripting, which is the hardest part to get down in my opinion. Also keep in mind that this is the second addition, so if there’s a third edition out there at the time you’re reading this, I would suggest turning your attention to that version. However, this one should serve your needs just fine.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Excellent book. Filled in all the cracks for me -- or at least many of them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Great reference

  12. 4 out of 5

    Iris Windmeijer

    Interesting and useful manual for writing. Sometimes it was a bit lengthy but overall very clear.

  13. 4 out of 5

    J.D.

    I found this book to be useful, but you really have to search for the useful material and spend a lot of time reading to get there. A shorter version with the basics would be ideal.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla

    Required reading for my Short Animated Filmmaking Bootcamp class at SVA. A very solid guide.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Longalanicedt

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rani

  17. 4 out of 5

    Allison Craig

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Beaucar

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pedro

  20. 4 out of 5

    Khaliza Khalid

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer D Cram

  22. 4 out of 5

    L. Monjaras-Pierson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Cherem

  24. 4 out of 5

    Doctorvalo

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jyrki Pitkä

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sertac Koyuncu

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angel Rosario

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sergio

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason Nolan

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