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Writing Short Films: Structure and Content for Screenwriters Paperback – September 1, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Linda J. Cowgill teaches at the Los Angeles Film School and Loyola Marymount University. Her books "Secrets of Screenplay Structure" and "Writing Short Films" are used in writing programs across the country. She lives in Los Angeles.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Lone Eagle; Second Edition edition (September 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580650635
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580650632
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have used Linda Cowgill's book, Writing Short Films, for a three-hundred level course, which I have taught at the University of Arizona, for over four years. It continues to be an excellent basic text for my students even though I have read many of the other books on the market. Linda defines all the important tools of a writer and their uses within the craft. She uses many short films in the book to exemplify her points directly and easily. The short films are excellent references and are accessible for showing--which is a perfect visual teaching tool. Even though the title is for short scriptwriting, she talks about full length films in comparison and, of course, all of these elements and tools are equally important for the full length form. It remains my favorite reference book for my own writing of screenplays and recommend it as the best of the screenwriting books on the market.
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Format: Paperback
As Head of Film and Media Production at a British college I had been on the look-out for a long time for a book that would really excite aspiring screenwriters - and now I've found it. Anyone hoping to make their breakthrough short film should read this book cover to cover and see how successful filmmaking is dependent on strong scriptwriting. Linda Cowgill has a tremendous ability to illustrate the need for both structure and originality when writing for what is, in truth, a very difficult format to get right.
The book covers the entire writers journey from 'starting out' to producing a lean, focused, innovative screenplay. Through observing the impact it has had on new writers I would say that this book is in a league of its own.
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Format: Paperback
A short film runs less than 45 minutes. Short films may be transformed into Hollywood success. This book tells how to have a completed script to initiate the venture into short film. The reader is given an idea of the labor involved to produce this art form. The book uses "Life Lessons" written by Richard Price and directed by Martin Scorsese, part of THE NEW YORK TRILOGY, to illustrate points she wants to make about writing a script. She also makes reference to other short films readily available to a reader.

The steps involved are that a hero, with desires, acts, encounters conflicts, and moves to the climax and resolution in the course of the film. Film is visual. Film has fluidity of movement. Show don't tell is a maxim of film-making. Significant films have universality. Most short films are character pieces. The audience must willingly suspend disbelief. It may be necessary to do research.

Basically there are five types of genre, comedy, farce, drama, tragedy, and melodrama. In the best films plot is character. A character biography is a description. This includes physical appearance, sociology, and psychology. The backstory is not the same thing. A story tells a sequential action. Plot emphasizes causal relationships. Story and plot usually comprise part of a total narrative. Drama is structured action. A good plot evolves naturally. The writer should not be afraid to change the plan as he moves ahead with the project. It is useful to think of the film's story in broad blocks.

The opening should be visual, convey important information, and be interesting. Voice over narration is more common in short film than in features. It is a means of exposition. Other means are dialogue and written presentation through signs or cards.
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Format: Paperback
While the subtitle of this book is accurate ("structure and content for screenwriters"), the main title is incredibly misleading. While many short films are used as examples, I can sum up what the book says about writing the short screenplay with: They must be focused, because they are short.

The information in the book about writing a story for film is informative and worthwhile, and could be applied to any form of storytelling. But, as I was looking for specific information about working in a short screenplay format, I found that this book has very little to offer on the subject.

4 stars as a book on story structure
0 stars as a book about writing short films
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This under-appreciated book is far and away the best book on screenwriting I've ever come across, and I've read them all. Whether the author is a successful industry screenwriter doesn't really matter, much more accomplished screenwriters have written books that don't measure up to this one. This book is simple, concise, and and comes from a place of humility. A screenwriting book isn't going to make anyone a great screenwriter, but this book can be a very useful tool for just about anyone trying to improve their craft.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Short films, medium films or/and feature length film scripts are covered in this book. This book is easy to follow especially for people like me who see scriptwriting as difficult as learning a foreign language. Yes, I do believe this book will be an asset to even a skilled screen writer. When those thematic uncertainties disrupt your progress THIS IS THE BOOK TO HAVE HANDY.
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By A Customer on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a terrific how-to. It's a great guide for going from a concept to a story and script, a well-developed story. It goes into the importance of content for the short, with excellent strategies for structuring a good story around your idea. It details not only the difference in structure of shorts vs. features, but examines the structure of scenes as well. It is not a formula book. It doesn't lock you in with the only types of stories that work. It's a book with strategies for approaching and developing your idea. It gives you the tools to take your notion and run with it. And it's full of examples you can find in the video stores. This book is great, you'll love it.
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