Writing the Short Film (EAS3128)

StaffDr Sam North - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

  • To introduce students to the practice of writing fiction for the screen, focusing on the short film form. It develops key screenwriting skills appropriate to the short film and relevant to other narrative screen media formats, and encourages you to explore and develop your individual voices as screenwriters.
  • The module introduces a range of approaches to the short screenplay from the traditional to the innovative, and uses examples from a variety of genres and geographical origins. It also examines the relationship between the screenplay, film production, and audience. Through practical exercises and critical discussion, you explore the creation of meaning through form and content within short films, and become aware of the processes involved in screenwriting, including the development of ideas, drafting, re-writing and editing.
  • The module explores current developments in short film, both creative and industrial, and enables you to develop a critical appreciation of screenwriting.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific short films and screenplays
  • 2. Produce a working screenplay and treatment for a short film idea, as well as compose a critical appreciation of techniques in dramatic writing

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Understand the formal properties of the screenplay, its role in film production, and its relationship to literature, as well as produce screenplays and other pieces of dramatic writing, in agreement with specified forms and genres taught on the module
  • 4. Analyse and critically examine, at an advanced level, diverse forms of film and dramatic writing, and thus dismantle and understand formal techniques and imaginative expression in creative writing generally

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Through seminar work, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 6. Through writing essays and creative work, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, advanced skills in creative

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

The syllabus will cover the following areas, though not necessarily in block format, through analysis of short films viewed in the classroom, as well as students' own writing in weekly workshops:

  • Introduction
  • Plot diaries: making plots, recognising how they work, manipulating and refining plots both within and outside specific genres and learning how and when to throw them away and start again
  • Technical toolbox: dramatic irony, suspense, value, dramatic DNA, all the tools necessary to write dramatic text in the short form
  • Performance: rehearsed readings of students' short films, and subjecting them to peer feedback. The art of re-writing and development: exploring the nature of an audience's reading of a filmed narrative

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Seminars
Guided independent study33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study164Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly assignmentsContinuous1-5Seminar and tutorial feedback/discussion

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Prose treatment10500 words2, 3, 5Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Screenplay7012-15 pages2, 3, 5Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay201500 words1, 4, 6 Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Prose TreatmentProse Treatment2, 3, 5Referral/Deferral period
ScreenplayScreenplay2, 3, 5Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1, 4, 6Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading:

  • Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories (Harvard University Press, 2010)
  • John Yorke, Into the Woods (Penguin, 2014)
  • Robert McKee, Story (Methuen, 1999)
  • Sam North, The Instinctive Screenplay (Palgrave 2017).
  • Christopher Vogler, Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Michael Wiese Production (2007)
  • Pat Cooper and Ken Dancyger, Writing the Short Film, 2nd edn (Focal Press, 2000)

Secondary Reading:

  • John Costello, Writing A Screenplay (Pocket Essentials, 2002)
  • Linda J. Cowgill, Writing Short Films: Structure and Content for Screenwriters (Lone Eagle Publishing, 1997)
  • Lajos Egri, The Art of Dramatic Writing (Simon & Schuster, 1946)
  • William H. Phillips, Writing Short Scripts (Syracuse University Press, 1999)
  • Cherry Potter, Screen Language: from Film Writing to Film-Making (Methuen, 2001)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – https://vle.exeter.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=2445

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Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Screenwriting, drama, film, television