ARTS 643
Writing the Short Screenplay

Stephen Collins

Course Description

This course is a mix of lecture and writing workshop. The first half of the class focuses on defining the short form.  Lectures cover the difference between feature film and short film structure, proper script format, and writing for a visual medium.

The second half of the class is focused on the student work.  Students workshop a short film script in class.  Course reading is limited to the work produced in the class.


There are weekly writing exercises for the first three weeks and then each student works to complete a 12 page screenplay and take it through 3 drafts.


One excused absence.  More than 2 absences will result in an F in the course.


The number one problem for writers is not writing.  Therefore the best thing a writing class can do is give you deadlines and structure.  Late assignments receive a 1 letter grade deduction.

First Assignment: 20%
Second Assignment: 20%
Final Assignment: 40%
Effort/Organization: 20%


There will be in-class viewings of shorts from filmmakers Jamie Travis, Scott Rice and Steve Collins.  There will also be viewings of unsuccessful shorts from filmmakers who will remain unnamed.


Day 1: Introductions, The Short Screenplay: avoiding the mini-feature

Day 2: Telling a story with pictures.  Weekend writing assignment.

Day 3:  Control of Information –  alternating the three modes of viewing.

Day 4:  Putting Emotion into Action.  Weekend Writing assignment.

Day 5: Ellipsis and Omission

Day 6: Exposition, Script Format and Subtext.  Weekend writing assignment.

Day 7: Don’ts: Passivity, Scenes without Conflict, Deus ex Machina, the Gimmick film.

Day 8: First Draft one on one meetings.

Day 9: TBA

Day 10: Second Draft one on ones.

Day 11 In class final presentations

Day 12 In class final presentations – Class meeting place TBA


Wesleyan University will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Students should provide documentation and schedule an appointment with the Office of the Dean of the College at least two weeks before services are needed. In each class where a student requests academic accommodations, the student must meet with the faculty member teaching the course at least one week prior to the requested accommodation. PLEASE! do not hesitate to discuss with us your needs for any accommodation.

Honor System

Students are expected to abide by the Honor System in regard to all work and participation in this class. For details, see