A Short Guide to Writing About Film

ISBN: 0321412281
ISBN 13: 9780321412287
By: Timothy Corrigan

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About this book

This practical guide addresses how to write effective and perceptive essays about film - a fundamental requirement of any course involving film history or criticism. It first explains why writing about cinema can be such an interesting activity, and then discusses the various stages in the writing process specific to film studies - taking notes on a movie, making an outline, finding and researching a topic, integrating technical details into an analysis and revising for sharper style. and lists bibliographical indexes and major film journals. Revised with an updated list of sources, this edition also features references to more recent films.

Reader's Thoughts

Rachel Brune

Interesting and informative. However, the last chapter was not very useful, as it mostly addressed how to write a college level paper. On the other hand, some students need that.


Short Guide to Writing about Film, A (7th Edition) by Timothy Corrigan (2009)


Although its designation seems to be for a primarily student-based audience (for example, there is a chapter on how to use university resources for research), I found it to be a very useful introductory tool.

Angela (:

Boring, boring, boring.My professor didn't request us to finish reading this, so I didn't. A person can only take so much.


Great textbook. Very interesting and informative, with good formalist essay examples and research tips.


Written as a textbook and reads as a textbook - great if you want to write term papers.

Lloyd Hoshaw

Excellent resource - has potential as a student text.


Even if you are not intending to read films as a discipline, this helps you to understand films better, appreciate films better and talk about them in a deeper way.


good info in this book, really helpfull.

Travis Mcclain

Though I hold a bachelor of arts degree earned in the field of history, and the skills I honed in the course of those studies are applicable to other fields, I've been self-conscious for awhile now about writing about film. (I contribute to the blog for the movie ranking website Flickchart.) I'd seen copies of different editions of this book at Half Price Books for awhile, but kept resisting the purchase. After all, who was I kidding? I'm not a real critic.Finally, though, on New Year's Eve, I gave in and bought a copy. If you're going to do something, you may as well learn to do it well, and the truth is, I like writing about movies. This Short Guide seemed a handy starting place for improvement.The chief con is that it's addressed to freshman film students. The entire last chapter is dedicated to manuscript form and issues of margins and spacing, etc. I'm well past that point in my development, so being told that it's okay to make certain assumptions about what my instructor knows as I write my paper made me feel a bit silly. Although, in fairness, if I was a freshman film student, I probably would have found the book engaging and encouraging, and I certainly would have appreciated author Timothy J. Corrigan for not trying to intimidate me.Though I didn't learn anything groundbreaking, I did find the book generally helpful for organizing concepts already familiar to me into film language. I know, for instance, that of the four approaches to writing about film, it's the Theoretical Essay that I want to write more regularly - because that's the kind I most enjoy reading.I'm uncomfortable with Movie Reviews, though I've written a handful of them. In 2012, I reviewed Brave for Flickchart after attending a preview screening, and I found that I had a difficult time really figuring out just how strongly I felt about its pros and cons.That led me to ending my review by including a section of how that movie entered my Flickchart, walking the reader through a series of head-to-head matches that allowed me to comment on the merits and how appealing they were of both films. I really dig that section, and it instantly became a staple of all my reviews for Flickchart as well as all my personal movie watching diary entries on Letterboxd. I feel that section gives the reader a whole lot more context for both the review and reviewer than is typically found in movie reviews.Perhaps the most important thing I'll take from A Short Guide to Writing About Film is Chapter 3's discussion about relating film to the other arts. I'm used to discussing the relationship between movies and books, where the former is based on the latter. As a writer, I've primarily focused on elements like plot, character, and dialog. Though film is a visual medium (duh), I've given little consideration to the influence of visual arts. The section on "Composition and the Image" in Chapter 3 covered a lot of things that have been so obvious that I've forgotten to really pay them much regard.Recently, I've re-watched a handful of early animated Disney feature films (Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio). I was captivated by the artwork in all of them, the likes of which we will probably never see again in a movie. Just look at that scene in Pinocchio of Gepetto's cuckoo clocks. That sequence is astounding. It also helped me to remember to pay greater attention not just to animated features, but to all films, and the composition of what's on screen: both the elements themselves, and the reasoning for their specific presentation. If nothing else, reading that small section of Chapter 3 justified my purchase.


Two stars might be rather unfair to this book. It is probably better than two stars - for someone else. But I did not think this book really taught me anything I did not already know. The questions it gives to help people analyze a film would be useful to someone without any real experience with analyzing and writing about film, so I guess the book does just what it intends to do: teach you how to write about film. To the book's credit, it is clearly written and the pictures are nice (and I do like having good pictures). So those were pluses. I do not know what I was hoping for with this book, but I guess I wanted more than it set out to give, which probably shouldn't be considered a fault in the book, since it sets out to do a certain task and does that task efficiently. Still, I hoped for more.


I was assigned this book for my 'Film and Fiction' course and I thought that it was an incredibly easy and informative read. It's definitely not something I would have read for leisure, but I didn't mind reading it for my class.

Destiny Dawn Long

This was a good general introduction to writing about and discussing film. I've never really taken a course in film or film studies, and this gave me some basic vocabulary to start with. It also gave some helpful ideas about what to look for in films. If you'd like to be able to discuss film, but feel a bit intimidated, this might be a helpful book to read.


This is the 5th edition.

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