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Film School Spotlight: Linda Cogwill on Los Angeles Film School

March 28, 2019
2 min read time

What do Workaholics, Saturday Night Live’s Matt Villines and Osmany Rodriguez and Happy! have in common? The Los Angeles Film School (LAFS).

Specifically, the school counts Kyle Newacheck, director/co-creator of Workaholics, directing team Matt & Oz, and Brian Taylor, creator/writer of Happy! as part of its esteemed alumni, which also includes a pair of Academy Nicholl Fellowship recipients (Chris Bessounian and Tianna Majumdar-Langham) and Oscar®-nominated cinematographer Martin Pensa (Dallas Buyers Club).

For Linda Cowgill, the school’s screenwriting head, the success of LAFS’s alumni is simple to understand, “a screenwriter who wants to direct or produce, our program will teach you how to do that,” she said.

The school teaches students about the filmmaking process rather than narrowing the focus to the writing aspect of film, and students have the opportunity to collaborate with others to film and produce their work.

According to Cowgill, the collaboration aspect of LAFS is unique.

“Most traditional screenwriting departments are separate from production departments in film schools,” she said.

“Writers can write and see their work filmed and see what works and what doesn’t … these connections last when they leave school for the real world.”

A world that Cowgill knows well; a seasoned screenwriter and author, she has written television episodes to movies for such studios as Paramount, Universal, MGM and Warner Bros. as well as books “The Art of Plotting: Add Emotion, Suspense, and Depth to your Screenplay” and “Writing Short Films: Structure and Content for Screenwriters” (Cowgill made an award-winning short film while working toward her master’s degree at UCLA).

Her experiences make her well-suited to her current role; they allow her to talk to students about how the world works, and teaching “made me a much better writer,” she said.

“When I started teaching, the Internet wasn’t up. I was lucky though, because I was here in L.A. and there were all these great video stores like Vidiots and Rocket Video. I hunted for Oscar-winning short films and other award winners to watch and figure out what they had in common. It was a great process for me to look at these films and come up with an approach I could teach my students.”

Cowgill landed at LAFS after teaching at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. A panel at the Writers Guild Theater led her to meet the person in charge of LAFS at that time, who approached her about a teaching position. The rest, as they say in Hollywood, is history.

In Cowgill’s words, LAFS is “not a traditional school” like a university or college film program. It is still accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, though.

The program, which is open to both aspiring and experienced writers and filmmakers, is an accelerated one.

“Everything moves very quickly,” Cowgill said.

“We do a bachelor’s degree in three years and do not take summers off, although we do include spring, summer and winter breaks.”

Overall, students should choose LAFS because the school’s immersive filmmaking experience coupled with career-development groups make it the best plan for those who are serious about making films for a living, according to Cowgill.

To her, the decision is simple.

“If you’re writing screenplays, do you want to wait tables and try from the outside to get your movie made or do you want to work around people who could actually help you accomplish that?”

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