Phoenix grad and filmmaker to film short movie in valley

For his Master of Fine Arts program at Columbia University, Phoenix native Jed Cowley is coming back home to shoot a gritty family drama in a shale pit next to where he grew up.

The 15-minute movie, "Shale," will make the rounds of film festivals, as did his 2008 short, "The Loss of a Wrestling Match," which received favorable note, he says, from agents and producers.

"Shale," written by Cowley from his own life observations, is the story of an unhappy couple married 35 years — and the wife's attempt (at the shale pit they own) to get a fair divorce settlement from husband, John, who's been a "controlling, withholding and domineering" partner.

Cowley got grants from Columbia University, HBO and Panavision, and will shoot the film here after Thanksgiving. He graduates in May and, he says, plans to stay in New York City, a major hub for the film industry.

A graduate in media arts and English from Brigham Young University, Cowley says his showing at the prestigious Sundance Festival likely will open career doors — and he would like to shoot in Oregon in the future "because of my love for the countryside and the people, which are the basis for pulling out stories. It's who I am."

Cowley wrestled at Phoenix High School, the basis for his first movie, graduating in 1998.

Short films have no outlet for revenue, he notes, but they are essential for honing the craft and building a resume. As a life goal, Cowley says, he would like to be a writer and director of successful feature films "that express who I am and what I want to say about life and who we are as human beings."

He has a couple of scripts already penned, he adds.

Cowley says he used Kickstarter, a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers and others, to raise money for his film. He is seeking further donations and welcomes logistical help from businesses. Email him at

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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