Tom’s Seminars

Below you will find a list of all of Tom’s seminars (click title to see details). If you represent a company or studio and would like to set-up a special training session, please contact Tom.

21st Century Storytelling: Writing Fiction for Film and Television

When you write screenplays, you go on a parallel journey with your characters that the audience will ultimately experience when they watch your film. What you experience when you write is a powerful guide that helps you create authentic, compelling characters through stories that engage the deepest passions of your audience.

This groundbreaking workshop will illuminate your creative journey from idea to screenplay to premiere. The focus will be on how to discover and express the Creative Core of your story — the unity of plot, character, and theme — that guides you through the writing, shooting and editing of your film.

You will learn Five Solution-Oriented Development Models to keep you on track while advancing from story outline to screenplays to re-writes to the shooting script.

You will also learn Collaborative Learning Techniques to maintain an optimal resonance with your characters and to connect with your audience.

Documentary Storytelling and Film Structure

Documentary storytelling is based on the interface of narrative content and the audience‘s emotional journey while watching it. We need to keep a dual perspective: organizing the events in a narrative sequence, while imagining what the audience will feel when they watch it.

In this intensive two-day workshop, we will apply Four Models of Documentary Story Development to documentary film structure, and show how genre strategies will clarify your pre-production, production and post-production strategies.

The documentaries we will review include “Rivers and Tides”, “Bowling for Columbine”, “Daughter from Danang”, and two HBO films where Thomas Schlesinger was the story consultant: “Prom Night in Mississippi”, with Morgan Freeman, and “A Small Act”.

Tom has taught screenwriting seminars for Pixar Animation Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd., the American Film Institute, the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, and the National Film Schools in Berlin and Munich.

Price: $325

(20% discount: DGC, WGC, CMPA, ACCT, DOC, ACTRA; students & previous clients)

To register:
Patricia Aquino

Patricia@sfl-films.com

Tel: 905-901-1200

Working with Tom Schlesinger is worth its weight in gold!

—Paul Saltzman, director-producer, Prom Night in Mississippi

Attending Tom’s workshop was a creative turning point for me as a documentary filmmaker.

—Nimisha Mukerji, director-producer, 65 Red Roses

The Screenwriter as Storyteller

Create compelling film stories by using THE STORY CRYSTAL, a three-dimensional, spiraling molecule of plot, character and theme. Learn how your creative journey while writing connects you with your characters and the audience, and:

  • How to build powerful stories through the Sixteen Storytelling Vertebrae in the Story Crystal
  • How to dramatically express the unity of plot, character and theme
  • How to navigate through the Deep Core of your film stories with the Archaeology of Character Model
  • How the Core Triangles of Characters drives your stories implacably toward the dramatic and thematic climax
  • How to orchestrate the light and the shadow in your constellation of characters

Films include: AMELIE, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST, LOST IN TRANSLATION

Writing Great Comedies

Learn the 23 Essential Elements to write successful comedies that you can immediately apply to your current screenplays. THE 16 STORY STEPS for Comedy will show you how to navigate through your comedy scripts with skill and confidence, while revealing new perspectives, comic twists and solutions. You will:

  • Master the art of the comic premise
  • Learn the screenplay structure unique to comedy
  • Orchestrate your comic characters for maximum humor
  • Learn how to balance comic tones with dramatic tones
  • Discover new, powerful, commercial comedy themes
  • Hone your comedy skills with fun, improvisational techniques

Films include: THE FULL MONTY, KNOCKED UP, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL

Writing Great Thrillers

Thrillers are as intricately woven as a spider web, and function according to unique dramaturgical rules. Learn how to use the FOUR DEVELOPMENT MODELS for THRILLERS to write movies like THE MATRIX, THE SIXTH SENSE, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, THE CRYING GAME, and FARGO, and how to:

  • Use twists, turns and reversals for maximum surprise and suspense
  • Map out the plot according to the FOUR LINES of THRILLER EXPOSITION
  • Create compelling thriller characters according to their inner paradox and outer dilemma
  • Construct your thriller according to the central dramatic situation and action motifs
  • Orchestrate the Core Triangle of Characters to create the most enthralling experience for the audience
  • Use dark comedy and/or provide comic relief in thrillers

The Human Comedy: Family Drama with Comic Overtones

JUNO, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, THE FULL MONTY, AMERICAN BEAUTY and AMELIE are internationally acclaimed, commercially successful films. What do they have in common? They are all modestly budgeted family dramas with comic overtones: the types of films that you can write, direct, or produce!

In this seminar for writers, producers, directors, actors and story editors, you will learn key strategies to write and develop these crossover films that exude warmth, passion, and the depth of human comedy.

In addition to lecture, film clips and interactive sessions, you will experience a series of creativity exercises that will help you plum the depths of your experience to create these richly emotional and highly gratifying films.

Other movie examples will include MONSOON WEDDING, MY LIFE AS A DOG, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST.

Creating Original Stories

Build a portfolio of original stories through cutting-edge techniques to create authentic characters and engaging plots from your personal experience. Learn:

  • How to harvest your personal experiences as a resource to connect with your audience
  • How to create a network of multi-faceted, distinct characters
  • How body language and the physical attributes of your characters reveals their subtext
  • How to find the heart of your stories through the Story Molecule Paradigm
  • How the high and low status of characters shapes their relationships
  • The Story Constellation Process that reveals Core Triangles of Characters and the quintessential Point of View

Story Constellations (experiential)

Engage in energizing group work to structure or re-structure your screenplays. See how your characters come alive as you clarify point of view and theme through your constellation of characters, and learn how:

  • To build powerful stories through the Story Constellation and Creative Visualization Process
  • To discover and resonate with the through-line of your screenplays
  • To view your stories from all the main characters’, and the audience’s, perspective
  • To navigate through the Deep Core of your film stories with skill and confidence
  • Story Constellations reveal the inner truth about your characters and the keys to their essential relationships

Creating New Visions

Alternative structures and new visions for storytelling in the 21st Century:

  • Linear and circular narrative structures
  • Weaving together ensembles and story strands
  • How to balance plot momentum and character development within alternate structures
  • Using “framing devices” that help orient the audience as they watch the movie
  • Using a “clash of two worlds” as an opportunity to explore new ways of telling the story
  • Creating a dramatic unity out of mixed materials, such as documentary and fiction, and mixed idioms, such as realism and expressionism

Films include: CRASH, PAN’S LABYRINTH, AMORES PERES, SYRIANA, CITY OF GOD.

Creating Dark Characters

Writing from your Shadow to create compelling, three-dimensional dark characters:

  • How to build the “fateful triangle” of obsessive passion
  • How to “see” and read the intimate body language of the characters you create for signs of inner conflict
  • How psychological projection works to create escalating conflicts
  • How to find your character’s fatal imbalance
  • How to establish the “codes” inherent in melodrama, thrillers or crime stories, and keep them consistent
  • How to create unique, contemporary stories within these rules and codes

Films include: THE SWEET HEREAFTER, MONSTER, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, RAGING BULL.

Writing Great Melodrama/Family Drama

Orchestrating characters for the optimal effect in family and community stories:

  • Find power in limits, circumscribing the dramatic world in ways that build tension and interest
  • Orchestrate fresh and original characters, and reveal their back-stories with economy and precision
  • Discover and clarify the conflict of values that drives each of the characters
  • Build compelling core relationships at the heart of the melodrama
  • Use triangular construction in your melodrama scenes
  • Incorporate tragic, comic, and thriller touches into the melodrama structure

Films include: MY LIFE AS A DOG, MY LEFT FOOT, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, DANGEROUS LIASONS, NOWHERE IN AFRICA

Creative Flow: the Inner Reaches of Outer Space

Through spontaneous drawing, Wild Writing, Story Constellations*, improvisation, guided imagery exercises, storytelling and listening, you will take a journey of creative initiation and expansion that artists have experienced since the beginning of time. Mythologist Joseph Campbell refers to this as exploring “the inner reaches of outer space.”

* a group exercise that will help you find the best way to tell your stories, sings your songs, dance your dances or paint your pictures.