Wendall Thomas


Wendall Thomas is a leading Los Angeles-based developer, writer and lecturer, writing and developing projects for companies including Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Showtime, PBS, A&E, NBC and Scottish Screen, having worked since 1986 as a casting director, director’s assistant, script reader, story editor, development executive, entertainment reporter, script consultant and screenwriter. With an M.A. in English, she is in her 15th year as Adjunct Professor of Screenwriting at UCLA’s Graduate Film School, has been a Star Speaker for the annual Los Angeles Screenwriting Expo, and runs the Living Room Lecture series. She has consulted for the Atelier du Cinéma Européen Producing Program in Paris, served as Writer’s Mentor for Screen South’s Good Foundations Plus program and directed the LA FEATURES writer’s mentorship program for the UK’s Northern Film & Media. As a lecturer, she has worked throughout Europe for the Arista Screenwriting Workshops and in the U.K. for the Welsh and Northern Irish Film Commissions, the Folkstone Literary Festival and Screen South. She has also presented dialogue and rewrite workshops since 2008 for the New Zealand Film Commission and was opening speaker for the Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference in 2009, where she was featured as a mentor and lecturer in 2010 and will return in 2011.

Making a Scene: The Magic & Mechanics of Scene Structure

Monday 01 August 2011, 10am – 5pm

Screenwriting courses always stress the importance of film structure, but frequently lack the time to focus on the very building blocks of that structure:  the scene, the scene sequence and the transitions which move the story from one scene to the next. Yet so often, it is one scene or sequence which we remember, which haunts us when the film is done – Sugar boarding the train in SOME LIKE IT HOT, Evelyn Mulwray’s incest confession in CHINATOWN, the chase sequence in THE FRENCH CONNECTION, the goodbye in CASABLANCA.  What is it that makes these scenes so unforgettable? This workshop focuses on the internal workings of scene and sequence writing as well as the myriad ways scenes can be used to improve the overall structure, emotion and pace of any script. It includes clips from a variety of films and genres, using scenes and sequences that have different structural functions: character introductions, turning points and climaxes, etc. This session breaks down both individual scenes and longer sequences into all their many parts, particularly focusing on learning to layer scenes so that they carry maximum impact and story information.

Wake-Up, Time to Die! Dialogue & Genre

Tuesday 02 August 2011, 12.30m – 7pm

Creating unique and memorable character voices is one of the best ways to get a script noticed and one powerful way to approach dialogue writing is to consider it in terms of genre. If you know what each genre requires in terms of tone, type of characters, crucial structural moments, etc. it’s much easier to create characters and voices that both serve the genre and can transcend it. This seminar looks at the function of dialogue in a variety of genres, asking the questions “What kind of line does the audience expect at the climax of an action film?” “Is a declaration of love a necessity in a romantic comedy?” “Why is there always a villain “rationalization speech” in a thriller? etc. The session looks at writing fights in a drama vs. a comedy, how one can create a black comic tone with one uncomfortable line, how to separate voices in an ensemble piece, and which genres are most conducive to the use of voice over and subtext.

Transformation: Constructing a Character Arc

Friday 05 August, 10am – 5pm

Once you’ve created indelible characters, what do you do with them? This seminar focuses on creating a believable and organic character arc which is connected fully both to the character and the structure of your script.  The key is to show a subtle, one step forward, two steps back change in your characters perception, but not to change his or her nature for a satisfying climax. This transformation is usually constructed in a series of specific character decisions. We discuss how to write believable decisions and how to link them directly to your structure.