Wendall Thomas

Wendall Thomas Talks Scripts

Presented by MIFF 37ºSouth Market & Accelerator, celebrated LA-based developer, writer and lecturer Wendall Thomas, who has written and developed projects for companies including Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Showtime, PBS, A&E and NBC, returns exclusively to Melbourne for more of her hugely-popular series unlocking the secrets of film writing with a series of four stand-alone all-day seminars. Thomas’ recent client films include Any Day Now (Winner Audience Award Tribeca 2012), The Truth Below (2011), The Space Between (2011) and the Republic of Two (2013).

Interview with Wendall Thomas

All tickets $90 per seminar (MIFF passes not valid).


Genre: Black Comedy & Satire – How low can you go?

Monday 03 August, 9.30am-4.30pm; Village Roadshow Theatrette at the State Library

Black comedies might have variable box office outcomes, but they are often the stuff cult films and devoted fans and always make for a great, distinctive writing sample – and can even make a career! The genre has a great tradition, from Dr. Strangelove, Mash and Network through Grosse Pointe Blank, Serial Mom, Wag the Dog, To Die For, The War of the Roses, Election, Heathers, Muriel’s Wedding and a recent revival in films like Thank you for Smoking, Bad Santa, The Matador, Four Lions, and the Oscar nominated In The Loop.

This session considers the challenges of writing successful black comedy and satire, including setting and maintaining the tone, charting the sometimes-tricky characters arcs the genre requires and addressing the crucial decisions a writer must make about topic and world. There will also be laughs, albeit guilty ones.


Character: Protagonist Unbound – Creating memorable central characters

Tuesday 04 August, 9.30am-4.30pm; Village Roadshow Theatrette at the State Library

Creating and introducing a central protagonist is one of the great challenges of screenwriting – and one of the most rewarding when one thinks of the likes of On the Waterfront, Blue Jasmine, All About Eve, The Silence of the Lambs, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The King’s Speech, Muriel’s Wedding, Amélie, Annie Hall, Crazy Heart, American Beauty, Dallas Buyers Club, American Hustle, When Harry Met Sally or this year’s Nightcrawler, to name a few.

What makes audiences remember, quote, even emulate the characters they see on screen? What careful selection of detail and imagination makes those characters indelible? What is the balance between a rounded, three- dimensional character and one who is so complex as to be incomprehensible in two hours? What elements of character attract actors? What is the relationship between character and structure? How do you create an indelible protagonist’s voice?

With multiple clips and examples, this seminar examines the creation of central characters, showing the myriad, subtle and creative means a writer can introduce and reveal the protagonist in ways that will draw the reader and audience fully into the story by the end of Act One.


Structure: The Crucial Third Act – “Build, build, build… that’s it. Don’t hang around.”

Wednesday 05 August, 9.30am-4.30pm; Village Roadshow Theatrette at the State Library

Some Like It Hot, Chinatown, Alien, Moonstruck, American Beauty, The Lives of Others, Argo, Animal Kingdom, Jaws, The Hangover, Grosse Pointe Blank and this year’s Whiplash – no matter the genre, the third act is crucial and must be memorable, but can be the most elusive to nail. Studio executives often agree that the last ten minutes of a film can be integral to box office success given that this is often what stays with the audience after leaving the cinema.

Aiming to overcome the Third Act dangers of running out of steam, or writing an ending disconnected to what’s come before, this seminar shows how the third act relates to the first and second acts and works-out the requisite beats for a variety of genres. It focuses especially on the important character blindsides, as well as the climax and on creating a satisfying ending which is consistent with the tone, intent and promise of the film.


Writing Great One-hour Tv Pilots:: The West Wing to True Detective

Thursday 06 August, 9.30am-4.30pm; Village Roadshow Theatrette at the State Library

Whether it’s a cable phenomenon (Breaking Bad, True Detective, Dexter, Devil’s Playground, Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under), an internet event (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, Transparent) or a network melodrama (Downton Abbey, Rake, The West Wing, The Good Wife, The Slap), some of the best opportunities for writing groundbreaking material and diverse characters are on the small screen.

Indeed, for the last decade, much of the best writing in Hollywood has been for the small screen – with an impressive number of film writers, directors, and actors moving from features to series – even Woody Allen is developing a series for Amazon.

Understanding the structure and elements of a one-hour pilot – to write/develop your own series or spec for an existing show – is an important part of building a writer’s career. Focusing on successful shows that have attained “event” and “box-setting” status, this seminar gives practical advice on creating the kind of structure, characters, conflicts, and worlds that give a show legs.