Tom Provost has been teaching these classes around the country for over 10 years.
4 courses can be shortened into one full weekend. All 8 classes can be taught over the course of 3-5 days.
Each class also can be taught individually. See courses and course descriptions below, along with quotes from attendees.
- Mastering Film Grammar
- From Script to Screen
- Introducing Your Character
- Disclosure of Information
- Think Like An Editor
- Tom P’s Do’s and Don’ts of Rewriting
Mastering Film Grammar
Mastering Film Grammar covers the specific strengths of the motion picture medium. Elements such as color, shapes, symbols, lines, shadows, edits and sounds prompt specific emotions and make up the extremely visual and aural art that is the motion picture. The class examines in depth these artistic elements and how they work together to create the singular, multi-sensory experience that is motion picture storytelling.
Framing, camera movement, editing and lighting, depth of field, point-of-view, score and source music, sound effects: these are the elements of the language of cinema. Every image a filmmaker creates should be based on these elements, yet often they are not given deep thought. Using over 100 clips and screen shots from various movies to illustrate and illuminate, this course examines the specificity of great filmmakers when using these elements to tell and enhance a story.
Students are given homework before the class and are asked to watch:
All That Jazz (1979 dir. Bob Fosse)
Notorious (1946 dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
Both films are broken down in great detail, along with clips and stills from such varied movies as The Godfather, Dolores Claiborne, The Wizard of Oz, Notorious, Mildred Pierce, Out of Sight, The Graduate, The Dark Knight and Ordinary People.
There is also a lengthy examination of the collaboration between Alan J. Pakula and Gordon Willis on the films Klute, The Parallax View and All The President’s Men.
From Script to Screen
Writer/Director Provost discusses the process of traveling from script to final edited product of his award-winning feature The Presence, which stars Oscar Winner Mira Sorvino, Golden Globe Nominee Justin Kirk and Shane West, released by Lionsgate in October 2011.
This is a candid, insightful dissection of the filmmaking process, examining a completed feature that was chosen as the opening or closing night feature at various festivals, as well as winning numerous Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematographer awards.
Students will read the first act of the screenplay as homework before attending the class, then watch the complete film before diving into an in depth dissection of the process of how to move from script to screen.
Provost covers extensively, page by page, how he and his creative team worked to bring what was on paper to life, given the typical compromises and considerations of budget, time, personnel issues, weather, and planning. As a learning tool, particular focus will be placed on what “went wrong” on the set, as well as what changed from the script and why.
The discussion will also include the “writing” that went on in the editing room as the film took shape and became a work separate from the shooting script. Numerous clips and production stills are used to illustrate the various decisions made both on the set and after filming ended.
From Script To Screen is an extremely frank and revealing discussion about the realities every filmmaker faces, offering students a rare insider’s look at how a movie comes to fruition. Rarely do students have a chance for such a frank, open forum with a filmmaker regarding their thoughts on a movie and the process involved.
Introducing Your Character
One of the most difficult things to do in any story is to quickly and efficiently set up a character…and in a manner that pays off further into the narrative. Introducing Your Character is an in-depth, intensive look at how filmmakers effectively reveal characters to the audience, whether in a straightforward manner or in a purposely misleading fashion.
Students are assigned before class to watch John Dahl’s critically acclaimed retro-noir thriller Red Rock West. The class begins with a moment-by-moment breakdown of the first 12 minutes of the film, examining how Dahl and his team incisively and effectively lay out the main character, in ways that set up and pay off plot points later in the film.
Other films used for in-depth discussion include:
Cape Fear, Persuasion, Terms of Endearment, Jaws, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Erin Brockovich, All the President’s Men, Searching for Bobby Fisher, Pieces of April, The Devil Wears Prada & Paper Moon
Disclosure of Information
Disclosure of Information is the essence of storytelling. Every single choice made by a filmmaker reveals information to the audience. How to do it, when to do it and why to do it… these questions are of the utmost importance and a 30 second purposeful delay in disclosure can affect a narrative in incredible ways, both good and bad. How to gauge disclosure of information and what the effect will be on the audience are the focus of this in-depth class, helping to determine the manner in which each and every piece of information in a script is revealed.
This class looks at the myriad choices a filmmaker has—choices both right and wrong–and how to master those choices to create the most effective experience for the audience possible.
The students are given the homework of two films:
North By Northwest and Psycho (1959/1960, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
The first section of the class uses clips from various films such as Jaws, Blood Simple andClose Encounters to look at excellent examples of disclosure.
Then the class examines moment by moment comparisons of two Hitchcock classics,North by Northwest and Psycho, which use wildly different types of disclosure to very different effect.
The class ends with a look at a number of sequences from Brian DePalma, includingCarrie and Dressed to Kill.
Subtext is one of the most difficult and elusive elements to create in a script or story.Mastering Subtext examines movies and scenes riddled with subtext, illuminating how these storytellers create something that essentially is “not there.” The class will enable any filmmaker/screenwriter to get a stronger grasp on how to create and use subtext, which gives great depth to any story.
Along with a variety of clips, students are assigned two movies, Ordinary People andNotorious, both of which are explored in depth.
Think Like An Editor
The juxtaposition of images, shots and dialogue is, simply, filmmaking. A strong grasp of narrative editing, the how and why cuts are made, makes all the difference in a successful film. Think Like An Editor is an intensive exploration of the art of film editing, taught from an editor’s perspective.
Every film is crafted in the editing room. From individual scenes to longer sequences to an entire feature, it all happens in the editing room. This is a master class on a variety of issues that arise in the editing room, from when to cut in specific scenes and shots to what should be left on the cutting room floor.
And what about scenes that end up cut? Thinking like an editor can help avoid such waste. The class will explore how filmmakers and screenwriters can hone a narrative, in the script and pre-production stage, in order to avoid costly re-shoots or shooting scenes that from the start were destined to be cut. A filmmaker who can do a lot of the ‘editing room work’ before filming will be far ahead of the game. Think Like An eEditor covers this, as well as how to approach a film in the editing room and how to interact with the editor and other key players in the post-production process.
Think Like An Editor uses a variety of clips from various movies, including a lengthy examination of the work of Anne Coates, one of the most prolific and influential editors in filmmaking.
Students will also be assigned Out of Sight and Dolores Claiborne, both of which will broken down in great detail.
An insightful look at how great screenwriters/filmmakers craft complex scenes with the best of dialogue. Using a variety of clips and the original scripts upon which they were based, this class breaks down scenes line by line to help any screenwriter create the richest dialogue possible.
Tom P’s Dos and Don’ts of Rewriting
Once you have a first draft of a script, it can be difficult to objectively assess what needs to be done next. Dos and Don’ts of Rewriting gives filmmakers hands on, practical tools to bring any draft of a screenplay to the next level.