Tom works with writers at:

Red Bull         Lucasfilm         PIXAR         American Zoetrope

MIRAMAX        HBO      Columbia Pictures         Constantin Film

Tom works with writers at:

Red Bull         Lucasfilm

PIXAR         American Zoetrope


Columbia Pictures         Constantin Film

Best-selling author Tommy Jaud in session with Tom

Story Coaching for Writers

Do you have story problems in your screenplay, book or film that you’d like to solve now?

As your coach, I guarantee that you will take a quantum leap in the next edit of your film or your next draft of your screenplay or book.

Your writing will jump off the page when you have a clear roadmap to follow and write from your intuition.

You’ll follow in the footsteps of writers I’ve worked with who have published their novels and who’s films have won Academy Awards, premiered at Sundance and were broadcast on Netflix and HBO.

“Tom’s guidance on ‘Nowhere in Africa’ was extraordinary.”
Caroline Link, writer-director, Nowhere in Africa (Academy Award)

What is the result?

  • You’ll have a new outline with a winning structure and character orchestration.
  • You’ll jump into the first or next draft of your script, book or film edit.
  • You’ll experience a much greater level of skill and confidence.

“Tom guides me on every screenwriting journey.”
Pamela Gray, screenwriter, Conviction (Hilary Swank), Music of the Heart (Meryl Streep), A Walk on the Moon (Diane Lane)

I love coaching and I’m happy to connect for a complementary 20-minute session. Contact me.

“Tom is the best, full stop!”
Daniel Speck, best-selling novelist, Bella Germania and Picolla Sicilia


I was on a pre-med scholarship at the University of Illinois when I first saw Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Star Wars, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These transformational films astonished me; they spoke to something deep inside and changed my life. I had found my lifework: to be involved in the magic of storytelling.

So, I switched from pre-med to creative writing, and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Film from UCLA. I optioned my first two screenplays on an amazing early ride, sharing my scripts with Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. But when the scripts weren’t made into films I went into despair, wound up working as a bellman in a downtown Chicago hotel, and pondered whether film school had been a huge mistake. I confessed to a fellow bellman over a cold beer that while I loved storytelling, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to follow my dream and make movies. He suggested I come with him to a lecture that very night.

The speaker was author Joseph Campbell, featuring his book ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’, and that night triggered a life-long passion for the power of story to affect positive change in society. I was inspired to create social impact entertainment, and mythologist Jean Houston, a renowned expert on the psychology of creativity, became my mentor. Through studies with Jean, I made the single most important discovery of my storytelling career: that what we’re experiencing emotionally as we’re writing is what the characters are experiencing emotionally – and ultimately what the audience experiences when watching the film. Realizing that writers experience a parallel rite of passage with their characters led me to begin teaching human potential workshops at UCLA, the Esalen Institute, the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and the Academy of Art in Munich.

I started teaching at the National Film School in Munich and began writing, teaching and consulting in Europe, North America and North Africa. My first two collaborations with filmmaker Carolin Link in Germany resulted in nominations for two Academy Awards, with ‘Nowhere in Africa’ winning the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2003.

I co-wrote a film for Columbia Pictures that had the full studio machine behind it, but was a box office disappointment. I realized it was time to go deeper into my craft and in that exploration, I started my journey into documentary films. I was honored to work with renowned filmmaker Paul Saltzman on “Prom Night in Mississippi” featuring Morgan Freeman, and “The Last White Knight,” featuring Harry Belafonte – and both are still having great social impact, internationally.

So, I’d found my niche: combining narrative strategies with true stories. As if on cue, the next two films I’d be writing were powerful, transformational stories based on true events. ‘Thief River’, the ‘Hoosiers’ of hockey, and ‘Second Line West’, the story of a single mother of four, who saved the lives of a number of troubled souls by guiding them toward spiritual solutions.

As a result of these fortuitous collaborations, I‘ve taught transformational storytelling to over 10,000 industry professionals at Pixar, Lucasfilm, Deluxe Studios and the AFI.

The Storytelling Workshop at Disney’s Maker Studios

Expert Insights into Storytelling

How “Midnight Cowboy” Changed My Life

How “Midnight Cowboy” Changed My Life

My life changed in the summer of 1969 after seeing “Midnight Cowboy” at a downtown Chicago theater, compelling storytelling at it’s best. When I stepped outside the theater, I was in a lucid, bodily-felt altered state – an altered state that was triggered every time I...

1. Why the Best Comedies Make us Laugh

1. Why the Best Comedies Make us Laugh

“Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people.” W. C. Fields We laugh when we witness comic characters being humiliated in a public or social situation. In this clip from “A Fish Called Wanda” we’ll see how this happens to Archie (John Cleese) while he’s doing a...

2. How Comedy is Different than Drama

2. How Comedy is Different than Drama

Great comedies like “To Be or Not to Be” are based on a serious, sound dramatic structure. One difference between comedy and drama is that the audience, prepared to watch a comedy, never really believes that the characters will suffer irreparable physical damage. Do...

3. Why Do We Laugh in the Best Comedies?

3. Why Do We Laugh in the Best Comedies?

We laugh when comic characters are knocked off their high horse, i.e., when their high status bubble of self-importance and entitlement is suddenly burst. Your comic character’s high status is based on an inflated sense of how they would like to be seen by their...

4. How to Create the Premise in the Best Comedies

4. How to Create the Premise in the Best Comedies

The comic premise is an expression of your main character’s dilemma. Dilemma is the choice between two things that have positive values and is dramatically expressed through the conflict between what your main character desires (outer plot goal) and what they need to...

1. Why the Thriller Antagonist functions like a Protagonist

1. Why the Thriller Antagonist functions like a Protagonist

What is the Driving Engine of your thriller? The Driving Engine — what propels your story forward — in most dramas is based on the back-story wounds and desires of your main character. It’s very different in thrillers. The driving engine in thrillers is generated by...

Tom’s extraordinary guidance on my scripts for “Nowhere in Africa” and “Beyond Silence” enriched my award-winning films immensely.

Caroline Link

Writer-Director, Nowhere in Africa (Academy Award - Best Foreign Film)

Tom is the best: full stop!

Daniel Speck

Best-selling Author, Bella Germania

Tom’s wisdom, inspiration, and deep understanding of character and story continue to guide me on each screenwriting journey.

Pamela Gray

Screenwriter, Conviction, Music of the Heart, A Walk on the Moon

Working with Tom Schlesinger is worth its weight in gold!

Paul Saltzman

Filmmaker, Prom Night in Mississippi, featuring Morgan Freeman

I think I learned more about storytelling from Tom at the workshop than I learned in my last 10 years stumbling through my career.

Scott Gracheff

Director, The Rugby Player

Tom helped me focus on possibilities instead of limitations. His qualities as a guide cannot be valued enough, not to mention that he is a great guy, and tremendous fun to work with!

Reto Caffi

Writer-Director, On the Line (Academy Award Nominee, Best Short Film)

I would HIGHLY recommend Tom to anyone involved in visual storytelling.

Stephen Philipson

Editor, Hannibal, Prom Night in Mississippi

Tom has a keen sense of the “big picture.” His insight allowed us to envision structure and effective character arcs in the early stages of development — important assets in creating a great screenplay.

Ashwin Rajan

Producer, Blinding Edge Pictures

Tom has the amazing ability to guide writers to a place of enhanced creativity.

Michael Lehmann

Director, True Blood, The Larry Sanders Show

Tom has a very unique approach to story and I’m extremely grateful to have had his guidance.

Jennifer Arnold

Writer-Director, A Small Act (2011 Emmy Nomination, Sundance Jury Prize nominee)

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

Nimisha Mukerji

Director-Producer, 65 Red Roses

The first thing I did when I began writing was to pick up the phone and call Tom. I can’t think of a more insightful and inspiring “wing man”. He truly guides me to do my best work.

Daniel Stamm

Writer-Director, The Last Exorcist

Tom is a master in working with dichotomies: logic and emotion, brain and heart, body and soul… my characters came alive as we found the optimal structure for my script.

Gustav Deutsch

Writer-Director, Shirley: Visions of Reality

Collaborating with Tom has been absolutely essential for me and, aside from his sheer intellectual input, so much fun!

Doris Doerrie

Writer-Director, Nobody Loves Me, Enlightenment Guaranteed

Video Courses

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