Course descriptions and program timetable



You will learn the basics of screenwriting, including character creation, dialogue writing, scene construction, story editing, documentary writing, short format writing, commercials, broadcast news, factual entertainment and new media writing. You will develop an understanding of the script as the blueprint for production and how writing fits into the production and editing process.


You will develop late night comedy materials as well as spec and original sitcom scripts, from concept through to beat sheet, outline and draft. You will work with acting students to shoot a scene from your original pilot scripts.


You will examine one-hour drama series and write a spec script for an existing series, from concept through to beat sheet, outline and draft. You will then develop the concept for an original dramatic series and write the pilot.


High-level, industry story editors will take you through the collaborative process of writing an original feature film. You will write and re-write feature acts with regular feedback from your instructors and peer story editors. Your final original script will be brought to life with an industry-style table read, by Toronto Film School acting students.


You will develop an understanding of the legal and business side of the industry, including copyright law, finance, marketing, distribution, funding projects and working with agents.


Film History introduces and explores the history of moving pictures from the humble beginnings of film through present day. This course specifically focuses on the birth of film, the innovators, milestones, art, and technology, as well as how the social and political environment directly impacts the world of cinema. Upon completion of this course students will possess an understanding of cinematic history, various genres and have a grounding in cinematic language. Students will also learn to read, track and predict trends within the current climate. This is a lecture-based course, augmented with visual teaching aids.


Scripts 1 introduces students to the basic concepts and formatting of the screenplay – characters are explored, as well as dialogue, scene structure, and sequences. Students create complex, layered characters with an emphasis on dialogue without story exposition. Students write a scene that imparts information and reveals character through subtext – guiding the audience through the use of actions, as subtly and naturally as possible. Story conflict within a scene is stressed, as is the protagonist/antagonist relationship, culminating in the ultimate scene resolution. Students also write a second scene in sequence, discussing audience expectations, and the possibility of going against these expectations to build interest and create a more compelling narrative.


Production 1 is an introduction to the basic concepts of production and basic directing techniques. Students will be introduced to terminology, roles, basic shooting techniques, mastershots, interpreting the written word, as well gain an understanding the three stages involved filmmaking- preproduction, production and post-production. There is also a lab/workshop component where students will put the theory taught in class to use and explore first hand the concepts introduced while rotating weekly through various roles.


The practical component of Production 1, this Studio course allows for hands-on, cooperative learning. Each week, students are challenged to put the theories taught in the classroom into practice in the studio in small crews. Students must complete the short film or exercise by the end of class each week under the guidance of the teacher who facilitates the optimal learning environment.


This course provides practical writing skills that will benefit any student considering a career in the field of television and film documentary production. Subject areas include television writing as a collaborative process, working with researchers, executives, directors and editors, knowing and understanding your (or the broadcaster’s) audience, writing outlines and treatments, writing the pitch and pitching your idea, research, the art of the interview, understanding tone, writing in different voices, editing and dealing with feedback.


This course will introduce students to the various formats, styles, and approaches associated with writing for studio broadcast, with a focus on news reporting. Students will be familiarized with broadcast terminology, and will be re-trained to ‘write for the ear’. Subject areas will include preparation and research, interviewing and composing scripts. Specific broadcast formats for news reports, commentaries, and mini-features will be examined, and students will learn the basics do’s and don’ts for the writing of each.


In this fundamental course students will learn the role of the Story Editor in the creative process, namely how to critically analyze the scripts and development materials of others. This in turn will give them an all new perspective on their own writing. The course will focus on the collaborative process of writing and the role of notes from story editors, executives, producers, directors and even actors. Students will be taught the ‘correct’ way to give notes both in meetings and in private, so as to make their point and get the best result from the writer. Introductory story analysis and the importance of creative brainstorming will be stressed, as students endeavor to improve one another’s work in a professional, true-to-life manner.


Editing 1 introduces the student to the basic principals of visual storytelling, technical skills and artistry. Students are exposed to theoretical concepts as they become familiar with editing stations, workflow, the software and its various tools. Focus will be on themes, and how to build tension and elicit an emotional response through various editing techniques.


Marketing and Promotional Media builds on the skills gained in Production 1.  Students are treated as professionals as they are put into ‘production companies’ and challenged to deliver quality product on time. They are introduced to the fundamental marketing/promotional formats, with a focus on how to deal with clients and meet their needs. Working in groups, students will deliver a testimonial video, a broadcast ready television commercial, a broadcast ready public service announcement (PSA), and pitch and deliver either a music video, corporate video, training video, or cover a live event.


Marketing and Promotional Media builds on the skills gained in Production 1 Studio and students are treated as professionals and are introduced to the concept of various filmed projects with a marketing or promotional aspect applied. Working in groups, students will deliver a movie trailer, a broadcast-ready public service announcement (PSA), and through a pitching session, pitch and deliver a music video.


International Film Studies is designed as an overview of the cinema outside of North America and western filmmaking sensibilities. Students will be introduced to some of the great masters of World Cinema, studying their contributions to the cinematic art form and influences on global filmmaking. Students will be exposed to master works and cinematic achievements – imperative in today’s expanding global marketplace.


Advanced directing techniques builds on the foundations gained in Production 1. Students will delve deeper into the creative process, and technical decisions made by the Director – with a focus on preproduction and production. Student will learn how to work with performers, and how to effectively communicate their ideas and vision to their crew. They will be exposed to a variety of setups, movements, and theories, as they gain a deeper understanding of the tools required to successfully direct any project.


Scripts 2 focuses on three act structure and story arcs, as students learn to create and highlight fundamental plot points. With this structural knowledge students venture a ‘beat sheet’ for a short film. Using their beat sheets students are guided through the process of creating a treatment, which includes detailed story information and subtext. Finally students write the first draft of their script with a focus on rising action, tension and creating a compelling narrative.


Building on the knowledge base established in Broadcast Writing I, this course will focus on story development, and broadcast scripts that grab and hold an audience. Students will be taught the fundamental considerations in the production of advertisements, promos, and corporate videos, as they examine and analyze current trends.  Throughout the course, students will build an introductory portfolio of corporate video scripts, commercials, promos, and PSA’s (public service announcements) for their professional use later on.


This course will focus on reader coverage, and specific considerations when story editing projects in various formats.  Following on Story Editing I, the instructor will expand on the tools needed to analyze the premise, story, characters and controlling idea of a script, and how to present concerns to the writer in the most effective way.


In Factual Entertainment students will be introduced to one of television broadcast’s strongest markets, its trends and theories. Students will focus on developing and pitching an original Factual Entertainment concept, as the instructor guides them through the process of creating the story and episode structure, casting the central personalities, and outlines how to budget the production and package the overall proposal. The central project in this course will be the production of a ‘sizzle reel’ to present to producers and broadcasters.


Film Contract & Copyright focuses on the primary contracts associated with film production, as well as copyright infringement and clearances. Students will be guided through the essential elements of copyright law including what constitutes a violation, ownership and payments, and how Canada is continually adjusting its copyright laws to the ever-changing global and technological climate. Through the course, students will also discuss music rights, the various types of intellectual property, and brands. With these considerations in mind students will be able to safely and effectively prepare their projects for distribution.


This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of sketch, talk-show, and sitcom writing, and to the required elements of a sitcom script. The notion of A, B & C plots will be examined, as will the traditional ‘Tease-2 Acts-Tag’ structure. Students will be familiarized with the language and process of television comedy writing and rewriting, as they analyze the various formats for television comedy, and study current sitcoms (animated and live-action), talk and sketch shows. Students will be encouraged to develop their own comic voice and point-of-view, while preparing a series of monologues, desk jokes, sketches and a spec script of an existing sitcom, for their portfolio. Three hours a week will be spent table reading and work-shopping student scripts.


This course will build on the base established in Scripts 1 & 2, as it introduces students to the unique considerations of writing for the big screen. Students will delve further into the creative process, looking at how words translate into images, and how filmic elements create a visual narrative. Focus will be on continued examination the concepts of conflict, theme, subtext, tone, dialogue and genre, as students are introduced to the traditional three act story structure for film. Portions of classic and modern films will be screened and analyzed, to reinforce the theory learned. The importance of researching and/or knowing your characters and world will be stressed, as students come up with their own concept proposals (log line & synopsis), which will be taken to beat sheet and then treatment by the end of the course. Three hours a week will be spent table-reading and work-shopping student materials.


In this course, students will be introduced to the unique style and structure of dramatic television series, with a focus on storyline and story development. Plot structure, narrative unity, characterization, dialogue, exposition and setting will all be studied in depth, as students analyze various dramatic series currently on the air. The traditional four-act structure for hour-long series will be introduced, as students examine the ‘rules’ in some of their favourite series, and the regimented way in which each functions. Through the course, students will write a spec script for an existing dramatic series from proposal to draft, to be used as a portfolio piece after graduation. Three hours a week will be spent table reading and work-shopping student scripts.


Students are introduced to the business techniques and language involved in securing available funding from various agencies. Students become familiar with several types of funding at different levels of government and through private institutions, including various grants and tax incentives.  They also become familiar with the different stipulations and approaches required by each, in order to access these funds. Students explore the different avenues and methods for raising capital as well as the different strategies for financing a project.


This course will familiarize students with the business of film and television distribution and marketing. Students will make simulated production and distribution choices dealing with realistic projects and business partners. They will develop an understanding of the TV sales process, and the global marketplace they will be entering. Students will learn the language of broadcast and film sales, create effective ‘one/sell’ sheets, and develop both a sales forecast and a marketing and promotion plan for a project. Students will learn to identify accessible and profitable markets, gain a greater understanding of the domestic and international film and television landscape, and familiarize themselves with emerging markets including mobile, web and video on demand.


Building on the base established in Comedy Writing, this course will analyze the structure, scripting and pacing of the sitcom in greater depth. Single-camera and multi-camera shows will be examined, compared, and contrasted, as students consider the ‘trajectory’ of the sitcom in recent years. The importance of likeable, well defined characters (and knowing their ‘clowns’) and a compelling, comfortable world (with consistent rules) will be stressed as students write an original sitcom pilot from proposal through outline to draft. Three hours a week will be spent table reading and work-shopping student scripts.


Building on the base established in Feature Writing I, this course will focus on story structure, as students learn to construct and deconstruct story in various ways. More complex structures will be examined, to give students a solid foundation in the language of feature film story. Scene structure will also be examined in greater depth. Students continue to work on the feature outlines written in part I, and begin writing a first draft of their script. Standard industry formats for the various development documents will be reviewed, as students also revise their pitch documents from part I (log lines, synopses, etc.) for future use. Three hours a week will be spent table reading and work-shopping student materials.


Building on the base established in Drama Writing, this course will move students from theory to practice in its focus on the writing of one-hour dramatic television. Students will conceive of their own ideas for an original pilot, contemplating how they’d like their series to function and the ‘rules’ of their world – en route to an outline, then a draft of a pilot script. The market-driven nature of dramatic television will be stressed, as students learn that writing drama demands flexibility, accommodation of external influences, understanding audience, and most recently extending story to digital platforms. Three hours a week will be spent table reading and work-shopping student scripts.


This course will look at the structure of real-world story departments, and what can be done to put oneself in the best position possible to be hired in a staff position. Using the original pilot drafts written in Sitcom Writing 1, students will also get a chance to see what it’s like to run a writing room, as they act as Showrunner for their pilots. Students will be divided into small groups that act as pseudo-writing rooms, with each taking a turn as Showrunner, using their team members to rework and enhance their scripts. Through this workshop course, instructors will guide students as they go through the process of brainstorming, story editing, and ‘punching up’ each other’s scripts in real-world writing room style. Students will receive invaluable experience as they are forced to decide which of their writers’ ideas to leave and to take, often in the face of tremendous peer pressure, all while trying to stay true to the voice of their show.


In this course, students will learn the ins and outs of the dramatic story department, and the skills necessary to be hired in a staff position. Using the original pilot drafts written in One-Hour Drama Writing 1, students will break into small groups that function as pseudo-writing rooms, with each student taking a turn being Showrunner with their own script. Instructors will consult with the groups on a regular basis, giving producer/network style notes for each Showrunner to follow. Students will learn the advantages and disadvantages of having additional ‘brains’ on their project, as they collaborate, rework, rewrite, and do their best to keep a consistent style and tone in their pilots. Instructors will guide the process, but it will ultimately be up to each student to decide which of their peers’ ideas to take, and how to best use the resources available to them to improve their script.


In the next installment in this area, students will workshop their first drafts from Feature Writing II, rethinking and rewriting as they receive feedback from instructors and their peers. Focus will be on the increasingly collaborative nature of feature writing today, and how to make the most of the criticism of others. The logistics of writing a commercially saleable script will be examined, as will the art of producing a compelling feature adaptation from a novel or other medium. Modern story structures for current saleable genres will be studied, including romantic comedies and thrillers. Students will finalize pitch materials from parts I & II (log lines, synopses, etc.) so that along with a polished script, they’ll have the short documents needed to get people interested enough to read. Three hours a week will be spent table-reading and work-shopping student materials.


With a solid basis in Feature Writing, this course will introduce students to the always-prevalent (especially in Canada) area of TV Movie or MOW (movie-of-the-week) writing. The unique structure (typically 8 acts, with an act 4 ‘twist’) and production concerns for these films will be examined, as will their atypical plot development and characterization. Subject areas will include ripped-from-the-headlines adaptations, and how far the writer can/should stray from the truth to make their story as compelling as possible. Finding a story that will be saleable in today’s MOW market will be stressed, as students choose a TV Movie concept, which is eventually taken through to beat sheet.


Emerging Media for Filmmakers is designed to focus on all new aspects and forms that relate to the visual storytelling medium. With technology, law and distribution trends rapidly evolving, focus will be on gaining an historical perspective and learning the skills needed to project trends and successfully navigate relevant media. This course relies heavily on the use of industry-professional guest speakers to bring the latest developments to students.



In Sitcom Showrunning & Short Film Production students will be guided and mentored through the various issues that arise during the preproduction and production phases of any project. There are two streams of opportunity in this course.  At the end of the previous term, students interested in making a short film will submit scripts to be considered for production, a number of which will be selected by a panel, based on specific criteria.  Students whose scripts were selected for production will take on the role of director/producer on their films.  Students not directing/producing a short film will use their pilot script from Sitcom Writing 2 as they go through the process of casting then shooting a scene from their original sitcom, as showrunner.  Topics discussed will include set etiquette, casting, location scouting, location agreements, permits, shots lists, equipment needs and the various other requirements that arise during the preproduction period. Along with their faculty member, students will target a production date and endeavour to execute a successful shoot. At the conclusion of the course students will submit a detailed production package, similar to those used in the industry and sent to distributors along with completed projects.


As in Sitcom Showrunning, students will have the opportunity to collaborate with their peers from the acting school as they mock showrun the production of a scene from their original pilot. Students will go through the process of casting then shooting their original scene, in this true-to-life, real-world-style exercise. Though full production will not occur (a standing camera will be used to capture each take), students will have the opportunity to guide their vision from the page to the screen, as they manage actors and tweak story on the spot. Students will also once again have the opportunity to use the writers from their One-Hour Drama Writing 2 class either as additional eyes on-set, or as writing support.


This final Feature Writing course will allow students to use the materials created in Feature Writing I -III to experience the challenges faced by the auteur, writer-director filmmaker. The course is heavily weighted to the practical. As in the final term Showrunning courses, students will collaborate with students from the acting school to audition, cast, and then run a complete table-read of their feature script.  It will be each student’s responsibility to direct their actors during the read, as they watch their words brought to life from the page. Students will gain invaluable experience from this true-to-life, real-world style exercise.


This course will focus on building a career in the film & television industry, both from a business standpoint and a creative one. On the business side, how to obtain and/or deal with agents, lawyers and managers will be examined, as will the role of these people in the industry and one’s career. On the creative side, the type of portfolio needed for various goals will be focused on, as will the benefit of having both original and spec scripts, and the appropriate balance. Formats for pitch documents will be reviewed, including log lines, synopses, treatments, bibles, and pilot scripts. Students will learn pitch techniques, and have the opportunity to create submission packages to be used after graduation.