Thomas Schlamme

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Thomas Schlamme
Thomas David Schlamme

(1950-05-22) May 22, 1950 (age 69)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
OccupationDirector, producer
Christine Lahti (m. 1983)

Thomas David Schlamme ( /ʃlɑːm/ ; [1] born May 22, 1950) is an American television director, known particularly for his collaborations with Aaron Sorkin. [2] [3] He is known for his work as executive producer on The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as well as his work as director on Sports Night.

A television director is in charge of the activities involved in making a television program or section of a program. They are generally responsible for decisions about the editorial content and creative style of a program, and ensuring the producer's vision is delivered. Their duties may include originating program ideas, finding contributors, writing scripts, planning 'shoots', ensuring safety, leading the crew on location, directing contributors and presenters, and working with an editor to assemble the final product. The work of a television director can vary widely depending on the nature of the program, the practices of the production company, whether the program content is factual or drama, and whether it is live or recorded.

Aaron Sorkin American screenwriter, director, producer, and playwright

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and playwright. His works include the Broadway plays A Few Good Men, The Farnsworth Invention and To Kill a Mockingbird; the television series Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Newsroom; and the films A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson's War, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs. For writing The Social Network, he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, among other awards. He made his feature directorial debut in 2017 with Molly's Game, which he also wrote.

A television producer is a person who oversees all aspects of video production on a television program. Some producers take more of an executive role, in that they conceive new programs and pitch them to the television networks, but upon acceptance they focus on business matters, such as budgets and contracts. Other producers are more involved with the day-to-day workings, participating in activities such as screenwriting, set design, casting and directing.



Schlamme moved from his native Houston to New York City in 1973. After serving in several low level positions for production companies, he founded his own company, Schlamme Productions, in 1980. From there, he produced campaigns for a number of musicals, including Cats . He directed the first "I Want My MTV!" advertising campaign in 1981 for producer Buzz Potamkin, and singer/songwriter Amy Grant's 1985 music video "Find a Way" for producers Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman. Throughout the 1980s, he produced a number of specials on various entertainers including Whoopi Goldberg and Rowan Atkinson.

Houston City in Texas, United States

Houston is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Texas, fourth most populous city in the United States, as well as the sixth most populous in North America, with an estimated 2018 population of 2,325,502. Located in Southeast Texas near Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, it is the seat of Harris County and the principal city of the Greater Houston metropolitan area, which is the fifth most populous metropolitan statistical area in the United States and the second most populous in Texas after the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, with a population of 6,997,384 in 2018.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

<i>Cats</i> (musical) 1981 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cats is a sung-through musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make the "Jellicle choice", deciding which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

Starting in the late 1990s, Schlamme served as producer for shows such as Tracey Takes On... and has directed shows such as Ally McBeal , Boston Public , Friends , ER and Shaun Cassidy's cult favorite science fiction TV show Invasion . He is an executive producer of the American crime drama television series Snowfall which premiered on FX in July 2017.

<i>Tracey Takes On...</i> television series

Tracey Takes On... is an American sketch comedy series starring Tracey Ullman. The show ran for four seasons on HBO and was commissioned after the success of the 1993 comedy special Tracey Ullman Takes on New York. Each episode focuses on specific subject in which Ullman and her cast characters comment on or experience through a series of sketches and monologues.

<i>Ally McBeal</i> American legal comedy-drama television series

Ally McBeal is an American legal comedy-drama television series, originally aired on Fox from September 8, 1997, to May 20, 2002. Created by David E. Kelley, the series stars Calista Flockhart in the title role as a lawyer working in the fictional Boston law firm Cage and Fish, with other lawyers whose lives and loves were eccentric, humorous, and dramatic. The series received critical acclaim in its early seasons, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 1997 and 1998, and also winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1999.

<i>Boston Public</i> television series

Boston Public is an American drama television series created by David E. Kelley and broadcast on Fox. Set in Boston, the series centers on Winslow High School, a fictional public high school in the Boston Public Schools district. It features a large ensemble cast and focuses on the work and private lives of the various teachers, students, and administrators at the school. It aired from October 2000 to January 2004. Its slogan was "Every day is a fight. For respect. For dignity. For sanity."


"You almost never see how anyone travels from point A to point C [in most TV shows]. I wanted the audience to witness every journey these people took. It all had a purpose, even seeing them order lunch. It just seemed to be the proper visual rhythm with which to marry Aaron's words. I got lucky that it worked."

—Thomas Schlamme, on the "Walk and Talk" device. [4]

Walk and talk is a storytelling-technique used in filmmaking and television production in which a number of characters have a conversation while walking somewhere. Walk and talk often involves a walking character who is then joined by another character. On their way to their destinations, the two talk. Variations include interruptions from other characters and walk and talk relay races, in which new characters join the group and one of the original characters leaves the conversation, while the remaining characters continue the walking and talking.

Schlamme made his directing debut with Miss Firecracker in 1989, and later directed the 1993 comedy film So I Married an Axe Murderer , starring Mike Myers. Schlamme directed the pilot episode of Spin City and What's Alan Watching?

<i>Miss Firecracker</i> 1989 film by Thomas Schlamme

Miss Firecracker is a 1989 comedy film directed by Thomas Schlamme. It stars Holly Hunter, Mary Steenburgen, Tim Robbins, Alfre Woodard, and Scott Glenn. The film, set in Yazoo City, Mississippi, was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley and is based on her 1984 play, The Miss Firecracker Contest.

<i>So I Married an Axe Murderer</i> 1993 film by Thomas Schlamme

So I Married an Axe Murderer is a 1993 American romantic black comedy film, directed by Thomas Schlamme and starring Mike Myers and Nancy Travis. Myers plays Charlie MacKenzie, a man afraid of commitment, until he meets Harriet (Travis), who works at a butcher shop and may be a serial killer. Myers also plays his own character's father, Stuart.

Mike Myers Canadian-British-American actor, comedian, singer, screenwriter, and film producer

Michael John Myers is a Canadian actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer who holds Canadian, British, and American citizenship. He is known for his run as a performer on Saturday Night Live from 1989 to 1995, and for playing the title roles in the Wayne's World, Austin Powers, and Shrek film franchises. He made his directorial debut with the documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013). He has mostly stepped away from acting since 2010, though he had small roles in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Bohemian Rhapsody (2018).

He worked on the TV series Parenthood for NBC and the now-cancelled Pan Am for ABC. Schlamme has also directed multiple episodes of the 2014 series Manhattan . [5]

<i>Parenthood</i> (2010 TV series) 2010 American TV series

Parenthood is an American television comedy-drama series developed by Jason Katims and produced by Imagine Television and Universal Television for NBC. The show tells of the Braverman clan, consisting of an older couple, their four children, and their families.

NBC American television and radio network

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.

<i>Pan Am</i> (TV series) US television series 2011-2012

Pan Am is an American period drama television series created by writer Jack Orman. Named for the iconic Pan American World Airways, the series features the pilots and stewardesses of the airline as it operated in the early 1960s at the beginning of the commercial Jet Age.

In 2017 he was elected president of the Directors Guild of America. [6]

Work with Aaron Sorkin

Schlamme's nearly decade-long collaboration in television with writer-producer Aaron Sorkin began in early 1998 when they found they shared common creative ground on the soon to be produced Sports Night. [7] [8] Their successful partnership in television was one in which Sorkin focused on writing the scripts while Schlamme executive produced and occasionally directed; they worked together on Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Schlamme would create the look of the shows, work with the other directors, discuss the scripts with Sorkin as soon as they were turned in, make design and casting decisions, and attend the budget meetings; Sorkin tended to stick strictly to writing. [7]

Schlamme first worked with Aaron Sorkin on his short-lived ABC comedy/drama Sports Night , for which he directed 16 of its 45 episodes. Their biggest break was in 1999, teaming up again on their hit political drama The West Wing . He directed the pilot episode and from then on served as the executive producer until 2003. He directed 14 episodes of The West Wing in addition to serving as executive producer. In 2003, at the end of the fourth season, Schlamme and Sorkin left the show due to internal conflicts at Warner Bros. TV not involving the NBC network, thrusting producer John Wells into an expanded role as showrunner. [9]

In early October 2005 a pilot script dubbed Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip for a new TV series, written by Sorkin and with Schlamme attached as producer, started circulating around Hollywood and generating interest on the web. A week later, NBC bought from Warner Bros. TV the right to show the TV series on their network for a near-record license fee in a bidding war with CBS. [10] The show's name was later changed to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip .

In September 2006, the pilot for Studio 60 aired on NBC, directed by Schlamme. The pilot was critically acclaimed and had high ratings, but Studio 60 experienced a significant drop in audience by mid-season. The show was cancelled after one season.

"Walk and talk"

Schlamme's direction is characterized by use of a technique called the "walk and talk": sequences consisting of single lengthy tracking shots involving multiple characters engaging in conversation as they move through the set. [11] [12] Characters enter and exit the conversation as the shot continues without any cuts.

Personal life

Schlamme resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Christine Lahti. They have three children. He is the step-brother of attorney Solomon Wisenberg, who was Ken Starr's deputy during the Impeachment of Bill Clinton and questioned the president during the grand jury interview. He is the uncle of producer Dylan K. Massin, who produced 43 episodes of The West Wing , Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life , and other television series. [13]

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  1. Aaron Sorkin & Thomas Schlamme - The West Wing - 1999 Peabody Award Acceptance Speech. August 27, 2015. Event occurs at 2:05. Retrieved July 27, 2019.
  2. Darrell L. Hope (July 2000). "Behind the Scenes with Thomas Schlamme". DGA Monthly Magazine. Retrieved 2007-01-31.
  3. Elif Cercel (1999-11-11). "Interview with Thomas Schlamme, Director and Executive Producer, "Sports Night"". Directors World. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2007-01-31.
  4. Ray Richmond (May 12, 2006). "Finale: 'West Wing'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  5. Robert Lloyd (July 26, 2014). "'Manhattan' an egghead's-eye view of the birth of the atomic bomb". The Los Angeles Times (review).
  6. "Thomas Schlamme Elected Directors Guild President – Complete Election Results". Deadline. 2017-06-24. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  7. 1 2 "Interview with Aaron Sorkin: Creator and Executive Producer of "Sports Night" and "The West Wing"". Comedy January 1, 2001. Archived from the original on March 21, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
  8. Elif Cercel (November 11, 1999). "Interview with Thomas Schlamme, Director and Executive Producer, "Sports Night"". Directors World. Archived from the original on June 26, 2007. Retrieved January 21, 2007.
  9. Josef Adalian (May 1, 2003). "Sorkin sulking away from 'Wing': Regime change for NBC White House series". Variety. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  10. Josef Adalian (October 14, 2005). "Peacock on 'Studio' beat: Sorkin, Schlamme sell behind-the-scenes drama skein". Variety. Archived from the original on May 6, 2007. Retrieved January 21, 2007.
  11. Clive James (2005). "Fantasy in The West Wing". The Meaning of Recognition: New Essays 20012005. London: Picador. p. 38. ISBN   9780330440257.
  12. Jonathan Gray (2011). "The reviews are in: TV critics and the (pre)creation of meaning". In Michael Kackman; et al. (eds.). Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence. New York: Routledge. p. 117. ISBN   9780203879634.
  13. "Dylan K. Massin". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-10-25.