How to Keep the Stakes High in Your Script

The Tools to Keeping An Executive and Audience Engaged
Taught by Nate Matteson


On Demand Class - For immediate download. Unlimited access for 1 year.

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This Next Level Education class has a 93% user satisfaction rate.

Class hosted by: Nate Matteson

Producer/Manager at Gotham Group

About Your Instructor, Nate Matteson: In his seventh year working in representation, Nate Matteson manages the careers of some of the most exciting emerging filmmakers and television creators at The Gotham Group, one of the top management and production firms in Los Angeles. Named by Variety Magazine as a “New Leaders of Hollywood” in 2011, Nate found his calling discovering and cultivating talent. Most recently, Nate will be overseeing production on the feature film, Stephanie, with Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman attached to direct and Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious) attached to co-produce. Nate's clients have won Academy Awards, written for directors both home and abroad (Stoker) and are creators of TV series such as Sleepy Hollow. Last year alone Matteson has sold projects to Paramount, Lionsgate, Disney, Netflix, Sony TV, Europacorp, FOX TV Studios, ABC Family, Relativity, CW, and Cartoon Network. After getting his professional start working for renowned television director David Nutter and creator Josh Friedman, Matteson cut his teeth in representation as an agent-trainee at Paradigm. He is a graduate of the University Of Wisconsin. Full Bio »


To see a video sample of the class, see below!

4 part class taught by Nate Matteson, literary manager named one of “Hollywood's New Leaders” by Variety Magazine. No matter if you write comedy, drama, horror or sci fi, every page has to count. It's easy for an executive to get distracted or lose focus if a script doesn't have high enough stakes for the protagonist, and/or the antagonist and secondary characters. One of the biggest reasons for passing we hear from executives are lack of clear or tangible stakes. Learn what it takes to keep the stakes high and keep the executive reading!

Stage 32 Happy Writers is excited to bring you the previously-recorded 4 part class:How to Keep the Stakes High in Your Script - Keeping An Executive and Audience Engaged taught by Nate Matteson, literary manager at Gotham Group. Learn straight from the source on what he teaches his clients to keep them working!

Here's a sample of what to expect in this exciting Next Level Class: 

Purchasing gives you access to the previously-recorded live class.
Although Nate is no longer reviewing the assignments, we still encourage all listeners to participate!

What You'll Learn

Part 1 - Introduction: Macro vs Micro-view Stakes

Nate discusses what defines "stakes" and why they are important. He follows with a thurough examination of macro-view stakes versus micro-view. Nate also delves into common traps writers fall into and how to avoid them.

Part 2 - Finding the Balance: Internal vs External Stakes

Nate explores script structure and where the stakes should start and end. He continues with a discussion about how antagonists should create stakes, and how to find the balance between internal and external stakes. He also explains stakes on an episode vs. season vs. overall series level, using Breaking Bad as an example.

Part 3 - Stakes and a Character's Arc

Nate goes over a "hypothetical sequel" scenario with the previously-recorded live class. He further explains the importance of stakes and how they should directly affect a character's arc. He answers the question, "can you ever have too many stakes?" He also gives pitching advice on how to properly present the stakes in a writer's story.

Part 4 - How to Add Stakes Without a Rewrite

Nate gives advice on how a writer could check their work to make sure the stakes are escalating the story. If a script is done and the writer has to incorporate more stakes, how can they do so and avoid having to rewrite their entire script? Nate goes over a series of scripts he has come across in his own career that he has altered to inject more stakes. Lastly, he will also discuss what supporting characters could be used to raise the stakes.

About Your Instructor

About Your Instructor, Nate Matteson:

In his seventh year working in representation, Nate Matteson manages the careers of some of the most exciting emerging filmmakers and television creators at The Gotham Group, one of the top management and production firms in Los Angeles.

Named by Variety Magazine as a “New Leaders of Hollywood” in 2011, Nate found his calling discovering and cultivating talent. Most recently, Nate will be overseeing production on the feature film, Stephanie, with Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman attached to direct and Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious) attached to co-produce. Nate's clients have won Academy Awards, written for directors both home and abroad (Stoker) and are creators of TV series such as Sleepy Hollow.

Last year alone Matteson has sold projects to Paramount, Lionsgate, Disney, Netflix, Sony TV, Europacorp, FOX TV Studios, ABC Family, Relativity, CW, and Cartoon Network. After getting his professional start working for renowned television director David Nutter and creator Josh Friedman, Matteson cut his teeth in representation as an agent-trainee at Paradigm. He is a graduate of the University Of Wisconsin.


Q: What is the format of a class?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Classes are typically 2 to 4 week ongoing broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.

Q: Do I have to have to be located in a specific location?
A: No, you can participate from the comfort of your own home using your personal computer! If you attend a live online class, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the class.

Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the class software: Windows 7 or later Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
If you have Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion): The class software does not support these operating systems. If you are running one of those operating systems, please upgrade now in order to be able to view a live class. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer 

Q: What if I cannot attend the live class?
A: If you cannot attend a live class and purchase an On-Demand class, you will have access to the entire recorded broadcast, including the Q&A.

Q: Will I have access to the class afterward to rewatch?
A: Yes! After the purchase of a live or On-Demand class, you will have on-demand access to the audio recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!


If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.

Reviews Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Ask Me Anything with Stage 32 CEO Richard "RB" Botto

Hello Creative Army!   Over the last few months, the entire team here at Stage 32 has been working tirelessly to help you stay connected, creative, motivated, and informed. As always, we are committed to bringing you networking opportunities, education and mentoring from top-level industry executives and professionals, and access to decision-makers around the globe all from the safety of your own home.   Since the beginning of the quarantine mandates brought about by the spread of COVID-19, I've promised you free education designed not only to keep you inspired and entertained, bit to provide up-to-date, no BS information regarding how the industry is handling business during the better at home orders and give you a glance into what lies ahead. We have brought in top executives in television and animation for state of the industry roundtables, partnered with film festivals to bring you top of the line virtual panels, and even hosted a virtual happy hour and table read, to name just some of our COVID-19 free education initiatives.   Every day, the Stage 32 team is on the phone and communicating with industry professionals. Our goal is to have our finger on the pulse of what's happening in the moment. Additionally, since launching Stage 32 Screenings I have had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of entertainment industry creatives and professionals including festival directors, distributors, sales agents, financiers and other executives to get their take on how they're navigating these challenging times. I can think of no better time to host another free AMA (Ask Me Anything) so I can share what I've been hearing and experiencing in my personal creative pursuits and to take your questions on all things craft and business.   In June I hosted a new AMA. You brought your questions and energy and I provided a couple of hours of no-holds-barred shop talk. All creatives were welcome to join no matter their profession(s), skill level, or geographical location. We came together for some inspiration, motivation, and community. I had fun spending quality time with you all.   As always, registering for my AMA is completely FREE! And the more the merrier, so do invite any of your fellow creative friends and peers to watch. Should any of your contacts not be members of Stage 32 already, you can send them an invite here!   If you missed my last few AMA's, you can view them here!   Cheers!   RB

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Networking is the key to success in any industry, but in the entertainment business, it is a NECESSITY if you want to break in. And now in this increasingly online and virtual world, a large part of networking takes place in virtual settings, namely on apps and online platforms. This landscape is constantly changing, and while it can be hard to keep up with, it can also be incredibly lucrative. It is not uncommon now for writers to be discovered because of a viral post on Twitter, for friendships to be formed on Clubhouse, or for a script to be optioned right here on Stage 32. All of this just while sitting at home on your computer or phone. It’s clear that these tools are too powerful of a tool to ignore, but it’s important you know how to use these tools correctly. The world of virtual networking can seem overwhelming and foreign, especially when you’re more accustomed to traditional networking and in-person events. Yet success on these platforms is not just reserved for Gen-Z and “influencers”; creatives of all ages and background are finding success and getting discovered through these tools. Yet the key is knowing how to use these apps the right way. Just like for in-person events and old-school networking, you can use these opportunities to build your connections, or you can leave others with a bad impression. It often just comes down to understanding the rules and expectations on each platform, and understanding how to contribute and make yourself part of the community. So what are the apps where the real opportunities are forged? How can you stand out (in a good way)? With the right strategies and approach, you’ll be able to build your network and meet people who can be your cheerleaders along the way. Kristen Lucas and Tara Gore are powerhouse networkers in the entertainment industry. Kristen Lucas is a talent manager at Bohemia Group, specializing in actors and filmmakers in film and television. Her clients have appeared in films such as Netflix's I CARE A LOT and THE HONEST THIEF alongside Liam Neeson, and on television such as Netflix's THE GOOD COP and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, Hulu's CASTLE ROCK, AMC's BETTER CALL SAUL and many others. Tara Gore has produced over 300 live shows and original content for MLB including Avicii, Billy Joel, Demi Lovato, Zac Brown Band, One Republic, Elton John, John Legend, Jason Aldean, Ziggy Marley and many more. Kristen and Tara attribute their success to hustling to find opportunity where others find dead ends. Their long history of creative networking has built them a vast network of contacts across all areas of entertainment and business and allowed them to ensure the success of their clients and projects. Working together, Kristen and Tara will outline the six main apps and platforms they use to network and find connections and clients: Clubhouse, Instagram, Twitter, Stage 32, IMDB, and LinkedIn. For each they will lay out how the app works, how you can best operate within it, and the mistakes to avoid. Along the way they'll dive into success stories each platform has provided and why they worked, as well as horror stories and how you can avoid similar fates.    Online networking doesn’t need to be scary and it's something you can master no matter what your background is. Expect to leave this with a bunch of ideas, real world examples, and inspiration to master these apps, continue meeting new people online, and finding your place in this industry.

Creating Realistic Characters for Television and Film

Whether we’re talking about a comedy or drama, sci-fi or horror, a film or television series, animated or live action, short-form or long-form, having good characters is essential. There’s no escaping it. Even a script with everything else going for it, if it doesn’t have strong, compelling characters, it’s not going to work. Great characters connect the audience to your world and ground it in humanity. They provide stakes, bolster your plot and keep it moving. It’s therefore crucial to understand what make an effective character and how you can create that in your own project. Unfortunately there’s not a step-by-step guide to crafting the perfect character. There’s no secret formula and there’s no surefire algorithm. Good characters are complicated and hard to define because so are people. Good characters hold a mirror up to reality and let the audience see themselves or someone else they know in them. And all of that might be fine and good in theory, but what does that actually mean in practice? If you’re a writer how can you create a character who serves as a mirror, who will stick with audiences long after the movie or show ends? And if you’re a producer or director, how can you recognize a great character from a mediocre one through the written word? Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer who has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Film Festival selection and was later bought by CBS Films. Lee is a Sundance Institute Fellow, and his work has appeared on The Black List. Through his writing career, Lee has spent more time than most considering the art of character and using that to aid his own career, as well as writers he continues to mentor and champion. Lee will walk you through the power of character and how to create great characters for your own project. He’ll begin by discussing why exactly characters are so vital to story and will teach you the key differences between a TV character and a film character. Next he will give you a brief history of character in storytelling and reveal the one fictional character from history that all other characters draw from. Lee will then discuss the difference between heroes and anti-heroes, as well as help you determine which of your characters is the driver and which are the riders. He’ll then delve into the art of a great antagonist and why an interesting adversary is so crucial to a successful story. Lee will help you frame your story through the clarity of need, both in character and in story. Next Lee will go over the classic Hero’s Journey and slightly re-imagine it for modern times. He will give you strategies and exercises to better understand and develop your own characters, including his “What’s Their God?” and “Changing A Flat Tire” games. He’ll then teach you the concept of revealing character through behavior and hiding character with words. Next Lee will delve into the idea of how your characters fit into your world, including how the environment might change your character. He’ll teach you the Shakespearean approach to character and compare it to the Balzacian approach, and will also discuss the difference between neuroticism and human comedy. Finally Lee will go over the dance between plot and character, illustrating how the two should work with and against each other to create a feedback loop that’s necessary for any great script.        Praise for Lee’s Webinar   “Great insight. Really helped me in moving forward.” -Martin R.   “I really enjoyed Lee's perspective on script writing. The examples he provided were very helpful. I'm very appreciative that he would share his knowledge, some of his techniques and be so generous with his encouragement.” -Simone L.   “Lee had a great way of explaining how to get a feel for the character and why they have the traits they do. Lee did a great job of covering a lot of character related topics which I am glad I have been exposed to.” -Karl H.

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Stage 32 + Raindance Present: 2020 Short Film Filmmaker Spotlight

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