Writing, Directing & Distributing Your Short Film

Taught by James Kicklighter

$178

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Class hosted by: James Kicklighter

Multi-Award Winning Writer and Director

James Kicklighter has become a multi-award winning writer/director whose work has been recognized by the world’s press, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Times of India, Film Courage and FilmInk Australia. Most recently, he released A Few Things About Cancer, the story of a newlywed couple’s quarter life crisis through stage four cancer, winner of Best Documentary Short at the 2015 FirstGlance Los Angeles Film Festival. IndyRed raved, “a remarkable achievement...stuffed with some great achievements, is its ability to tell a story we've all heard, yet keep it fresh and emotionally connected.” His first feature film, Desires of the Heart, follows the journey of Dr. Kris Sharma (Val Lauren) as he leaves a budding romance with an artist (Alicia Minshew) in Savannah, GA for a marriage arranged by his parents in Rajasthan, India, where he discovers centuries old secrets that may determine the fate of his destiny. Desires was an official selection of numerous festivals across the United States and around the world, including the 2014 Cannes Marché du Film and was the winner of Best Foreign Film at the 2013 Los Angeles Femme Film Festival. Film Threat declared that Desires “matches its narrative’s expansive ambitions with gorgeous visions that turn both Georgia and India into almost permanent states of postcard-friendly imagery.” The Independent Critic said it is "both intelligent and fantastic...[challenging] both heart and mind with a story that is culturally grounded, somewhat mystical in nature, and yet psychologically insightful." Previously, Ain’t it Cool News said of Followed, his adaptation of the Zombie short story from Hugo Award winner Will McIntosh, “[is] an entirely new and refreshing take on the zombie genre, directed with a delicate and gentle hand, [it’s] the most unexpected horror surprise seen in quite a while.” Fotogramas, one of Europe’s leading film publications, stated that “[Followed]... return[s] the genre to progressive social commentary.” Outside of entertainment production, Kicklighter produces the ad campaign for the National Student Leadership Conference, profiling the most influential leaders in America, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee, Director of Operations for the U.S. Peace Corps, amongst others. He also works with AMBITION, a Los Angeles-based program that teaches entrepreneurial skills to low-income students, many of which become first-generation college graduates. James is currently developing films with a southern voice for producers Richard Saperstein (The Mist, Se7en) and Beau Turpin (Counterpunch), including The Perpetual State of Georgia from writers Casey Nelson and Kate Murdoch (The Last Treasure Hunt) and Erk, the biopic about legendary college football coach Erk Russell. Additionally, James is nearing completion on his first book, the biography of famed entertainment publicist Bobby Zarem, and recently directed the music video “Branches,” the solo debut of singer/songwriter Shel Bee, debuting on iTunes and multiple platforms in August 2015. He serves on the Advisory Board for the Department of Communication Arts at Georgia Southern University, his alma mater, where he was recently chosen out of over 30,000 living graduates to be listed on the inaugural “40 Under 40 Alumni” for “impact in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors.” You can read more about James on his Stage 32 profile. Full Bio »

Summary

Part 1 - Writing, Budgeting & Pre-Production

  • How to write an effective short script
    • The brainstorming process
      • Utilizing real life experiences, what are memorable moments in your life that stick out to you?
      • Moments in a friend’s life?
    • Creating characters:
      • What topics do you uniquely understand?
      • What jobs have you held?
      • What did your parents do for a living?
      • Where did you grow up?
    • Writing in proper format
      • What is the difference between writing “is working” and “works” in a screenplay and why does verbiage matter when writing action?
      • Should I put my WGA and copyright notices on the title page?
  • The business of making a short film
    • What do I need to do to protect myself?
      • Creating an LLC and lawyering up for the right reasons.
    • How much is this really going to cost?
      • Evaluating SAG Short Film Agreements, cost of renting equipment, everything from lighting to locations, and looking forward to release and distributions, what are the costs beyond the actual production of a film?
    • Logistically, how will I be able to execute all the elements?
      • How do I handle room and board for out of town talent?
      • Is there a local film commission I can work with, and if so, what exactly is their role in helping me execute my vision?

Part 2 - Directing, Marketing & Distributing Your Film

  • Preparing to direct and the production process
    • What do I need to do before I get to set?
      • What is the purpose of having location walkthroughs?
      • When and how to I make the shot list and how many shots do I really need?
      • How do I make my vision clear to crewmembers while still being collaborative in the process?
    • How do I work with an actor for the first time?
      • How much say should they have in the script and changing the character?
      • Should I allow an actor to change my lines?
      • How do I follow their emotional journey over the course of shooting a film that is totally out of order so it makes sense in the final product?
    • When problems arise on set, how do I respond?
      • What are best practices to maintaining authority without creating conflict?
      • How do I ensure that everyone is getting the proper attention they need so I can avoid problems?
    • What happens if I find out we didn’t shoot something we needed?
      • How do I work with footage or sound that didn’t come out the way I expected?
      • How long should my final product be so I can be successful at film festivals?
  • Marketing your film
    • What can I do to promote my film before we ever start filming?
      • When is the appropriate time to start promoting?
      • What kind of promotion looks and feels professional versus amateur?
      • Is there such a thing as oversharing information on social networks?
    • During production, how can I use my cast and crew to promote the project?
      • What parameters should I set to not give away plot points?
      • What is the role of a still photographer on set and how can I leverage the still photographer for publicity?
    • How do I reach out to press outlets to promote my film?
      • How do I find out what press outlets are the right ones for my film, and how do I even get a journalist interested in covering it?
      • What makes an effective versus ineffective pitch letter?
  • Releasing your film
    • What makes an effective trailer?
      • How can I best prepare and present the trailer and still photos for promotional purposes?
      • Should I create a Facebook page for my film and a website and a Twitter and an Instagram, etc.?
    • How do I get into Sundance? If I don’t get into Sundance, is my career finished?
      • There are entirely too many film festivals, how do I begin to figure out which ones are good and which ones are bad?
      • What are effective ways of meeting, then following up, with producers and gatekeepers that I meet at these events?
      • What kind of communication does an executive find annoying?
    • Should I sell my film or give it away for free?
      • If I give it away for free, how will I be able to pay myself back?
    • How do I quantify if my film was a success?
      • How do I use the short film to get myself ready for my next project?
      • What if the film didn’t come out the way I wanted, am I completely done as a filmmaker?
      • How do I use the lessons I learned to make my next project better?
      • Now that I’ve made my first short film and loved it, how do I make this my full time job and become a professional filmmaker?

What You'll Learn

2 part on-demand Next Level Class taught by James Kicklighter, a multi-award winning writer/director who is currently developing projects with Richard Saperstein (The Mist, Se7en) and Beau Turpin (Counterpunch) and whose films have been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, The Times of India, Film Courage and FilmInk Australia!

James exceeds your expectations and helps turn your ideas into reality.” - Susan W.

James is an extraordinary individual. He represents to me, the best of what this business holds in the next few decades.” – Gemma P.

We continually hear from the 300+ executives we work with that short films have become a huge part of their recruitment model when searching for new talent or ideas which can be stretched to feature length. If you're an aspiring writer/director ready to make a living as a filmmaker, mastering the art of crafting a short film can be the perfect launching tool for your career.

With endless opportunity for DIY projects, how do you make your film stand out? How can you avoid the mistakes that riddle the writing and directing process of making a short film? Once your film is made, how do you get it out to the world more than just uploading it on YouTube and hoping people view it? What can you do to convince investors and producers that you're ready to make the leap into bigger projects?

Stage 32 Next Level Education is thrilled to bring you James Kicklighter, a multi-award winning writer and director to teach you a master class on how to write, direct and distribute your short film. In this 2-part course, James will teach you the art of writing a short screenplay, how to develop strong characters that will attract top acting talent, while working within a budget that the average aspiring filmmaker can afford. He will then go through the process of directing your first short, how to get the cast and crew that you want, how to raise money and setup the budget, selecting the right camera and technical equipment, and working with locations and your actors to maximize your production value. Finally, you’ll learn some insider tips for distributing and marketing your final product - a step that most aspiring filmmakers never learn. You’ll discover how to target film festivals, cultivate relationships with media, and create a launch strategy that will best serve your film in the present while preparing you for the future.

About Your Instructor

James Kicklighter has become a multi-award winning writer/director whose work has been recognized by the world’s press, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Times of India, Film Courage and FilmInk Australia.

Most recently, he released A Few Things About Cancer, the story of a newlywed couple’s quarter life crisis through stage four cancer, winner of Best Documentary Short at the 2015 FirstGlance Los Angeles Film Festival. IndyRed raved, “a remarkable achievement...stuffed with some great achievements, is its ability to tell a story we've all heard, yet keep it fresh and emotionally connected.”

His first feature film, Desires of the Heart, follows the journey of Dr. Kris Sharma (Val Lauren) as he leaves a budding romance with an artist (Alicia Minshew) in Savannah, GA for a marriage arranged by his parents in Rajasthan, India, where he discovers centuries old secrets that may determine the fate of his destiny. Desires was an official selection of numerous festivals across the United States and around the world, including the 2014 Cannes Marché du Film and was the winner of Best Foreign Film at the 2013 Los Angeles Femme Film Festival. Film Threat declared that Desires “matches its narrative’s expansive ambitions with gorgeous visions that turn both Georgia and India into almost permanent states of postcard-friendly imagery.” The Independent Critic said it is "both intelligent and fantastic...[challenging] both heart and mind with a story that is culturally grounded, somewhat mystical in nature, and yet psychologically insightful."

Previously, Ain’t it Cool News said of Followed, his adaptation of the Zombie short story from Hugo Award winner Will McIntosh, “[is] an entirely new and refreshing take on the zombie genre, directed with a delicate and gentle hand, [it’s] the most unexpected horror surprise seen in quite a while.” Fotogramas, one of Europe’s leading film publications, stated that “[Followed]... return[s] the genre to progressive social commentary.”

Outside of entertainment production, Kicklighter produces the ad campaign for the National Student Leadership Conference, profiling the most influential leaders in America, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee, Director of Operations for the U.S. Peace Corps, amongst others. He also works with AMBITION, a Los Angeles-based program that teaches entrepreneurial skills to low-income students, many of which become first-generation college graduates.

James is currently developing films with a southern voice for producers Richard Saperstein (The Mist, Se7en) and Beau Turpin (Counterpunch), including The Perpetual State of Georgia from writers Casey Nelson and Kate Murdoch (The Last Treasure Hunt) and Erk, the biopic about legendary college football coach Erk Russell. Additionally, James is nearing completion on his first book, the biography of famed entertainment publicist Bobby Zarem, and recently directed the music video “Branches,” the solo debut of singer/songwriter Shel Bee, debuting on iTunes and multiple platforms in August 2015.

He serves on the Advisory Board for the Department of Communication Arts at Georgia Southern University, his alma mater, where he was recently chosen out of over 30,000 living graduates to be listed on the inaugural “40 Under 40 Alumni” for “impact in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors.”

You can read more about James on his Stage 32 profile.

Schedule

        

 

 

 

FAQs

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!

Testimonials

Testimonials:

His experience and expertise as a writer and producer of film were greatly enhanced by his enthusiasm and energy as a speaker. He presented a series of workshops in the production of film, and also was the keynote speaker at our Young Writer's Conference. In both cases, he was able to inspire and connect to many different age groups including several professors in attendance.” - Gareth Jones, Brewton-Parker College

I think James is a rare breed of artist that combines his business and marketing skills with a cohesive artistic vision. ” - Jason Winn, Film Director

James is sharp as a razor, quick to grasp an idea, and like mercury when it comes to social media.” - Lilly Lee, Co-Founder, UNICEF Chinese Children’s Initiative

James exceeds your expectations and helps turn your ideas into reality.” - Susan Woolf, Director of Operations, National Student Leadership Conference

James is an extraordinary individual. He represents to me, the best of what this business holds in the next few decades.” – Gemma Puglisi, Assistant Professor, American University

Questions?

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

  • Theres nothing like listening to one who is passionate and educated on the craft of Filmmaking. James is a voice for aspiring filmmaker's ears. Thank you for the well outlined course.
  • I have been recommending the Short Film Master Class to film makers since I completed it. It is entertaining and contains so much information. Not only does he cover "how", but includes the "why". James is phenomenal.
  • Insightful, informative and entertaining! A must for the rookie and the pro alike. James hands you tools to utilize in today's viral distribution market. After the course, you'll feel empowered and prepared to shoot, distribute and publicize your next project.
  • This was a great class! James effectively takes you into his journey of becoming a filmmaker. He shares his experiences of what to do and what not to do. Taking his class has put me on the right track as I start my film making career. Thanks James!

Other education that may be of interest to you:

Deconstructing Oscar-Winning Films: Spotlight, Network & All The President's Men

Over the past few decades as the media landscape has changed, so have methods for reporting and information gathering. Your Stage 32 Next Level educator, award-winning director, James Kicklighter, has personally learned this while directing his new documentary film, Digital Edition, profiling the digital tools changing media as we know it. In “Deconstructing Oscar-Winning Films: Spotlight, Network & All The President’s Men,” we will evaluate and deconstruct common methods deployed in these three groundbreaking films to tell stories about journalism and media. Through this process, we will identify the successful techniques from these masterpieces for directing and writing movies about the media we consume.  While filmmaking isn’t typically thought about as “investigative,” to create a film about journalism and media, it requires extended research that goes beyond writing the fictional screenplay. We will evaluate the preparation process of interviewing industry professionals, utilizing research to inform the written narrative, and how to visually manifest the themes on screen. You will walk away learning techniques to help your directing, writing, acting and producing to help you improve your projects! As an added bonus  - ***Get 3 FREE Oscar-Winning Scripts: Spotlight, All The President's Men & Network***

Writing the Producible Low-Budget Screenplay

As you know, independent film is enjoying a resurgence. Whereas a few years back, it seemed as if getting a low budget indie off the ground was a Herculean task, now, especially with the rise of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and other streaming platforms not only purchasing indie fare, but producing it on their own, lower budget independent films are back in high demand. However, to take advantage of the current gold rush, you must understand what makes an independent script attractive to managers, agents, producers, development execs, financiers and others in a position to greenlight your screenplay. For most writers focused strictly on the craft, the disconnect between a script that gets high marks for the writing, yet still has a problem drawing attention of managers and agents or finding a buyer, is a lack of knowledge as to the current marketplace. It is vital that you understand the creative and commercial realities of the business. Everything else streams from there including all the aspects that you will need in your screenplay to make it a no brainer for the aforementioned gatekeepers and decision makers to want to get involved with the project. With so many screenplays flooding the market, reps, producers, filmmakers, financiers want to choose those screenplays that already have the heavy lifting toward getting the script into production already figured out. James Kicklighter is a multi-award winning writer/director whose work has been recognized by the world’s press, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Times of India, Film Courage and FilmInk Australia.  James began his career raising funds for numerous small budget short films, which allowed him to move into award-winning feature films. Most recently he directed The Sound of Identity about the first transgender woman ever to perform as Don Giovanni in a professional opera. The film is produced by Emmy Award-winning producers Russ Kirkpatrick & Andy Kinslow and executive producer Josh Bachove (Lizzie, Yoga Hosers, The Little Hours). James will teach you the ins and outs of writing a producible, low budget independent feature that will draw the right attention. He'll start by diving into the marketplace and how you can research, review, and understand the current landscape. He will then discuss how to choose material, create compelling, deep, and unique characters, and how to write using accessible locations. He will teach you how to optimize the screenplay for production, including some tips and tricks to help a filmmaker and/or producer understand how they can schedule efficiently just by reading the script. If you are looking to control your own material, James will even dive into how to attach talent and modify the script while in production.   "James has style and class to spare. I've taken over 20 Stage 32 webinars and this was one of my favorites." - Theo K.   "So much detail and so much information. Makes me look at my scripts in a whole new light." - Amanda D.   "I've had so many screenplays that have received Consider or Recommend coverage from executives in this business, but I've never been able to get one of these screenplays launched and I could never understand why. Now I do. The writing is there, but the awareness to a producer's needs can be better. I'm on it. Thanks, James." - David V.   "I learned something today. I want to produce my own work. Actually two things. I CAN produce my own work. This webinar was worth its weight in gold." - Martina S.   "There’s nothing like listening to one who is passionate and educated on the craft of Filmmaking. James is a voice for aspiring filmmaker's ears. Thank you for the well outlined course.“ - Emeka M.

How to Develop a Treatment That Will Sell Your Project

Somewhere between your logline and your full script lies your treatment. Treatments are extremely important sales tools for you as a writer. Access to executives and decision makers is easier than ever these days through The Stage 32 Happy Writers, so what happens when you've peaked the interest of an executive off your logline, but they're not quite ready to read your whole script? You need a comprehensive, well thought out treatment. Whether you’re a writer, producer or a manager/agent, it’s vital to know how to properly put the right elements in a treatment in order to sell your project. In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, Conrad Sun will share with you some of the effective ways to structure your treatment so that your reader will say “I Want To Read More” and will hopefully lead to the sale of your script. Whether you’re new to the writing game or a long time veteran, your project deserves to make the right first impression, and Stage 32 Next Level Webinars is here to show you how. Conrad Sun is currently working as a TV Lit Manager and Development Executive at Meridian Artists in Los Angeles and represents TV writers in both the comedy and drama space. Conrad has also worked in content development with companies like Epix, Hasbro Studios, Gran Via Productions (Breaking Bad), New Wave Entertainment and Motion Theory Films.

Lights, Camera, ACTION! Polish a scene with action

Whether it’s epic battles between giant robots, a street fight, or someone chasing after the love of their life at the airport, the vast majority of movies and television use at least a bit of action writing. So we are challenged you to write an original or polish a scene with action, and really focus on making those moments of movement pop!

The Domestic and Foreign Distribution Market: How Filmmakers and Producers Can Navigate

The landscape of distribution has shifted dramatically, forcing filmmakers, producers and foreign sales agents to adapt to those changes. With the rise of streaming, there are more ways than ever to get your project out to the viewing public, whether in theaters or right in their home. In the time of quarantine, more distributors are looking to acquire films to put in the marketplace, but how does the pricing look and how will that shift over time? We will examine the current distribution marketplace and how to best take advantage of the multiple avenues of distribution both domestically and internationally. While there are more places than ever to go to for distribution, there’s also more competition for your project to be noticed by distributors and, once distributed, for viewers to decide to watch your film over the other thousands at their fingertips. It can be difficult for filmmakers and producers to know what different distributors and paths of distribution are best for each project, and which deals are more likely to garner a profit. But with a working knowledge of both the domestic and the foreign distribution market, you can find the best home for your feature. Tiffany Boyle is the President of Packaging and Sales for Ramo Law. Tiffany has helped hundreds of films, TV shows and documentaries come to fruition. Tiffany served as a Co-Executive Producer and brought in financing for films SOMETHING ELSE (Tribeca 2019) and ARKANSAS starring Liam Hemsworth and Vince Vaughn. She led the sales and packaging for TRAGEDY GIRLS (SXSW 2017) and FREAKS (Toronto IFF 2018), she brought foreign financing to ASHES IN THE SNOW (Los Angeles FF 2018) starring Bel Powley, and she sold an autobiography to Hulu for development into a limited television series. Tiffany will go over different distribution avenues - theatrical, VOD, DVD, etc. and what distributors are looking for in general. She'll break down the difference between distributors and sales agents and what types of projects will fit their slate. You'll get a complete overview of the marketplace - both domestic and foreign and understand what it will take to get your film to the right distributor. You'll learn to harness the power of festival screenings, social media and other campaigns to put your film in the best position. You'll also learn how to make the deal in terms of territory, term, delivery, fees, rights, licensing vs. reserved and more. You'll also get insight into recoupment and profit. This is the most up-to-date guide on today's film and TV domestic and foreign distribution marketplace jammed packed with actionable information you can utilize right now.   Praise for Tiffany's previous Stage 32 webinars: "Excellent discussion by Tiffany! It shows that she's right in the middle of the film business and understands what's happening now. Refreshing not to hear the same old basic information you hear everywhere. This was detailed and very much of the now." - Michael H.    "Excellent presentation by a clearly passionate expert. More, more, more." - Alexis D.   "Very clear and helpful - so much detail!" - Sil V.   "Tiffany was gracious and helpful with good energy. Plus she offered so much encouragement, practical advice and incredible energy." - Cynthia D.  

Distinct Dialogue & Character Voices

When your characters each have their own voice, you should be able to tell them apart by their dialogue alone. We challenged you to write a scene removing all character names and descriptions so that each character is distinguishable by their dialogue alone.

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