How You Can Write, Direct & Distribute Your Short Film

Taught by James Kicklighter

$199

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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

Almost every successful filmmaker today—from Ava DuVernay to Rian Johnson to Chloe Zhao to Ryan Coogler—got their start by writing and directing their own short films. It’s so common of a springboard for creatives that most managers and executives actively incorporate scouting short films as part of their recruitment model when looking for new talent or new ideas. If you're an aspiring writer or 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.

Simply putting together any short film isn’t going to be your instant ticket into the industry, however. Tens of thousands of filmmakers produce new short films every year. With so much competition, how do you make your own 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 aside from just uploading it on YouTube and hoping people view it? And what can you do to convince investors and producers that you're ready to make the leap into bigger projects?

James Kicklighter is a multi-award winning writer and director whose work has been recognized by the world’s press, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Times of India, Film Courage and FilmInk Australia. He has directed nine short films that have found success at film festivals around the world as well as through distribution. He is currently developing projects with Richard Saperstein (THE MIST, SE7EN) and Beau Turpin (COUNTERPUNCH). His latest feature film THE SOUND OF IDENTITY, about the first transgender woman to perform as Don Giovanni in a professional opera, was released this year and is produced by Emmy Award-winning producers Russ Kirkpatrick & Andy Kinslow and executive produced by Golden Globe-winner and Academy Award-nominated Josh Bachove (MINARI, THE LITTLE HOURS)

In this 2-part exclusive Stage 32 Masterclass, you will learn:

  • How to write, direct and distribute your own short film
  • 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.
  • 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,
  • How to select the right camera and technical equipment,
  • How to work with locations and your actors to maximize your production value.
  • Insider tips for distributing and marketing your final product - a step that most filmmakers never learn.
  • Hw 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.

What You'll Learn

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?

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.

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

“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.

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: 5 out of 5

  • The most comprehensive course I have taken to date covering the process of making a short film. Im an actor and I only want to make short films for now. James Kicklighter's well laid out lesson plan demonstrates the working in a clear, understandable presentation.
  • 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!

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Stage 32 Screenwriting Lab: Develop Your Faith-Based Film's Outline and Pitch

Develop and hone your faith-based film project with the expert guidance of producer and executive Brad Wilson, who has already discovered writers through Stage 32! **Only 10 Spots Available**   Faith based and faith friendly films have been a steady, popular, and profitable industry and one of the hottest genres for success. It could be considered a niche audience, but it’s a powerful and dependable niche audience that has helped catapult films and filmmakers to success. Recent films like I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, GOD’S NOT DEAD, and THE SHACK have found popularity and impressive box office numbers by tapping into this audience and bringing out church-goers and other faith-friendly communities that might not be as eager to watch films outside of this genre. And it makes sense that faith-based films are doing well. In challenging or negative times, people will more actively seek out positivity and inspiration, two ingredients almost guaranteed to be featured in a faith-based film. Considering how challenging and negative our current world can be, there might not be a better time to break into the world of faith-based films and write a script that can shine in this market. The opportunity is certainly prevalent for new faith-based films to be sold and produced, but it will still be difficult to get your own project off the ground if you don’t understand how exactly your project can fit in. That’s why it’s critical you have a clear understanding of your project, your story, your world and your characters. It’s also why it’s important to understand what the industry looks like today and what buyers are specifically searching for. Beyond a great story and a great script, knowing how to communicate your project, pitch it to the right people and actually get it sold can make all the difference. If you can ace all of these elements, you may have just found your way in and the piece of material that will fire you off the launch pad. Let us give you the guidance to improve your faith-based film project and get it market-ready Brad Wilson is the Co-founder of Higher Purpose Entertainment (HPE), a production company dedicated to telling stories in film and TV that encompass truth of character and strive to embrace inspirationally redeeming qualities. While at HPE he's produced a number of films including THREE BLIND SAINTS, CHRISTMAS ON SALVATION STREET, MY MANY SONS, THE MEANEST MAN IN TEXAS, and THE RESURRECTION OF GAVIN STONE, which was recently released in 1,100 theaters across the country. Brad is well-versed in the business of faith-based films and has a keen sense of how projects thrive in this genre. Brad is also a staple and favorite of Stage 32 who has brought on and helped produce Stage 32 members’ films. Brad is currently working with Stage 32 writer, Lynne Logan, on their upcoming feature, UNDONE. The film tells the life story of televangelist Sherry Damron, and is set to star Cory Oliver (GOD'S NOT DEAD). Lynne was hired to pen the script after being discovered and having her own script optioned by Brad after a Stage 32 Coverage. Over the course of five weeks, you will work closely with Brad in a virtual class setting to develop your own faith-based or faith-friendly feature film, understand the market today, and build your film’s outline, logline, character breakdowns, and pitch in order to work towards a market-ready and standout project. If you already have a concept, or even a completed script, Brad will use the same tools to help you hone your material.   Throughout the course of this exclusive online lab, you will have direct access to Brad as a mentor by email and via video conferencing as you develop your family film project.   WHAT TO EXPECT This lab is designed for writers and creators of all levels looking to write and put together their faith-based film. This is an in-depth, practical, and detailed lab with significantly more content than a standard 90-minute webinar. By the end of this 5-week writing lab, you will have an outline and practiced pitch for your more market-ready and developed faith-based film Sessions will vary between 2-hour group settings and personal one-on-one Zoom meetings with Brad. You will be held accountable to take the lessons from each week and move your work forward. Plus, to keep you motivated and inspired, you will have access to a private, dedicated Stage 32 Lounge where you can communicate with your fellow classmates throughout the development process. To see the full writing lab schedule, see below under "What You Will Learn".   PLEASE NOTE: This exclusive Stage 32 lab is limited to 10 writers and will be booked on a first come, first served basis. The opportunity to work this closely and for this long with a working executive and an expert in the field is an incredibly unique and valuable opportunity. If you are interested, please do book quickly. Once the spots are gone, they’re gone for good. Payment plans are available - please contact Harrison at h.glaser@stage32.com for more information     Praise for Brad's Previous Stage 32 Webinar   "Brad was amazing. He laid out so clearly the genre and how to write for it in a practical way. He was an awesome instructor who combined practical info, inspiration, and was so "real." Loved it." -Ricki L.   "This was the best webinar I've had so far at Stage 32. Brad's very seasoned and gave wonderful tips that will help me make my faith-friendly script" more marketable." -Gayle R.   "A very honest, forthright presentation from a guy whose been there and done that, and knows the pitfalls and promises of the biz." -Dennis H.  

Getting Past The Gatekeepers

Learn directly from Rachel Chervin, former Development Department at Broadway Video (Saturday Night Live, Portlandia, Man Seeking Woman), Gersh Agency and Imagine Entertainment! A screenwriting journey of a thousand miles begins with a single page, to paraphrase an old saying. Well, more accurately, ten pages - that's the amount of space a typical writer has to grab the attention of the anonymous, overworked reader that picked their script off a pile for evaluation. If a writer's sample script is excellent enough, the pieces start to fall into place: an entire script read, the writer recommended, the agent's decision to represent, the long and fruitful thousand-mile career. None of it happens, though, if the script never makes it to the agent's desk. But who are these mysterious readers? Who decides which scripts go on to consideration or representation - and maybe one day fame and fortune - while others get a stone-cold pass? It's not exactly who you might think: while the agents and managers of Hollywood excel at their jobs, they only have so much time in the day and most of it is not spent seeking out new talent. That job falls to the Gatekeepers, the assistants and pro readers who tackle stacks of scripts every week hoping to find the diamond in the rough: a script they can confidently recommend. In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, host Rachel Chervin will bring you an insider's perspective on agency submissions and what you can do to maximize the impact of your writing on the unsung decision makers of Hollywood. Rachel will discuss fun and informative strategies for giving yourself the best chance possible to make a lasting impression on everyone who reads your script. There are so many ways that writers can take themselves out of the running with easily avoidable mistakes, but fortunately, there are just as many ways to stand out from the pack and deliver a calling card script that demands recognition. The key, besides great writing, is knowing the Gatekeepers' game plan - and then blowing it out of the water. Rachel Chervin has been on both the buying and selling sides of the business and has extensive experience with what industry executives are really looking for and the language they use to talk about scripts under consideration. She has worked in development for Broadway Video  (Saturday Night Live, Portlandia, Man Seeking Woman) in both features and television, working to find and promote up-and-coming comedic voices in the industry. She has previously worked for several years at Imagine Entertainment and the Gersh Agency on several feature films including The Rite (2011) and Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012).

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