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 course, James will dive deep into how to write, direct and distribute your own short film. He 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. Praise for James' Stage 32 Class “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.
As an independent filmmaker or producer, you likely start working on a new endeavor for creative reasons—the chance to tell an amazing story, build worlds, create something of cultural value. Yet this is of course not the only element of filmmaking. Like it or not, your independent film is not just a creative endeavor; it’s also a business. You’re sourcing financing and bringing in investors, building a team, and creating a property that will (hopefully) ultimately make money. In this way you’re not just a making a piece of art; you’re also running a business. To operate successfully in the world of independent film and continue to make films that you’re proud of, you need to be able to think like an entrepreneur and understand the dynamics and the relation between financing, distribution and recoupment of film investments. The business side of films is often especially difficult for filmmakers and creative producers, but it's doable. In fact, there’s a bit of a sweet spot for independent films in the $1MM range and a viable path to profitability for films of this level. The key is to intimately understand how money—both hard money and soft money—flows in and out of the project. Getting a handle on this flow puts you in a powerful position, because not only can you make your current film profitable; but you will also create a business model that you can apply to your future projects, and eventually a portfolio of profitable assets (or films) that will serve as an effective and undeniable calling card as you continue to grow in the industry. This entrepreneurial approach might not be second nature to creatives, but it’s something you can learn and something that will aid you tremendously. David Zannoni is consultant for Fintage House, the world's most respected company for revenue and rights protection for industry professionals and companies. He serves as the company's representative for the Americas. David negotiates agreements for films and television series and is involved in business development and relationship management specifically in the US, Latin America and Europe. As an international film business specialist David is continuously present to make deals and speak at international film markets, festivals and conferences, including: the Cannes Film Festival, the European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin, the American Film Market (AFM), Ventana Sur, the Bogota Audiovisual Market (BAM), and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and travels regularly to the United States, the Netherlands, Europe, and all over Latin America. David is intimately familiar with how independent films are financed and made profitable all over the world and will share what he knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community. David will focus on the US market and walk you through what you need to know to finance your independent film, $1MM or less, and leave profitable. He will begin by explaining what a $1MM or under budget looks like, whether it’s considered a small film or microbudget, and how it compares in the larger worldwide film market. He’ll delve into how to see your film as an asset and how to use this viewpoint to work with investors and provide profit. David will give you the tools to think like an entrepreneur and explain the relationship between financing, distribution, and recoupment of investment. David will then teach you how to take a business approach to a $1MM and under film project. He will discuss debt and equity financing and compare it to soft money, demonstrating both of their impacts on your recoupment. He’ll then go over how to finance your film through bank loans, tax credits, private lenders, equity investors, and family and friends. In doing so, he’ll demonstrate the differences between lenders and investors and demonstrate how to make—and keep—all of your investors happy. He’ll also go over ways to mitigate risks for yourself and your investors. Plus, David will show a case study of a real $1MM US film to illustrate how a film of this level can be profitable and exactly how the money flows through from beginning to end. He’ll show financing documents and spreadsheets to illustrate the financing structure, the role of the sales agent, and how he navigated the film’s distribution agreement. Through this detailed and practical demonstration, you will leave with strategies and a deep understanding of how to approach your own $1MM film as an entrepreneur and build a finance structure that will leave you and your investors profitable. Praise for David's Previous Stage 32 Webinars "David is incredible and lovely and clearly knows his stuff." - Cynthia P. "Eye-opening information. A no-brainer approach that wouldn't be so obvious to the uninitiated." - Gary O. "By far, the best class I've seen on the subject." Kirk K. "David is a fantastic teacher. And what a voice! I could listen to him all day. More importantly, I learned so very much!" - Isabella T.
Producer Sasha Nonas-Barnes joins our Panel as we listen and read your pitches live to help educate the Writers' Room screenwriters on what is and isn't working in their pitch.
In a short period of time, the world of podcasts has exploded and become an industry to be reckoned with. Over 100 million Americans listen to podcasts on at least a monthly basis, and individual shows can have millions of fans. We’re not just talking about nonfiction works like THE DAILY or SERIAL; fiction podcasts are also having a moment as more writers are turning to the audio medium to tell incredible stories. An art form in its own right, podcasts have also become a proving ground for stories to be adapted for television or movies. Shows like HOMECOMING, DIRTY JOHN, and LIMETOWN would never have been greenlit or aired if they didn’t first find success and a fan base in podcast form. Now with many more podcast adaptations like CRIMETOWN, THE BRIGHT SESSIONS and ALICE ISN’T DEAD currently in development, this route is becoming much more common and achievable. There might not be a better time than now to adapt your feature screenplay to the podcast medium. If you've had difficulty gaining attention for your screenplay, turning it into a podcast and attracting an audience may provide proof of concept for your story to move it to a show or feature. This type of intellectual property is golden. Adapting your screenplay, of course, easier said than done. Writing for audio is a very different process than writing for a film or TV. Podcasts are written to be experienced as real time events, which is entirely different from a feature or TV script. A good podcast must paint a picture with only words and sounds and be paced to pull a listener in despite any distractions around them. It must also be structured into short episodes that defy traditional film or TV act structure. So, how do you turn 100 pages of a script into a multi-episode podcast? How does writing character or story arcs change when adapting your feature script to multiple episodes? Having a better understanding of what goes into a great comedy, drama, or genre podcast and the rules and expectations that come with this unique format can position you for success in telling your story and finding an audience. Mike Disa is currently the director of the highly praised Netflix show Paradise PD and has been working in the industry, both in television and features, for two decades. With no film training or knowledge of the byzantine workings of the entertainment business, he eventually found success and has worked with studios such as Dreamworks, Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, and many others. Over a fascinating career, Mike has worked with some of the greatest and most infamous people in Hollywood including Steven Spielberg, Eric Goldberg, Ralph Bakshi, Glenn Close, Steve Oedekerk, David Tennant, Amy Poehler, Adam Sandler, Jeffery Katzenberg and Roy Disney. Always an innovator, Mike recognized the interesting time right now for developing material based off of IP and took it upon himself to adapt his feature script SENTINELS: POINT OF NO RETURN into a 12-part podcast series, which is now produced. Having recently gone through the experience Mike is excited to share his approach and his lessons learned writing the adaptation exclusively with the Stage 32 community. Mike will walk you through the nuts and bolts of writing a fiction podcast and give you the tools you’ll need to adapt your long form script into this new medium. He’ll begin by discussing what the state of podcasts looks like today, including what kinds of podcasts are possible and the different formats of fiction podcasts that people are writing and which ones are currently popular. He’ll then delve into how to approach your podcast adaptation and which things you should decide on from the outset. This includes deciding on the format that will work best for your story, how to adapt your writing style to short form when you’re used to writing features or television, and whether you will use a narrator or go full “radio play”. He’ll also give you tips on how to plan for sound while starting to write. Mike will next go into detail on breaking your long form story into multiple short form episodes. He’ll give you tips on extending your story and show you where to put episode breaks within it. He’ll go over building tension between episodes between episodes and what goes into good cliffhangers on podcasts. He’ll also talk about how to avoid needing recaps between episodes. Next Mike will spend time talking about other writing challenges that come with this format, including how to paint a picture in audio form without creating awkward dialogue, the process of holding on to your subplots without your storytelling getting choppy, and how to use your first episode to grab your audience. He’ll also offer tips of how to give your characters separate voices. Finally, Mike will use his own podcast SENTINELS: POINT OF NO RETURN, which was originally written as a feature, to illustrate the process of adapting for podcasts. He’ll even share samples of both the feature and podcast versions of the SENTINELS script. If you’re excited about podcasts, curious about writing your own or adapting your feature script into one and don’t even know where to begin, start here. Praise for Mike's Stage 32 Webinar FIVE STARS FOR MIKE!!! He is super-awesome! Can't wait for the next session. -Robert S. "Mike Disa is definitely one of the best. He provided advice that is actionable." -Martin R. "I loved how engaging Mike was. It felt like he was genuine and addressing each of us almost individually. I have honestly never had a better Stage32 experience!" -Elle C. "It was great to hear from Mike. What a professional and what great advice from someone who knows the business and the craft of writing for podcasts." -Mary S.
A Vice President of Development at an A-List production company recently said,"Every studio executive is asking me for Rom Coms!" If you look at recent trends, it is clear they are on a come back. With the tremendous box office success of CRAZY RICH ASIANS, BOOK CLUB and THE BIG SICK and the streaming successes of SET IT UP, SIERRA BURGESS IS A LOSER, and TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE, romantic comedies are making a huge comeback for all types of audiences. Variety called Rom-Com's the "Hottest genre". If you have been sitting on a Rom-Com script or been thinking about writing one, now's the time to learn about the current marketplace for romantic comedies. So how do you as a writer approach writing a Romantic Comedy without falling into the trap of tired cliches? Or, how do you take the storytelling conventions and turn them on their head? Jason Mirch is a 10+ industry veteran who's worked in development on films for Image Nation such as THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, FLIGHT, CONTAGION, as well as in management, financing and producing. Jason is Stage 32's Director of Script Services and has helped dozens of writers in the Stage 32 community springboard their careers. He's the host of the Stage 32 Writers' Room which is a weekly online writers' group that meets online with writing challenges and one-on-one access to top industry professionals who serve as mentors and provide advice on the group's projects. During this 90-minute look inside the Writers' Room Breakdown Webcast, Jason will go over the history of romantic comedy as well as the anatomy of a romantic comedy. He'll teach you the 7 essential story beats in a romantic comedy and you will learn to develop your romcom with a theme or dramatic question. Plus, Jason will break down scripts including WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, THE APARTMENT, KNOCKED UP, WHAT WOMEN WANT and more. Jason will discuss what makes these projects work and how we can apply those same principles to our writing! Plus! Jason will be taking ANY of your writing questions! Like what you heard from Jason during this webcast? Send him your screenplay and speak with him privately for an hour by clicking here! Praise for This Writers' Room Webcast "Thanks for this summary! Loved the rundown ad the clips!" - Bethany B. "Such an insightful breakdown, thanks so much." - Crispin "Jason, you always overdeliver! THANKS so much!" - Petula "This was an amazing breakdown. Wow." - Ricki L. "Great breakdown as always, Jason, with superb choice of clips." - Stephen P.
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 seek out 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. Writing a faith based or faith friendly script can be tricky, as you don't want to fall into cliches and lose your audience. You might have a great idea for a script with an uplifting message and inspirational ending, but when does it cross the line from a traditional genre script to faith-friendly? What does that audience actually look for and what do faith-based production companies seek out when considering a script? What elements in your story are off-limits and which will help you sell your script? There’s no crystal ball that can tell us 100% what works and what doesn’t in this genre, but there are patterns and constants that can be gleaned and applied to your own script. With a proper lay of the land, you’ll be able to better tackle this genre and write a script that can not only get on the screen, but inspire and uplift viewers at the same time. 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 released last year 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. He’s ready to share what he knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community. Brad will walk you through how to create a faith based script that can both sell and have a positive impact within this specific community. Brad will begin with an overview of the faith based/faith friendly landscape and will give you a rundown of how this genre works both at a studio and in the independent space. He’ll then break down major screenwriting points of an effective faith based scripts, including average page count, characters, and plot structure. He’ll outline what makes a script faith based or faith friendly and at what point a drama script would be considered by a faith based production company. He will delve into what the faith based audience looks like and the best ways to reach them. Brad will teach you the elements that work best for a faith based script, including employing romance and a specific message. He will also go over elements to stay away from and how to balance a cross over script with “preaching to the choir”. He will also give tips on how to drive the story forward within this genre. He’ll discuss when to take feedback on your script and when to trust your gut and will give you tips on how to keep your writing real, even when it’s made up. Brad will also discuss the types of budget you should keep in mind for the best chance of success with your faith based script. Brad’s valuable rundown of the faith based genre will give you the tips and tools you need to create an amazing script that will excel within the faith friendly community. Like what you heard from Brad during this webinar? Brad will read your script and speak with you for a half-hour if you click here. Praise for Brad's Stage 32 Webinar "Brad was terrific! This was an excellent real world webinar. Very helpful in reinforcing some of the trends that I have been seeing in this category, and I learned a lot from today's discussion." -Lew S. "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, forth right presentation from a guy whose been there and done that, and knows the pitfalls and promises of the biz." -Dennis H.