If you’re a horror writer, you may have tons of great set pieces you can’t wait to terrify audiences with, but unless those pages are compelling and maintain the readers interest, your script will remain just a collection of words. The first priority of ANY writer, horror or otherwise, is storytelling. Before you make a classic horror film, you’ll need an effective and readable screenplay. Horror movies are no exception to the importance of structure. It’s not just about terrifying the audience; it’s most importantly about telling a story. The story is what makes us care about the characters and the hell they are about to go through. You could have the most original scares imaginable, but if we don’t care about the story then we won’t care about the characters who have to endure those horror set pieces. Most importantly, without elements of structure, a producer may stop reading your screenplay. If that happens, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be interested in making your film. So how do successful horror screenplays nail story structure? What are the major pitfalls most horror writers fall into and what can you do to make your script stand out from the rest? David Ian McKendry is a professional screenwriter, script consultant, and script doctor who has worked for Universal, Blumhouse, Lifetime Networks, and The Hallmark Channel as well as numerous independent production companies. He began working in the entertainment industry as a video producer and writer for Fangoria Entertainment before later putting together his own horror films, including the recent ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, starring Constance Wu (CRAZY RICH ASIANS). Through his own experiences writing and producing horror films as well as fixing other writers’ scripts and teaching screenwriting and production to countless students and aspiring filmmakers, David has a keen sense of what makes a script successful in the horror genre and will be sharing what he knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community. David will dive deep into how to write and structure an effective horror screenplay. He will begin by first teaching you what the horror industry looks like today, how to find work within it and what sort of horror trends are important to note right now. He’ll then break down effective structure in horror, including dissecting the cold open, Act One, Act Two and Act Three. David will conclude by providing tips on what to do with your script after you’ve written and re-written it to get it out into the world and find the attention it needs. David will be using the screenplays for 1980’s FRIDAY THE 13TH and 2017’s HAPPY DEATH DAY as case studies as he continues to break down horror film structure. Everyone who signs up for this webinar will receive these screenplays to download for free.
A year ago, you might not have believed that one of the biggest limited series phenomena of 2020—or ever—was an intimate story about an orphan chess prodigy battling addiction. Yet here we are. The long-time passion project from Allan Scott started in 1989 when he optioned the rights to Walter Trevis' novel THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT. Now, over 30 years, 9 rewrites and countless directors to get the project off the ground later it is the model of perseverance and inspiration to storytellers worldwide. Scott teamed up with Oscar-nominated writer Scott Frank (OUT OF SIGHT, MINORITY REPORT, LOGAN) and THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT was released on October 23, 2020 and quickly became Netflix's most popular scripted limited-series ever. It was watched by a staggering 62 million households in the first 28 days of release and won 15 awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Television Limited Series. But no one has broken down exactly what makes the series such a critical and commercial success...until now. In an exclusive Stage 32 Script Breakdown Webcast our Director of Script Services, Jason Mirch, will break down the first episode of the series live using excerpts of the book and the teleplay, as well as clips from the episode. Jason Mirch is a feature film, television, branded entertainment, and digital content producer and executive with over 15 years in the industry. Most recently, he produced a 3D animated feature film starring Jacob Tremblay, Christopher Lloyd, Mel Brooks, Kenan Thompson, and Carol Kane. Mirch was the Head of feature and television development at Image Nation, a finance and production company based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. There, he supervised the Image Nation contributions in the development of FLIGHT, THE HELP, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, CONTAGION and more. Prior to his work at Image Nation, Mirch was Co-Head of Development at Zadan/Meron Productions (CHICAGO, FOOTLOOSE, THE BUCKET LIST) where he was actively involved in developing a slate of feature film projects for New Line, Paramount, Summit Ent., and CBS/Paramount. He also developed and sold television projects and mini-series to CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, and Lifetime. During this FREE Stage 32 Next Level Webcast Jason will take you step by step as he examines the four key elements that make up the protagonist's character, how the opening sequence is designed to hook the audience, how theme and tone are exhibited in the text and on screen, how this first episode lays the foundation for the arc of the entire series, and much more! Plus, everyone who registers for the webinar will receive a copy of the pilot script of THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT to study!
One of the most respected agents in the business, Adam Van Dusen of Gersh will discuss the agent/screenwriter relationship, how to break in, industry trends and more! Live Q&A to follow!
Hello Creative Army! Well, we did it. We made it to the end of 2020. I believe you will welcome me in saying, hasta la vista to this wild year. 2020 has been a challenge, to say the least, but it has not been without a silver lining or two (or twenty...if we're being optimistic). Over the last year, the entire Stage 32 team 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 comfort of your own home. 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, so you have the tools you need to make moves in your careers. 2020 was not without its faults, but there has never been a better time to take stock of your career and get ready to step on the gas and dominate as we enter into what I am calling The Great Content Gold Rush of 2021. So I invite you to kick 2020 straight in the ass and enter 2021 on a high by joining me for my final AMA of the year. As part of our Holiday Jump Start, I was thrilled to be hosting the "Ask Me Anything" F@#$ 2020 Edition. ALL creatives and professionals were welcome. Looking to further your craft? Now's the time. Looking to learn more about the business? We got into that. Want to find out what I'm hearing from our roster of execs what's going to be happening industry wide in 2021? Let's F@#$'ing rock. As always, registering for my AMA is completely FREE and it's available for immediate viewing! And the more the merrier, so do invite any of your fellow creative friends and peers on your social media channels, your email lists, and through your online groups to join us as well. If you missed my last few AMA's, you can view them here! Now you can say F@#$ off to 2020 with me. Cheers! RB
The third act of your horror movie should be an electrifying climax, delivering visceral and emotional punches and paying off all your sneaky set ups. It should thrill your audience and represent their reward for sitting through—very possibly—a lot of pain, suffering, and gross stuff. Unfortunately, too many horror screenplays fail to deliver. It’s a problem across the genre: filmmakers work hard on the set-up of their narrative yet let it all fall apart in the second half of the script. If you want your horror screenplay to stand out from the crowd, then it’s time to learn how to craft an original and compelling ending that leaves your reader breathless and wanting more. It’s easy to write a creepy first act for a horror movie. A mysterious and/or bloody teaser at the top, the entry of a vulnerable protagonist into a danger zone, a few genre tropes like unresolved past traumas, dying cell phones, a gathering storm, and grizzled locals warning the main characters to “stay away” — it practically writes itself. That’s why there are a lot of horror screenplays out there with intriguing first acts. However, by the time many screenwriters get to the third act they have —literally— lost the plot. In order to write a good ending you have to know the genre, acknowledge the tropes, and understand some of the psychological mechanisms that drive human fear. Also, you may have to rethink that suspiciously easy-to-write opening. Let's explore how to make this happen. Karina Wilson is an independent story and development consultant with a specific focus in horror who has worked on many films including SECRET IN THEIR EYES with Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, 13 SINS, and THE CIRCLE with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. As a story consultant, Karina has helped to shape narratives in every genre, from independent documentaries to Netflix animated series. Previously the in-house story consultant at IM Global, she is currently developing a series of Thrillers for British TV. Karina is considered an expert in the horror genre and her analysis of horror trends through the decades has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, on NPR, in medical textbooks and in documentaries alongside luminaries such as Jason Blum, Joe Dante, and Andy Muschietti. Karina is also the lead screenplay judge for niche indie horror festival, Shriekfest, and has been picking winners for them since 2007. Along with Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, Sid Haig, Tom Savini and many others, Karina can currently be seen on screen discussing horror in the documentary THE HISTORY OF METAL AND HORROR, doing the rounds of film festivals this fall. Exclusively for Stage 32, Karina will teach you the elements of a successful horror film ending and what you can do to make sure your own horror project has an effective and memorable third act. She’ll begin by explaining how to see your screenplay through the lens of audience expectations before going over the main types of horror endings seen in feature films. She’ll delve into upping up your story stakes and show you how to find a resolution that makes sense. Karina will also discuss how you should be reworking your first and second act in order for the third act to work better. Karina will accompany her slew of tools and strategies with notable case studies and examples of notable horror films. If you’ve been struggling to find an ending to your horror film, if you’re looking for a way to tie everything up, or if you need a way to make your script better stand out and get attention with reps, producers and execs, you’re going to want to hear what Karina has to say.
If you want to work as a TV writer, you need a great writing sample, and these days, that comes in the form of a pilot script. Writing a pilot is hard, though, and writing a great pilot is even harder. One of the most common pitfalls is failing to write a compelling story that showcases your characters and world. But it’s that story that will get a reader to finish the script. It’s that story that can help you get a job. Figuring out the best version of your pilot story often comes down to structuring the script into an A, B and C story. This will allow you to introduce your characters, world, and plot points while still maintaining a pace and shape to the episode. This is harder than it looks though. Writing a great pilot script is such a tricky balancing act, ESPECIALLY for a 30-minute show. In just 30 pages, you need to establish your world, your characters, and your ongoing stories without overloading the audience with exposition and while still injecting the episode itself with its own story and arc. That’s a lot of plates to spin, but if you can’t nail your pilot’s structure, your characters and world won’t reach their full potential. But taking the time to get the story right will let your characters show who they really are and make your creative intent crystal clear. So how can you structure your own half hour pilot into an effective script with a clear A, B and C story? How can you find the balance and spin every plate so you can have a standout pilot script and writing sample that can get you the attention and opportunities you’re looking for? Meghan Pleticha is television writer with ten years of entertainment industry experience who has most recently worked as a staff writer on HBO’s Emmy Nominated comedy series SILICON VALLEY. Her work has also appeared on Cartoon Network’s POWER PLAYERS, and in Escala, AeroMéxico’s official in-flight magazine. Previous to being staffed on television shows, she worked as a writer’s assistant and script coordinator for shows like FX’s MARRIED, ABC’s CHARITY CASE, and VH1’s HIT THE FLOOR. Meghan’s career as a writer as well as her experience teaching other aspiring creatives has given her powerful experience with television story structure, and she’s excited to bring what she’s learned to the Stage 32 community. Over two intensive sessions, Meghan will dive deep into how to effectively structure a 30-minute TV pilot script, focusing on finding the pilot’s story and building it out with an A, B, and C story. In the first session, Meghan will dissect what makes a great A story for a pilot, discussing the goals you should have for this story as well as helpful strategies and secrets to bring it together. In the second session, Meghan will look deeper into B and C stories, how to integrate the into your A story, and how to use them to further define your series and world. Plus! Meghan will be providing the full pilot scripts of FX’s ARCHER, NBC’s SUPERSTORE and Netflix’s GLOW, and will use these three pilots as examples as she illustrates what makes a well structure half hour pilot "Writing pilots is hard! You have to come up with characters, a world, AND a story?! In script after script, I've seen writers spend so much time on the first two, the story gets lost. Even worse, without a strong pilot story, your world and characters won't reach their full potential. I love helping writers find the best structure for their show so their script can most accurately represent them and their idea. And I'm looking forward to doing that with Stage 32. See you in class!" -Meghan Pleticha