You’ve heard that the opening pages of your pilot script are the most important – hook your audience early and they’ll be invested in your show, fall short and producers, managers and executives might not even finish reading your script. At many companies, your script will be handed off to a member of the development team whose job is to just read the first act, then decide whether to pass or flag your script for further consideration. Having a great first act isn’t just a good way to get your pilot noticed; it might be the only way. When you watch a pilot, though, whether on Netflix, HBO or ABC, it can feel like every show is so different, it’s hard to see a pathway to success. Or even if you master one aspect of your opening act, somehow it can still feel like you’ve not done enough. In a TV pilot, that crucial first act is the most challenging because there is so much you have to do really well, really quickly: you have to introduce your characters, set up your world, and launch your story. What’s more, the first act sets your pilot on solid footing – nail this section and the rest of the pilot seems to develop and flow easily. Get stuck on how to start, and you might never finish writing the pilot that could launch your career. You’ve probably watched outstanding pilots where 10-15 minutes in you’re already making plans to binge the season. What do all those pilots have in common? What techniques do experienced show creators use to give them that early edge? And what exactly do producers, managers development execs and other professionals expect to see in a first act? We have the answers to those questions and much more. Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, and multiple production companies, as well as a manager at Andrea Simon Entertainment. Her clients have worked on shows such as THE DEUCE, POWER, IN CONTEMPT, TOMMY, VIDA, SEVEN SECONDS, HUNG, CHICAGO FIRE, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, THIS IS US, and THE FLASH, and have set up projects at AMC, Amazon, Starz, HBO, Sony, Fox, EOne, ITV America, OddLot Entertainment, Corus, and others. Anna has projects currently in development around the world and is incredibly familiar with what goes into a great television pilot. Anna will analyze pilots more deeply so you can see the tools successful writers use to set their show on the right path from the start. She’ll discuss the ingredients of a pilot in general, including the basic structure, identifying the type or genre of your show, meta-themes, and crafting characters to serve as the audience's entry point. Anna will then delve into the key elements of a first act, as well as a great teaser or cold open, including using framing devices, and a strong out. She will go over tips to writing memorable character descriptions, using physical descriptions, elements of identity, and putting thought into how you name each character. She'll next focus on introduction scenes and using them to generate interest in your characters, using dialogue to establish their voices, and introducing relationships. A vital aspect of a pilot's first act is creating character moments, and Anna will go over effective examples of many different types of these moments, including meeting heroes, meeting villains, meeting supporting characters, establishing the right amount of backstory, and the benefits of having your characters argue. She will then discuss how to create exposition and communicate your world effectively, crafting a mystery and building the rules of your universe, as well as how to avoid overused crutches. Anna will then offer her take on implementing and incorporating tone and themes into the script and how to sneak them in subtly through details and character moments. She will finally lay out how to best use your first act to bring the audience into your story and world, where exactly your story should start, and how to launch your 'A' story and introduce your 'B' and 'C' stories. Examples will be used from one-hour and half-hour shows on network, cable and streaming platforms, PLUS! you will receive pilots for each after the class: THIS IS US - NBC ONE DAY AT A TIME - Netflix / Pop MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL - Amazon ATLANTA - FX KILLING EVE - AMC THE EXPANSE - Syfy / Amazon Praise for Anna's Stage 32 webinar: "The webinar was fantastic. I am writing my first one hour drama pilot so this webinar was packed with the exact information that I will be immediately putting to use in my rewrite. The slides were clear, concise and informative. The speaker was excellent at conveying the information I needed." -Bobby C. "It was really great information. Anna was a terrific host, very knowledgeable and shared a lot of information and tips." -Marla H. "Comprehensive, insightful. Combined a lot of material I had heard snippets of on character, world dev, etc. but artfully stitched together in one presentation." -James F. "It was amazing, enlightening - completely. I learned soooo much - especially as a feature writer who's been asked to turn a feature script into a pilot!! Thank you soooooo much." -Kristin G.
SEE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS BELOW: Netflix and Stage 32 have partnered on an exclusive global education series in an effort to democratize the worldwide entertainment industry. Together, over the course of 5 webcasts Stage 32's world class educators will bring their knowledge of what it takes to write, develop and produce today's television for the Stage 32 and Netflix creator community. To kick things off, we are going to talking about television pilot story structure. Nailing your TV drama’s story structure—specifically your pilot—is no easy task. In the span of just 40-60 pages, you have to introduce your world, your characters, your central plot and conflict, and your inciting incident, all while keeping your pacing consistent, finding some resolution for that episode, and allowing your audience to want to watch more. This is a complicated, and delicate game and ultimately comes down to how you structure and map out your script before you start writing. No matter what genre you’re writing in, understanding how to structure your pilot is vital. Gaining a clear grasp on how successful drama pilots are arranged and the rules they all follow is a necessary step if you want to have a show that will get picked up and ultimately connect with an audience. Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, as well as multiple production companies and in literary management. Her clients have worked on shows such as THE DEUCE, VINYL, SEVEN SECONDS, VIDA, CHICAGO FIRE, and THE FLASH, and have set up projects at Netflix, AMC, Amazon, Starz, HBO, Sony, EOne, Corus, and others. Anna will go in-depth on how to properly structure your drama TV series pilot and will use real past pilot scripts as examples as she breaks down, act by act, the elements necessary to turn your series pilot into stand-out script. Anna will go over the main types of one-hour pilots and will outline the elements for pilot development, including story engine, world, characters, themes and tone. She’ll discuss how to select and map your own template show as well as incorporating multiple plotlines. Anna will then delve into the function and elements of your pilot’s teaser and Acts 1 through 5, as well as your pilot launch, pilot climax, and series launch. She will finally lay out the most common structure problems that you should avoid. Don’t even think about starting to write your own drama pilot until you gain the tools Anna will provide. Examples will be used from notable past one-hour drama pilots on network, cable, and streaming platforms. PLUS! you will receive story maps/outlines broken down for each of these pilots: LUPIN (Netflix) SUCCESSION (HBO) THE EXPANSE (Syfy) THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL (Amazon) Note: You will receive the Zoom link to login by the morning of the webinar. If you are not yet a member of the Stage 32 community, we encourage you to join the community today at www.stage32.com, it is FREE! You will instantly connect with over 800,000 creatives and professionals in the entertainment industry from all over the world who use Stage 32 to network, find work, learn and develop their projects. YOU MUST HAVE A STAGE 32 PROFILE TO WATCH YOUR VIDEO.
We hear all the time that “nobody does period pieces”, but when you turn on the television you can’t go three clicks without finding historical fiction. The fact is that the market is hot right now and if you have an idea for a historical fiction project now is your time to get it in shape for the market. Shows like The Spanish Princess, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Giani Versace, Babylon Berlin, Call the Midwife and more are dominating the airwaves with controversial plot lines and characters that rivet us. But you have to know how to create a project that cuts through the noise.When embarking on developing a story about a historical person, place, or event, often times it is easy to get wrapped up on the specific details of how history was written. But the fact is is that the best shows we watch today bend that reality and bring historical period into a more modern era that audiences want to watch. When an executive reads a project they will know right off the bat if they are embarking on true storytelling that will captivate today’s modern audience and not just be a biographical retelling of the past. You need to understand what type of intellectual property gives you the link up for historical project. Also, you need to understand how to write the world and the characters to be able to get an idea of what you are up against in the marketplace. We’re here to show your how. Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, and multiple production companies, as well as a manager at Andrea Simon Entertainment. Her clients have worked on shows such as THE DEUCE, POWER, IN CONTEMPT, TOMMY, VIDA, SEVEN SECONDS, HUNG, CHICAGO FIRE, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, THIS IS US, and THE FLASH, and have set up projects at AMC, Amazon, Starz, HBO, Sony, Fox, EOne, ITV America, OddLot Entertainment, Corus, and others. Anna has projects currently in development around the world and is incredibly familiar with what goes into a great television pilot. Praise for Anna's Stage 32 webinar: "The webinar was fantastic. I am writing my first one hour drama pilot so this webinar was packed with the exact information that I will be immediately putting to use in my rewrite. The slides were clear, concise and informative. The speaker was excellent at conveying the information I needed." -Bobby C. "It was really great information. Anna was a terrific host, very knowledgeable and shared a lot of information and tips." -Marla H. "Comprehensive, insightful. Combined a lot of material I had heard snippets of on character, world dev, etc. but artfully stitched together in one presentation." -James F. "It was amazing, enlightening - completely. I learned soooo much - especially as a feature writer who's been asked to turn a feature script into a pilot!! Thank you soooooo much." -Kristin G.
Sorry, this lab is fully sold out. Keep checking back for upcoming labs and other education! You’ve heard the phrase “the content gold rush” get bandied about these days, but as it relates to TV, it’s never been more true. Drama television is at its peak with such iconic shows like OZARK, KILLING EVE, BETTER CALL SAUL, THIS IS US, THE HANDMAID'S TALE, THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT, STRANGER THINGS, BLACK MIRROR, THE UNDOING and so much more. With the influx of networks and streaming platforms either moving into or expanding their original content libraries, the demand for dramatic TV ideas and pilots has never been greater. Thanks to streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max and others, over 600 shows were greenlit last year and some industry experts are predicting we may see as many as 1,000 television shows greenlit per year by 2025. But not only is the quantity increasing, so is the quality, as companies are funneling an unprecedented amount of money, resources, marketing and talent into their shows. And the impact of COVID-19 is even having an impact that could benefit writers all over the world as many shows are planning to implement virtual writer’s rooms. In short, there has never been a better time to write for TV. Now it’s just a matter of breaking in. The opportunities are plentiful and the prospects have never been more exciting, but if you want to write dramatic television you need to prove that you have the chops, and to do that, you better come armed with a great pilot script sample. Something that shows that you have what it takes; something that shows that you understand the structure and craft that goes into a good teleplay; and something that shows off your own unique voice and sensibility. This is your calling card, your way in, the piece of material that will fire you off the launch pad. The intention of this lab is to help you create that piece of material that stands out, gets you the right meetings, and, ultimately, gets you representation, meetings with decision-makers, and/or a coveted seat in a writer’s room. Over the course of a 15+ year career, Anna Henry has read thousands of television scripts and worked with hundreds of writers. Anna began her career as a development executive at Nickelodeon, then crossed over to prime-time television working at CBS and ABC in drama development and programming before working in management and establishing herself as an independent producer. Anna was Head of Development at Andrea Simon Entertainment, a boutique literary management and production company representing writers and directors. Anna has set up projects at Sony, 20th Century Television, EOne, Starz, Amazon, Netflix, Corus, ITV America to name just some. Anna’s client credits include Netflix's SEVEN SECONDS; Starz' VIDA; BET’s IN CONTEMPT; HBO's THE DEUCE, BIG LOVE, and VINYL; Showtime's THE CHI; NBC's THIS IS US; The CW's JANE THE VIRGIN; DirecTV's KINGDOM, AMC’s FEAR THE WALKING DEAD; PBS' MERCY STREET; and more. Anna has taught numerous webinars, classes and writing labs for Stage 32. She remains one of our most popular and in demand educators. In this lab, she will be working directly with you in a class setting and also during one-on-one sessions with the goal of helping you write a fantastic, market-ready pilot. To do so, Anna will guide you through picking a concept, creating engaging characters, perfecting your structure, constructing an outline and, finally, writing your pilot. If you already have a concept or even a completed pilot, Anna will use the same tools to help you hone and sharpen your material. WHAT TO EXPECT By the end of this 8-week writing lab, you will have a completed drama television pilot script ready to be shown to reps, development execs and other executives and professionals. This class is geared towards the writing of half-hour and hour-long single camera series. While the focus and the examples that Anna will provide are rooted in these types of shows, many of the exercises and lessons can also be helpful for multi-cam sitcoms, limited series, animated series, and short-form webseries. Sessions will vary between 2-hour group settings and personal one-on-one Zoom meetings with Anna. 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 writing 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 an 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information This lab is limited to 10 people This lab is designed for beginner and intermediate screenwriters looking to build a pilot from scratch or expand on an existing idea or polish an existing pilot. "My passion is helping writers make their work better. I’m not a screenwriter, so I don’t try to insert my voice into your work. With 20 years of experience as a development executive and literary manager, I consider myself to be your advocate and guide. I know the marketplace and know what will make your project successful. But my goal is to tell YOUR story in your voice. I don’t give vague “reviewer” notes, and I am brutally honest. If you want a cheerleader, I recommend you get notes from your friends. If you want to put in the work to elevate your writing, you’ve come to the right place." - Anna Henry Praise from Anna's previous Stage 32 writing labs: "Anna exceeded my expectations, both in terms of quality (and quantity) of information and overall value. Anna was personable, knowledgeable, and organized. Anna and Stage 32 delivered the goods." - John R. "What a thoughtful, thorough and inspiring class. Not only was the content there, but the structure was also superb. Thank you Anna for your genius and your generosity." - Crispin L. "Anna was so generous with her time, so knowledgeable, so encouraging...very grateful. It feels like there's a stronger wind at my back after that. Thank you!" - Michael L.
Founded in 2011 by Richard "RB" Botto, Stage 32 is the world's largest online platform connecting and educating film, TV and new media creatives and professionals worldwide. Stage 32 works with over five hundred industry professionals and executives who provide education, instruction and professional opportunities for members of the platform. Stage 32 currently has over 1,200 hours of exclusive film, television and digital craft and business education in its library. Stage 32 members use the platform daily to build their network, take online webinars, classes and labs, find work and cast and crew their projects. Stage 32 members range from students to Emmy, BAFTA and Academy Award Winners. Over the last few weeks, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that you know that Stage 32 is your online home to stay connected with over 600,000 creatives and professionals from across the globe. Now, we are looking forward to bringing you another virtual event to help you stay up-to-date about the state of the entertainment industry featuring some of the top professionals in the business. In this special event webcast we presented a virtual panel featuring some of the top minds in the Stage 32 community to discuss the current state of the entertainment industry as we are all faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Stage 32 Managing Director, Amanda Toney, hosted this incredible lineup, where you will hear the point of view of a production company (Andrew Fried of Boardwalk Pictures), a lender (Viviana Zarragoitia of Three Point Capital), lender counsel (Carolyn Hunt of Barnes & Thornburg LLP), a talent representative (Tracy Christian of TCA Management), all moderated by producer and production company counsel (Elsa Ramo of Ramo Law PC). Stage 32 is proud to be putting the "social" in #SocialDistancing. Please share this event on your social media and tag @stage32 on Twitter and @stage32online on Instagram.
As a producer it’s your job to get a film up and running and to put the pieces in place so cameras can start shooting and something fantastic can actually get made. You might already have a great script that you feel is ready to shoot, but especially for newer filmmakers and producers, the next steps you need to take can feel uncertain. Where are you going to get the money and how much money do you actually need? Who’s going to direct, who’s going to star and how can you get each player on board? What materials do you need to prepare ahead of time and how can you use the connections you have (or make new connections you need) to get what you need going? The path from script to production can feel big, vague, and intimidating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, especially with the right guidance and understanding. Michael Wormser is a co-founder and producer at Cinemand and has produced over 70 projects over his career that span film, commercials, music videos, short films, branded content, interactive web series, and studio marketing campaigns. His most recent film work includes THE THINNING, THE THINNING: NEW WORLD ORDER for Legendary, INTERNET FAMOUS for Lakeshore (now on Netflix), and the award-winning indie drama FUNNY STORY which premiered at Slamdance Film Festival. Michael and his team at Cinemand are currently in pre-production on the true-crime thriller THE CULT, based on the true story of Heaven's Gate. Michael’s long, long list of completed projects attest to his honed ability to get projects off the ground, an important talent for any producer and one he is excited to share with the Stage 32 community. In this two part class, Michael will offer you a comprehensive and intensely helpful guide to the steps you need to take to actually get your project made by using your connections, finding the money, building your team, and closing the deals. His first class will focus on the steps you should be taking before “going out” with your script, including beta testing your script, putting together your materials like look books, budgets, and shooting schedules and how to package your project. In the next session, Michael will lay out how to actually “go out” with your project, including how to pitch, how to build your network and how to actually close the deal. Along the way, Michael will be answering your questions and giving you specific and helpful strategies you can take back to your own project. No matter how experienced you are, getting your passion project made is within your reach. Whether you’re a brand new producer or someone with more experience looking for a refresher or new perspective, Michael will give you the tools you need.