Michael Schulman is a Feature Story Analyst for Netflix as part of its Independent Original Film Division, and his job revolves around evaluating feature screenplay submissions and deciding which ones to pass up to the executives to consider. Prior to his role at Netflix, Michael spent nearly a decade in the story department at CAA where he found projects for CAA clients. Over his storied career, Michael also served as an agent at ICM’s Motion Picture Literary Department and held numerous studio creative executive positions at Orion, TriStar, and Disney where he worked to develop film and television projects with some of the top talent in the industry. Michael is very familiar with what it takes for a script to find its way to decisionmakers since this has been a key feature of his job for over a decade. Full Bio »
Streamers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO Max have quickly become the holy grail for many filmmakers hoping to get their film produced and find success. And it’s no mystery why. With a subscriber base in the tens of millions (Netflix has 74 million subscribers alone!), there might not be a better place for your film to be seen and enjoyed across the globe. And streamers ARE picking up a lot of content, a staggering amount even. Netflix recently announced it is releasing 40 more films this year—that’s twice what most major traditional studios make in a whole year, all in just a few months. That said, even with this huge volume of new content Netflix and the other streamers continue to pick up and produce, it is not easy to get your film noticed or considered at these platforms, especially if you’re not already an established filmmaker. This is not to say it’s impossible, but it does require finesse, strategy, luck, and an understanding of how exactly streamers find their original films.
For as prominent as streaming platforms have become, the process behind how a film actually finds its way into their libraries is opaque and enigmatic. With so little information on the inner workings of the streamers, it can seem confusing, maybe even impossible to get your own proverbial foot into the portal and get your project noticed. After all, there isn’t exactly a submission platform to upload your script for Amazon to review. The truth is, unless you’re already established or have that ‘in’ with a streamer, it’s very unlikely to get straight through and have them consider your work blind. There IS another way though, a way to get your project to a streamer, not by going through but by going around.
Michael Schulman is a Feature Story Analyst for Netflix as part of its Independent Original Film Division, and his job revolves around evaluating feature screenplay submissions and deciding which ones to pass up to the executives to consider. Prior to his role at Netflix, Michael spent nearly a decade in the story department at CAA where he found projects for CAA clients. Over his storied career, Michael also served as an agent at ICM’s Motion Picture Literary Department and held numerous studio creative executive positions at Orion, TriStar, and Disney where he worked to develop film and television projects with some of the top talent in the industry. Michael is very familiar with what it takes for a script to find its way to decisionmakers since this has been a key feature of his job for over a decade.
As a companion piece to his previous webinar that details the script evaluation process at Netflix and other streamers, Michael will teach you a smarter and more viable way to get your own feature film considered by streaming platforms, not by targeting the streamers themselves, but instead focusing on their content suppliers. He’ll begin by laying out how the normal streamer system works and go over specific reasons why your script might NOT be as good of a fit for them as you think. Michael will then delve into how “outsiders” can get in the streaming game by taking advantage of resources along the way and better understanding the content pipeline. He’ll explain what streamer “originals” actually are and show how streamers rely on production companies to fill their slate. Michael will show you how you can use this to your advantage by finding your way in with specific production companies and what you can do to make them want to produce your film with you.
Michael will even offer a live demonstration, showing how to find the right production companies for your own project and the best contacts within them.
Getting your work on Netflix and other streamers will never be easy, but you will leave this webinar with a better understanding of the best way forward.
Praise for Michael's Previous Stage 32 Webinar
"I loved Michaels honestly. His advice is invaluable."
"Very genuine, authentic, knowledgeable."
"Michael was highly competent, extremely knowledgeable about his subject, and not afraid to share hard truths about the industry that many just won't be upfront about."
"Michael did not sugarcoat anything. He gave honest information that clarified a lot of questions I had."
Q: What is the format of a webinar?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Webinars are typically 90-minute broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.
Q: Do I 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 webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the webinar.
Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the webinar 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 webinar 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 webinar. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer
Q: What if I cannot attend the live webinar?
A: If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the webinar. If you cannot attend a live webinar and purchase an On-Demand webinar, you will have access to the entire recorded broadcast, including the Q&A.
Q: Will I have access to the webinar afterward to rewatch?
A: Yes! After the purchase of a live or On-Demand webinar, you will have on-demand access to the recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!
Find out what streamers REALLY look for when evaluating films It seems like it is all about the streamers these days. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Max--they have become the Holy Grail for screenwriters and emerging talent. And yet as prominent as these platforms have become, the process behind how a film actually finds its way into their library is opaque and enigmatic. With so little information on the inner workings of the streamers, it can seem confusing, maybe even impossible to get your own proverbial foot into the portal and get your screenplay noticed. You may wonder if there is any actual human element involved in considering your project. Understanding more about how streamers find and select films can help you understand how best to get your work noticed and walk into the murky streaming waters with more confidence. So what actually happens to a submission behind-closed-doors at one of the streamers? Who is reading it and what are they looking for? The professional readers employed by streamers are trained to use very specific criteria to assess material. They do not use the same methodology as agents, managers, or producers who may be more willing to develop material and incubate projects. It’s helpful to know that there are certain types of projects and styles of writing that are more likely to get these readers’ attention and prompt them to escalate your submission to actual decision-makers. Let’s dive in. Michael Schulman is a Feature Story Analyst for Netflix as part of its Independent Original Film Division, and his job revolves around evaluating feature screenplay submissions and deciding which ones to pass up to the executives to consider. Prior to his role at Netflix, Michael spent nearly a decade in the story department at CAA where he found projects for CAA clients. Over his storied career, Michael also served as an agent at ICM’s Motion Picture Literary Department and held numerous studio creative executive positions at Orion, TriStar, and Disney where he worked to develop film and television projects with some of the top talent in the industry. Michael is very familiar with what it takes for a script to find its way to decisionmakers since this has been a key feature of his job for over a decade. Exclusively for Stage 32, Michael will reveal how streamers evaluate and identify feature film submissions and specifically what the initial readers look for before sending a script along to decisionmakers. He will give you an overall look at the steps a film takes to getting greenlit at a streamer and lay out who exactly these readers are that will be evaluating your script at the beginning. He’ll also show you what these readers are trained to look for and how they know “it” when they see it. Michael will also explain the importance of packaging during this phase and how streamers’ “algorithms” really work. Through Michael’s honest, comprehensive, and in-depth discussion of this often-secretive side of streaming platforms, you’ll be able to leave with a much clearer idea of how to get your own script the best shot of being selected at Netflix or other streamers. Note: This webinar focuses on streamers' reading and evaluation process after a screenplay has been submitted, and focuses less on the actual submission process. Keep in mind that submitting your project to Netflix and other streaming giants is, by design, difficult and often requires an agent or manager that is already connected with the platform, or to go through production companies or studios that already have a development deal in place. For more information on how to reach managers or production companies, check out some of the on demand webinars below! How to Get Pitch Meetings For Your Project How to Find and Choose the Right Screenwriting Manager for Your Career How to Identify, Secure and Build a Relationship with a Great Producer for Your Film Project - with Case Studies How to Capture the Attention of a Showrunner or Manager with your TV Writing Samples
During the December Pitch Tank, Director of Script Services Jason Mirch welcomes Literary Manager Jon Hersh of Housefire Management, a company that represents writers and directors in film, television, and digital content. They specialize in deep development, strong client relationships, and incendiary material that stands out like a house on fire. Jon's client list includes writers and filmmakers for film and TV including emerging writers with projects at Universal, Paramount, Lionsgate, Atlas Entertainment, and Gidden Media! Prior to forming Housefire, Jon was at CAA and Broad Green Pictures. He is a graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Jon and Jason listen to pitches from 4 members and offer their thoughts and feedback!
Learn directly from Laurie Cook, Producer and Head of Development at Bigscope Films, who's produced 4 feature films that have sold theatrically worldwide! Lured by generous tax incentives, many of Hollywood's biggest films have shot in London or are planning to head to the U.K. There is over $500,000,000 worth of public money to be spent on films each year in the U.K., and in 2012 there were over 250 films shot in the U.K. and over 600 films released there. It's a wonderful place to get films made, but the competition for finance and distribution is stronger than ever. What makes the film market different in the U.K than in Hollywood? How do you get your foot in the door as a writer, director, or producer in the U.K. film industry? Once you're in, how do you stand out from the crowd? In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, host Laurie Cook will guide writers, directors and producers through the independent U.K. film market from an insider's point of view: how to get funding for your script and film, how and why certain projects stand out against the rest, and how to boost your chances of success. This will be your go-to guide to navigating the U.K. film market and getting your film made in the U.K. You will leave with an agenda to make you and your project focused and well presented for maximum impact. Your host Laurie Cook is a Producer and Head of Development at Bigscope Films, where he produced the films Pressure (starring Matthew Goode & Danny Huston) and Don't Hang Up (starring Gregg Sulkin) releasing this year, as well as Hangar 10 and Outpost, which were released in 2014. He knows the ins and outs of the U.K. film market, what executives are looking for when taking on projects and how to make your mark to get your script and films made.
Once you finish your screenplay and decide it’s time to reach out to producers and representatives, one of the most common responses you may receive is that your idea is not ‘high concept’ enough or your logline doesn’t have a ‘high concept hook’. This term is thrown around a lot in the movie business, but what does it actually mean? ‘High concept’ might be a buzz word, but it’s also a term that carries with it significant meaning as well as some lessons and perspective you can bring back to your own project if you know how best to approach it. Readers, producers and buyers see so many spec scripts that have no chance of becoming films not because the writing isn’t great, but because the writer did not spend enough time on concept. It is one thing to fall in love with a story idea. It is another to stick with it during the uncomfortable phase of working on that idea to make it more enticing to the world. So how can you ensure you consistently develop ideas that excite readers and push your script toward a sale? How do you know if your idea is “high concept” enough? What exactly does “high concept” even mean? Andrew Kersey is a literary manager and the head of Kersey Management whose clients are working on projects at all the major studios and streaming outlets including Netflix and Amazon, and the networks and cable channels ABC, Fox, NBC, CW, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. Andrew recently just sold his client's sci-fi spec script to Universal with THE SOCIAL NETWORK and FIFTY SHADES OF GREY Oscar-nominated producer Mike De Luca, and his client’s comedy VACATION FRIENDS is in production at Broken Road for Hulu starring John Cena and Lil Rel. Andrew has helped his clients pitch countless projects and knows better than most what buyers are looking for and how a high concept approach can make all the difference in getting that script sold. Andrew will break down what makes a script ‘high concept’ and how you can write and sell your own high-concept screenplay. He’ll nail down exactly what a high concept story is and offer examples of high concept movies in different genres, explaining what makes them successful. He’ll then break down why high concept stories are so appealing, from the perspective of producers, studios, and audiences. Next Andrew will delve into how to actually write a high concept story and whether you can adjust your existing screenplay or write one from scratch. He will go through breaking down genre walls and other writing tips you can take with you. Andrew will then teach you how to sell your high concept story. He’ll talk about the importance of your logline and title and give you tips to pitch your high concept story to execs and buyers, including how to explain your world and use comps. Finally he will go over common mistakes writers make when creating high concept stories and will reveal where not to begin and whether size and budget matter. Expect to leave this webinar with a much clearer idea of what makes something “high concept” and a series of tips and ideas you can bring back to your own project to better sell it. "Throughout my time as a literary manager, the term "high concept" has come up more times than I can count. The writers that I work with that are most successful are the ones that understand what this term really means, what buyers are looking for, and how they can adjust to fit this idea. I'm excited to share these secrets with the Stage 32 community." -Andrew Kersey
Comes with a free month of Variety Insight to help you start your outreach! As a producer it can be HARD to get your project traction. No matter how passionate you are about it, no matter how fantastic the script is, it’s not easy to stand out to investors and executives. But attaching a notable or exciting director to your project can make a big difference. Finding a director with a good reputation or recent buzz that believes in your project and wants to helm it can add a level of legitimacy that will allow you to break through from a saturated marketplace and get the attention your project deserves. However, finding the right director and bringing him or her on board can often require a bit of finesse. Often when filmmakers consider attaching talent to a project, they think more of actors. No doubt attaching a famous actor to your project can help boost its profile, but attaching a great or exciting director can boost it in an even more powerful way and can give potential stakeholders more confidence that the final product will end up great. This is something an actor usually can’t guarantee, no matter how famous they are. From a producing perspective, there are a lot of similarities in the approaches of attaching an actor and director, but there are key differences as well. When you attach a director, you’re handing over the keys to a project you’re passionate about and allowing them to take it in their own direction. It can be a scary or difficult position, but finding a director who’s the right fit and who will add a level of gravitas or buzz might be what it takes to get your project made. Let’s discuss how to make that happen. Aimee Schoof is the co-founder of Intrinsic Value Films and a veteran film producer with 35 features under her belt. Of those 35, 9 have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, four at the Tribeca Film Festival, three at SXSW, and one each at LA Film Festival, Toronto, Venice, New York FF, New Directors/New Films, and Berlinale, to name a few. Aimee’s company develops, produces and sells independent films that have been distributed worldwide, have won many awards and been honored with numerous nominations. Accolades include winning a Sloan Sundance Award and a Sundance Special Grand Jury Prize. Aimee’s work has led her to be nominated five times by Film Independent as a producer. She is currently both a Sundance and Film Independent Fellow and has worked in international sales attending all major markets, and regularly lecturing on film finance and production. Through her career, Aimee has helped attach many directors to her projects and understands the steps that need to be taken to make this process smooth and beneficial. Exclusively for Stage 32, Aimee will teach you how to find the right director for your project and what you need to do to bring them on board. She’ll show you how to build your director wish list and how to find the next hot directors before they’re out of your budget or reach. She’ll then give you tips on how to initially approach a director you’re interested in, whether it’s through them directly, through their reps or through your own network. Aimee will also explain how she pitches her own projects to get directors excited to come on board. She will discuss the legalities of attaching a director and show you a real shopping agreement she uses to help seal the deal, and will finally go over how you can use your newly attached director to your advantage to help sell your film or bring in partners. Praise for Aimee’s Previous Stage 32 Webinars "I've taken many Stage 32 webinars and they've all been wonderful, but Aimee's had me ready to run through a wall! So much thoughtful and intelligent information!" - Debra S. "This webinar was jam packed with so many useful and accessible strategies I can start using today. Thank you!" -Brian D. "Grounded and Practical" -Jennifer S. “Aimee was able to take these big ideas and make them feel totally accessible and easy to understand. I really enjoyed hearing from her” -Howard F.
The LGBTQ+ market is expanding and it's high time fresh voices are heard. The popularity of recent titles like Netflix’s THE BOYS IN THE BAND, Hulu’s LOVE, VICTOR, and FX’s POSE point to the truth that stories and perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community are finally welcomed and in demand. This in turn is encouraging more buyers to gravitate towards content from queer voices and with queer themes. It’s been a long time coming, and now that we’re here, it’s important to take a look at what exactly is selling and what makes LGBTQ+ content authentic, responsible, and popular. As more voices and stories from the LGBTQ+ community are coming forward, audiences are clearly becoming more open and interested in exploring these themes and characters, but they’re also more discerning about the authenticity and respect queer characters are given. The romantic lead’s sassy and platonic gay best friend doesn’t fly the way it might have in the ‘90s. So what do authentic queer characters actually look like today? How can you avoid clichés and stereotypes and instead craft something complex and responsible? Whether you are queer, straight, or anything else, how can you positively contribute to the LGBTQ+ film and TV market? Devon Byers is a manager, producer, and co-founder of First Friday Entertainment, the industry's top literary management and production company dedicated to finding unique voices focused on diversity and inclusion. His clients are currently working with companies like Issa Rae’s ColorCreative and Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland, and are staffed on shows such as CBS’s GOD FRIENDED ME and CW’s KATY KEENE. Devon has based his career on championing diverse voices and bringing forward inclusive stories, and he’s bringing his perspective to the Stage 32 community. Devon will lay out what the LGBTQ+ film and TV market looks like today and how best to create your own stories and characters with these themes. He will begin by exploring what LGBTQ+ stories have been done and what you can do to make your own story unique. He’ll then delve into writing LGBTQ+ characters, including how to write them authentically and avoid clichés. He’ll outline the common traps LGBTQ+ characters often fall into and show you how to make sure your unique voice is evident in the writing. He’ll talk about themes that should be explored in this market as well as themes to avoid. Devon will also talk about if it’s okay to rewrite your straight characters for the LGBTQ+ market and whether there are any topics considered too insensitive or taboo. He’ll also discuss whether the market accepts straight people telling LGBTQ+ stories. He will then walk you through what platforms and formats are looking for this material and the most popular genres that are selling. Finally, Devon will dive into specific examples of successful LGBTQ+ projects in film, TV, podcasts and web series, and what makes them stand out. It’s an exciting time as Hollywood continues to become more diverse and inclusive. Let Devon give you the tools and confidence to responsibly contribute to this trend and even elevate it further.