Beyond The Page: The Business Side of Breaking In & Getting Work as a Screenwriter

Hosted by Michael Poisson

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Michael Poisson

Webinar hosted by: Michael Poisson

Development Executive & Writer on Netflix's Raising Dion

Michael grew up in Harrisville, Rhode Island during the 1990’s NBC sitcom boom and WB teen dramedy craze, which should explain his obsession with comedic angst. He attended Emerson College in Boston where he majored in Visual and Media Arts with a concentration in Television. Michael’s first industry job was at CAA where he broke the glass ceiling for men everywhere and became their first male receptionist ever (before then, CAA had segregated based on sex: guys in the mailroom and girls in reception). From there he worked his way up to a desk in TV Packaging, before jumping to Ryan Reynolds and Allan Loeb’s TV pod, DarkFire TV. He moved on to work as the Director of Development at Krysten Ritter’s company, Silent Machine Entertainment, where he worked closely with writers to develop their ideas to pitch to studios and networks. Michel continues to develop independently and on the writing side, he co-wrote the comedic-musical stage show: ARMAGEDDON: A Night of Laughs and Pleasant Songs, which enjoyed a sold-out run in the LA Fringe Festival in 2011. He has placed in numerous writing competitions including: Top 5 Sitcom Pilots in the Austin Film Festival writing competition, and 1st Place in TVWriter.com’s comedy pilot competition. Michael is also a comic book geek and wrote the graphic novel The Arcs which was published by Fanboy Comics and premiered at the Comikaze Expo in November of 2013. http://www.thearcscomic.com/ Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Learn directly from Michael Poisson, the former Director of Development at Silent Machine Entertainment, Krysten Ritter’s production company that has a first look deal at Universal TV. Michael is also a comedy writer who used his insider knowledge to land a manager, and get two projects in development at TV production companies.

In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, your host Michael Poisson will guide you through the business side of how to become a working writer in Hollywood. Writing an awesome script is only part of the process for becoming successful in this industry. Having worked on various projects from both the executive side, as well as the writer side of things, Michael has obtained great insight for how to avoid the difficult terrain when meeting and working with producers, studios, and networks. And while the process of finding a manager or agent is daunting, keeping a strong relationship with them so that they’re doing the most for you as their client can be equally difficult. Michael will share with you his insider knowledge to help: keep your writing on track, your meetings fruitful, and your industry contacts strong. If you’ve ever wondered what you should talk about in “general meetings”, how to take notes from friends/producers/execs that you don’t agree with, or how to be a more prolific writer, this webinar is for you!

 

What You'll Learn

YOU WILL LEAVE THE WEBINAR KNOWING:

  • How to put yourself on a solid schedule to complete new work
  • Types of writing you should have in your portfolio
  • How to take general meetings with producers and executives so that they're most productive
  • How to take meetings with agents and managers, and how to keep them excited about you once they sign you as a client
  • How to take notes from producer and executives that you don't agree with
  • Selling your script once it's completed
  • How to create and keep a writer's group going
  • The importance of finding a mentor and how to find one
  • How to successfully work with production companies, studios, and networks so that they want to work with you again.
  • LIVE Q&A with Mike - bring your questions!

About Your Instructor

Michael grew up in Harrisville, Rhode Island during the 1990’s NBC sitcom boom and WB teen dramedy craze, which should explain his obsession with comedic angst. He attended Emerson College in Boston where he majored in Visual and Media Arts with a concentration in Television.

Michael’s first industry job was at CAA where he broke the glass ceiling for men everywhere and became their first male receptionist ever (before then, CAA had segregated based on sex: guys in the mailroom and girls in reception). From there he worked his way up to a desk in TV Packaging, before jumping to Ryan Reynolds and Allan Loeb’s TV pod, DarkFire TV. He moved on to work as the Director of Development at Krysten Ritter’s company, Silent Machine Entertainment, where he worked closely with writers to develop their ideas to pitch to studios and networks.

Michel continues to develop independently and on the writing side, he co-wrote the comedic-musical stage show: ARMAGEDDON: A Night of Laughs and Pleasant Songs, which enjoyed a sold-out run in the LA Fringe Festival in 2011. He has placed in numerous writing competitions including: Top 5 Sitcom Pilots in the Austin Film Festival writing competition, and 1st Place in TVWriter.com’s comedy pilot competition. Michael is also a comic book geek and wrote the graphic novel The Arcs which was published by Fanboy Comics and premiered at the Comikaze Expo in November of 2013. http://www.thearcscomic.com/

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Reviews Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • As this was my maiden voyage with webinars I was quite pleased with Michael's openness and informative approach. It definitely felt as though the time was well spent and I feel more educated regarding the daunting side of Show'bidness.
  • Great insight and plenty of plain common sense. Lots of tips here. Basically, guess what? People are people. Be nice. Be professional. Treat EVERYONE you meet with respect.

Other education that may be of interest to you:

Mentor Series: Write A TV Bible That Sells

Class Space Limited: Maximum 20 Writers August 13, 20, 27 and Sept 10 from 1pm-3pm. Your TV Series Bible is an extremely important, and often overlooked tool for selling your pilot in the industry. It’s a document which explains in detail – who your characters are, what they will be up against, where future conflict will come, and what themes your show will be exploring. It gives studio and network executives confidence that you know what you’re doing, and that the show has the story potential to live on for multiple seasons. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of literature out there detailing how to construct a bible. This Stage 32 Intensive is aimed to give you the information and guidance that you need to write a strong bible that can be used when sending out and selling your pilot script. Each week, your instructor Michael Poisson (Director of Development at Silent Machine Entertainment, Krysten Ritter’s production company that has a first look deal at Universal TV) will be giving a lecture about how to write one section of your series bible, and then you’ll be assigned to write that section for a project of your own. The following week Mike will offer one-on-one skype sessions to discuss your work, give you any notes, and answer any questions that you may have. So, at the end of this Intensive, you will have a strong and well-executed bible that you’ll be able to use as a selling tool for your own TV series. Mike has worked at CAA, two production companies, and as a showrunner’s assistant on a TV series, and at each job he has seen the importance of bibles and how they have been used to get series sold and on the air. As a writer, Mike has also used them in his own writing career, and a well-written bible of helped him to secure his manager, and get multiple production companies interested in his work.

How to Write a TV Series Bible

In the current, competitive TV landscape of serialized dramas, complex comedies, and sprawling genre epics, series bibles are becoming important selling tools to help writers illustrate their visions. A dynamic and intriguing bible can create interest in your project, and push your pitch or spec script over the edge to a sale. It’s your chance to lay out the larger arc of your story, list examples of future episodes, and explain the broad themes your show will explore. It conveys confidence to producers and executives by saying: “I've thought about this in the long run, and I have a slew of awesome ideas to explore in series.” Because there is no standard industry way to format your bible, they can be extremely confusing to create. Executives receive bibles as small as 4 pages (a mini-bible, really) and as long as 27 pages. Should it include your personal connection to the material? In-depth character bios? Visual motifs? Artist’s renderings of the setting and characters? Although bibles can vary greatly from project to project, there are some general rules and strategies to follow to make sure yours stands out from the pack as professional, polished, and powerful. Michael Poisson's career is one that has been filled with incredible ambitious drive and creative passion. He is a veteran television executive and is currently a writer on the hit Netflix series Raising Dion, as well as Adult Swim's Robot Chicken. But Michael’s story begins with his first industry job at CAA where he broke the glass ceiling for men everywhere and became their first ever male receptionist (before then, CAA had segregated based on sex: guys in the mailroom and girls in reception). From there he worked his way up to Rick Lefitz’s desk at CAA in TV Packaging, before jumping to Ryan Reynolds and Allan Loeb’s TV pod, DarkFire TV, for two years. He moved on to work as the Director of Development at Krysten Ritter’s company, Silent Machine Entertainment, where he worked closely with writers to develop their ideas to pitch to studios and networks. Michael has also had numerous successes as a screenwriter. In what has become an ultra-competitive environment, Michael will teach you the ins and outs of creating a compelling and willing TV bible. Starting with the proper formatting, how to introduce dynamic characters, and moving through how to include active and engaging episode examples, Michael will show you what grabs and keeps an executive's attention. Michael will also discuss artwork, articles and visual aids and whether your bible truly needs them or if they should be left out entirely. He will show you how to create and present carefully crafted, season long arcs that include strong and relatable themes. Always a challenge for writers, producers, and filmmakers putting together a series bible, Michael will teach you how to be clear and concise in explaining your direction for the series. He will spend quality time explaining and teaching the importance of a strong wrap up and closing beat and how to nail both. Michael will even teach you how to identify and decide which network or platform may be best for your show.   "Answered so many of my questions about bible writing. Took away my fears as well! I can't wait to get started." - Mia L.   "Demystification complete." Lorraine R.   "Michael has energy and knowledge to spare. Best investment I've made in years." - Regina K.

How To Write A Comedy Pilot Executives Will Want To Read

In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, your host Michael Poisson will teach you how to write a kick-ass comedy pilot that will get executives’ attention. This webinar is not only about how to properly execute writing a comedy pilot, but also about how to make it your strongest sample so that it can get noticed! You will leave the webinar knowing: The 3 most important things Producers/Execs look for in a pilot as they relate to concept, structure and voice. How to properly highlight your unique comedic voice and stuff your script with laughs. How to create a crisp 1-2 sentence pitch that will get executives excited about your idea. How to navigate the competitions and fellowships. How to think from a Producer/Manager/Executives POV and understand what they're looking for so you can apply it to your script. Michael Poisson is a former Director of Development who's worked for Ryan Reynolds TV production company DarkFire TV, Krysten Ritter's company Silent Machine and CAA and is now a writer on Netflix's Raising Dion. This background gives has given Michael a unique perspective for what kind of script stands out among the hordes on everyone’s “Weekend Read” lists and he is here exclusively with Stage 32 to share that knowledge with you.

How to Use World Building In Your TV Pitch Document to Sell Your Series

Along with characters, story and structure, one of the most important elements of any television series is world building. Certainly this applies to fantasy and science fiction shows like GAME OF THRONES and THE MANDALORIAN, but it’s just as important for any realistic and grounded series as well. Giving the viewers the ability to fully immerse themselves in the world your characters live in—the setting, the rules, the culture, the counter-culture, the history and more—will make them more invested in continuing to watch. Yet it’s not just the viewer you’ll be enticing with a well-defined world; it’s also the executives that might choose to pick up your show because of the world you’re able to present to them as part of your pitch and pitch deck. With so much content being pitched and with so many creatives trying to get their work in front of creatives and ultimately picked up, it is hard for anyone’s show to stand out above the noise. To do so, you need more than a great show and a great script; you also need a great pitch and pitch document. It truly can be what stands between you and that green light. So what does a great pitch document look like, and more specifically, how does that great pitch document get execs invested and interested in your show’s world? Boman Modine is an Emmy-nominated producer for his show DARK/WEB on Amazon, and an award-winning producer with a long history of film and franchise development. Boman's production company, Strangeway Productions, is currently developing several animated, horror, science fiction television properties with partners that include Sanctum Studios (THE NEW MUTANTS, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY). He is also the former head of acquisitions and development for Mt. Hollywood where he also produced the BAFTA-nominated "THE PARTY's JUST BEGINNING" with Karen Gillan. He has also consulted and produced with BRAIN ACADEMY, known for the Keanu Reeves/Peter Stormare show "SWEDISH DICKS", where he packaged both features and television shows. Boman has an impressive history of packaging and selling TV series, especially science fiction and other genre series, to notable networks and streamers and understand what it takes to get an exec on your side and interested in your project. Exclusively for Stage 32, Boman will delve into the art of world-building, both for science fiction and fantasy series, and for all other genres as well, and show you how best to incorporate your original world into an effective pitch document to get networks and streamers interested. He will explain the elements of any effective TV pitch document before exploring what good world-building actually looks like and how you can “build your own sandbox” to establish your series’ genre and tone. Boman will also walk you through filling your sandbox with sand by defining your who, what, when, where, why, and how, as well as your world’s culture, counter-culture, and history. He’ll also teach you how to use what came before as a way to better help execs understand your series. Throughout, Boman will provide case studies of professional TV series pitch documents to illustrate how other creators have made their own world leap off the page.

Actors: How to Define Your Image and Brand in 5 Easy Steps

Kristi Speiser, Certified Image Consultant and Life Coach for actors has been in the business 25 years and worked with stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Gerard Butler! Now she brings her extensive knowledge and experience in honing, refining and defining an actor's image exclusively to Stage 32. Examples of Kristi's Image Consulting Work   “Going within is the most challenging place one will ever go. But this brings the biggest payoffs and sets you up for more success in life both personally and professionally” - Kristi Speiser   When you're an actor, you're seemingly being given advice at every turn. Whether it's who to take acting classes with, how to address casting directors in and out of the room, or what roles you are or aren't a fit for, the opinions never seem to stop coming. It can be overwhelming. But one piece of advice that is golden is that understanding your brand and assuring that you are doing everything possible to put that brand on display will undeniably give you an advantage in a very crowded field. Simply put, most actors go into headshot sessions, auditions, and meetings with no clue or definitive idea as to what they're putting out there or how they are being perceived. That's something that's fully in your control and something that you can begin honing, shaping, and changing starting today. Kristi Speiser is a certified image consultant and life coach with the International Coaching Federation. After a hugely successful 20 year career working with actors in fashion advertising, Kristi moved on to become Chief Operations Manager in her husband’s acting studio. For 25 years she had an insider’s access to the business side of acting and entertainment. Exposed to thousands of actors, she played a part in the rise of major directors, producers, and stars like, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Gerard Butler. Exclusively for Stage 32, Kristi will teach you how to gain a full understanding of you who are and use that to help you define your brand. She will show you how you are likely perceived by decision makers and gatekeepers and how you can change that perception so you stop wasting time and money pursuing the wrong roles or markets. She will show you how clothes, voice patterns, communication behavior and more can be altered and modified to any situation to increase your chances of success. She will discuss how you can build effective and important relationships so you stay top of mind of casting directors and producers. Kristi will even get down into your headshots - telling you the real truths - and what photos and information should be on a personal website. In short, Kristi will teach you how to treat your career as a business and how embracing that mentality alone, and implementing these strategies toward that end, will result in more work and more happiness!   This is a major deep dive into your image and brand designed to help actors of all experience and skill levels. This information will leave you refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to tackle any audition or meeting!     She helped me realize the image I was putting out there was not an accurate representation of who I was. She opened my eyes to a world of color, silhouettes and accessories. Through her nurturing, I not only discovered the ability to reflect my essence outwardly, but also how to own it. – Leena H.   She is an expert at what she does but most importantly someone who truly desires to see her clients succeed in the industry. – Stephanie F.   I felt like I was being pulled in a dozen different directions when it came to my career: my look, my characters, my goals, my personality… Kristi brought all that into focus. – Shayna R.  

The Executive Hour with Special Guest AKEELAH AND THE BEE Filmmaker Doug Atchison

During this Executive Hour we welcome special guest AKEELAH AND THE BEE and BRIAN BANKS filmmaker Doug Atchison! AKEELAH AND THE BEE was released by Lionsgate and starred Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, and Keke Palmer. His script for AKEELAH has recently been adapted into a stage play which is being performed around the country.  Doug wrote the screenplay for BRIAN BANKS, which was produced by previous Writers' Room guest Amy Baer, released in August of 2019, and for which Doug won the 2019 Humanitas Prize. The film was directed by Tom Shadyac and stars Greg Kinnear, Aldis Hodge, and Morgan Freeman.During this webcast Doug discusses writing AKEELAH, working as an independent writer/director, how he gets hired for screenwriting assignments, what most writers struggle with when writing a screenplay and how to approach writing a true story! 

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