Breaking Down a Script Page from a Producer’s Perspective –Financing, Budgeting, Casting & More

Hosted by James Crawford

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James Crawford

Webinar hosted by: James Crawford

Global Producer and Development Executive

James Crawford is an ink-to-screen producer and development executive working in southern California, with expertise working with international creative professionals. He is currently the Head of Development for Fireside Pictures, a full-service production company with offices in Ottawa, Canada and Los Angeles. Prior to joining Fireside Pictures, James was the Executive Director of Development at Engage Entertainment, where he developed, sold, and produced seven movies to Hallmark Channel over the three years, including The Rooftop Christmas Tree (UPTV), Sleigh Bells Ring and A December Bride (Hallmark). In addition to his feature production experience, James developed several 1-hour television series at Engage, pitching to EPiX, WGN America, Cinemax, and Universal Cable Productions. James worked as the Creative Executive at Cartel Entertainment, a television and film literary management and production company, and was responsible for identifying, developing, and pitching content for its first-look deal with Entertainment One, including the Stephen King novel The Regulators. At Cartel Entertainment, James developed pitches to Amazon, FX, Hulu, Netflix, Cinemax, UCP, and other major networks. James produced the animated short series A Brief History of Dick Moves, which won Best Web Series at the 2018 Glendale International Film Festival, and has worked as a producer on the independent documentaries Code Blue: Resuscitating Rural Surgery (2019) and You See Me (2015). In the fall of 2018, James was an adjunct faculty member at Loyola Marymount University, where he taught the undergraduate film history course 1960s and 1970s American Cinema. He has been a panelist at several pitch fests, including USC’s First Pitch and The Great American Pitchfest. For the past two years, James has taught screenwriting and project pitching at the Rocaberti Writers’ Retreat at Chateau Marouatte near Angoulême, France. James is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America and the Television Academy. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Like it or not, the film and television industry is and will always be a business. It may produce stunning works of art and lead to social and cultural impacts, but it still comes down to the bottom line. That means that as a writer, unless your name is Christopher Nolan, you’re going to have to deal with more constraints that just the words on a page in order to make your vision a reality. You’ll need to convince a producer that the script can be made and can be made with the money available. And, if you’re a filmmaker or producer, you’ll need to understand how much of the budget is going to each page in order to make your film profitable. In order to do this, it’s important to understand how to read scripts from a cost perspective and what stands out to them as red flags or unnecessary challenges. Considering this throughout the writing and development process rather than being caught off guard after a script is fully written can be invaluable.

It can be frustrating to have limitations get in the way of your creative expression, to be told that the world and story in your head can’t be made because of financial constraints. It can feel like selling out to alter your script in order to fit a financier’s budget. This doesn’t have to be the case, though—you don’t have to sacrifice your narrative in service of the bottom line. Instead, there are ways to meld your creativity with some financial savvy and learn to think about how story, character, and structure translate into dollars on the page. So before you write that ambitious live action space opera, the one on the rain planet with children and exotic animals, join producer James Crawford and learn how a producer thinks and breaks down pages.This will give you a leg up on the competition when trying to get your script made.

James Crawford is the Head of Development for Fireside Pictures. Prior to joining Fireside Pictures, James was the Executive Director of Development at Engage Entertainment, where he developed, sold, and produced seven movies to Hallmark Channel over three years, including THE ROOFTOP CHRISTMAS TREE, SLEIGH BELLS RING and A DECEMBER BRIDE. In addition to his feature production experience, James has developed several one-hour television series at Engage, pitching to EPiX, WGN America, Cinemax, and Universal Cable Productions, among others. James worked as Creative Executive at Cartel Entertainment, a television and film literary management and production company, and was responsible for identifying, developing, and pitching content for its first-look deal with Entertainment One, including the Stephen King novel The Regulators. At Cartel Entertainment,James developed pitches for Amazon, FX, Hulu, Netflix, Cinemax, UCP, and other major networks. James has a storied background as a producer and executive and is intimately familiar with what it takes to turn a script into a produced film or series.

James will provide you with an understanding of the unforeseen costs that go into producing a script. He’ll begin by going over what it generally means to think like a producer in the first place. He’ll then delve into the specific financial challenges that come with genre and ‘genre-ish’ projects and how you can prepare yourself for these issues. James will break down the seven main types of producers on a project and what each one does. James will focus on the relationship between the producer and the line producer, a critical partnership for finding the resources to keeping your vision. James will then give you a full breakdown of what costs could go into every single page of your script, from above-the-line and below-the-line talent to locations, production design, and small things you might not have ever considered before that can seriously add up. To illustrate this, James will provide you with a case study of a real scene of a real shooting script, illustrating line-by-line where the costs lie in the script. Finally, James will teach you 10 strategies you can use if you’re starting to go over-budget. You will leave with a firmer understanding of how your script will translate to costs, and clear strategies to keep your vision while going easier on the budget.

 

Praise for James’s Webinar:

 

James was awesome. Clear, concise, and knowledgeable.

-Stephen B.

 

“James Crawford was very informative, and the way he brought the webinar across was entertaining and kept you engaged. I loved every bit of it! I hope he comes back for a round 2”

-Imo C.

 

Super helpful and very clear. Right to the point. Not full of anecdotes but actual teaching.

-Helena W.

 

“It was very informative in a practical way. James was great!”

-Dave M.

 

What You'll Learn

  • How You Can Think Like a Producer?
  • Strategies to Find the Right Producing Partner for Your Project
  • Why Genre Is Expensive
  • A Breakdown of Different Producers and their Roles
    • What do they do?
    • What are they looking for?
    • The importance of the Line Producer
  • Where The Money Goes Per Page
    • Above the line costs vs. below the line costs
    • When to compromise and when not to
    • A comprehensive breakdown of production costs
  • Case Study: Breaking Down the Costs of a Real Page of a Real Script
  • 10 Things to Do If You’re Over Budget
  • Q&A with James

About Your Instructor

James Crawford is an ink-to-screen producer and development executive working in southern California, with expertise working with international creative professionals. He is currently the Head of Development for Fireside Pictures, a full-service production company with offices in Ottawa, Canada and Los Angeles.

Prior to joining Fireside Pictures, James was the Executive Director of Development at Engage Entertainment, where he developed, sold, and produced seven movies to Hallmark Channel over the three years, including The Rooftop Christmas Tree (UPTV), Sleigh Bells Ring and A December Bride (Hallmark). In addition to his feature production experience, James developed several 1-hour television series at Engage, pitching to EPiX, WGN America, Cinemax, and Universal Cable Productions.

James worked as the Creative Executive at Cartel Entertainment, a television and film literary management and production company, and was responsible for identifying, developing, and pitching content for its first-look deal with Entertainment One, including the Stephen King novel The Regulators. At Cartel Entertainment, James developed pitches to Amazon, FX, Hulu, Netflix, Cinemax, UCP, and other major networks.

James produced the animated short series A Brief History of Dick Moves, which won Best Web Series at the 2018 Glendale International Film Festival, and has worked as a producer on the independent documentaries Code Blue: Resuscitating Rural Surgery (2019) and You See Me (2015).

In the fall of 2018, James was an adjunct faculty member at Loyola Marymount University, where he taught the undergraduate film history course 1960s and 1970s American Cinema. He has been a panelist at several pitch fests, including USC’s First Pitch and The Great American Pitchfest. For the past two years, James has taught screenwriting and project pitching at the Rocaberti Writers’ Retreat at Chateau Marouatte near Angoulême, France. James is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America and the Television Academy.

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Other education that may be of interest to you:

International Writers: How to Make Your Series Succeed in the US

With the runaway success of breakout international television shows like HBO Max’s GOMORRAH and Netflix’s MONEY HEIST and LUPIN, US-based networks and studios are looking more and more to the international markets for creative inspiration. Whether in the guise of formats (established foreign shows adapted to air domestically) or direct buys from writers and producers, companies have finally realized that importing talent is good creative business. This means there has never been a better opportunity for writers outside of America to find success and interested buyers stateside, especially if you can write something that fits American sensibilities. It’s clear that writers from abroad bring fresh ideas and unique perspectives that reinvigorate the film and television. Yet they still need to adapt their sensibilities to make them successful across the pond—NBC’s adaptation of BBC’s THE OFFICE, for instance, didn’t find its footing until it took the core of its uniquely British perspective and polished it to reflect the unique politics of the American workplace. This same adjustment can be made for your own project, provided you understand what exactly this adjustment should look like. So what are American sensibilities? What makes a show more relatable to American viewers and what can you do as a writer to make sure American decisionmakers will see value in your film or series? James Crawford is Canadian/Australian, US-based producer and development executive who has worked with writers from Mexico, Finland, Spain, England, Scotland, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, and the Philippines. James has developed several one-hour television series, pitching to EPiX, WGN America, Cinemax, and Universal Cable Productions, among others. James worked as Creative Executive at Cartel Entertainment, a television and film literary management and production company, and was responsible for identifying, developing, and pitching content for its first-look deal with Entertainment One, including the Stephen King novel The Regulators. At Cartel Entertainment, James developed pitches for Amazon, FX, Hulu, Netflix, Cinemax, UCP, and other major networks. While working at Cartel Entertainment, he developed formats from the Brazilian network Globo for the American market. He has taught at screenwriting retreats in France and worked for the Australian Film Commission (now called Screen Australia.) A man of the world, James also holds Estonian citizenship. James has a storied background as a producer and executive and is intimately familiar with working with foreign writers to get their projects seen and sold. James will teach you how to make your series idea salable in the US market. This doesn’t mean selling out, but rather translating your unique voice so that it’s better heard by American producers and development executives. Which subjects will or won’t work for the American screen? How do we understand the different cultural sensitivities of different marketplaces? What story structures and arcs are common internationally but don’t land over here? How does the entertainment business structure US (agents, managers, execs) differ from what you experience at home? And how does that environment change how your story is received? As we answer these, you will better understand how to adapt the cultural issues that are important in your home country and make them resonate abroad.     Praise for James's Previous Stage 32 Webinars   James was awesome. Clear, concise, and knowledgeable. -Stephen B.   “James Crawford was very informative, and the way he brought the webinar across was entertaining and kept you engaged. I loved every bit of it! I hope he comes back for a round 2” -Imo C.   Super helpful and very clear. Right to the point. Not full of anecdotes but actual teaching. -Helena W.   “It was very informative in a practical way. James was great!” -Dave M.

Stage 32 Screenwriting Lab: Make Your Script Sellable in the US Market

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Corey Trent Ackerman, Manager at the Cartel

The Cartel Manager Corey Ackerman 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.

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