How to Avoid Potholes When Building a Writing Career

Hosted by Lee Sternthal, Director, Producer & Screenwriter

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Lee Sternthal, Director, Producer & Screenwriter

Webinar hosted by: Lee Sternthal, Director, Producer & Screenwriter

TRON: LEGACY, THE WORDS (starring Bradley Cooper)

Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer. Lee has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Selection. It was bought by CBS Films and is currently the #2 romantic drama on Amazon Prime. He is a Sundance Institute Fellow, having attended the Screenwriters' Lab, and his work has appeared on The Black List. In other areas, he has worked as a photo journalist for the Trace and Vice covering urban gun violence. Lee had his first one- man photo show at the Soho House in West Hollywood in June, 2018 and taught a Master Class in screenwriting/directing at Swarthmore College and at Stage 32 in Los Angeles. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

It’s the dream of many to have a career as a writer for TV or film, to be able to make a living creating worlds and telling stories. Just ask almost anyone at any coffee shop. However the life of a writer, even the most successful, isn’t always easy. The career path is fraught, unpredictable, and inconsistent. Every writer breaks in (or doesn’t) in different ways, and as a result, there isn’t a singular roadmap for aspiring writers to find the success they’re looking for. That said, having a keen understanding of the industry you’re trying to break into and a wherewithal of potentially helpful steps on your journey is vital in finding your place and advancing in your career.

The truth is there’s so much more that goes into being a writer than just writing. Creative chops alone won’t save you. You are creating art for a market and therefore need to understand how the market operates in order to work within it. And while every writer’s career is unique, there are still commonalities and patterns among them and mistakes many have made that you can avoid by learning from them.

Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer who has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Film Festival selection and was later bought by CBS Films. Lee is a Sundance Institute Fellow, and his work has appeared on The Black List. Through his journey in this industry he has seen it all - the good, the bad and the ugly - and has come to Stage 32 exclusively to tell you about it.

Lee will reflect on his own career as a writer, the mistakes he’s made and the successes he’s found, both in the indie space and the studio system, to give you the perspective, lessons learned, and strategies to better navigate your own writing career. He’ll begin by focusing on writers just starting out and will discuss whether new writers need a manager and whether they need an agent. He’ll then talk about the pros and cons of having a writing partner and what to expect if you join forces with someone else. He will discuss Sundance Film Festival and reveal what actually happens if your film gets accepted. Lee will also discuss the insider Hollywood script survey the Black List from and illustrate what happens when your script appears on this list. He’ll then delve into screenwriting services, how they can be helpful, and how they can be harmful. Next Lee will then share his own experiences, both writing for a studio for the Disney film TRON: LEGACY as well as writing for the independent project THE WORDS to give you a sense of what those experiences are like from the inside. He’ll discuss how to know how much you’re able to take on and how to grapple with the doubt and Imposters Syndrome that is incredibly common among writers starting to find success. He’ll then go over the best ways to continue to pay the bills as a new screenwriter. Finally, Lee will give you his insider knowledge of the industry, including how to understand who “The Players” are and how to navigate them, what “The Venues” are and how they operate and how to work different rooms.

 

Praise for Lee’s Webinar:

 

“It was great to hear about all of Lee’s different experiences. I feel like I have a better sense of what to expect and what to do moving forward to keep on writing!”

-Dennis G.

 

“Lee was great! This was such an interesting webinar!”

-Betty H.

 

“I’m so glad I saw this! Lee has so much knowledge to share.”

-Terry C.

 

“Lee definitely answered a lot of big questions I’ve been asking myself about getting into writing, and now I’m excited to take some next steps. Thanks!”

-Gwen D.

What You'll Learn

  • Starting Out as a Writer
    • Do you need a manager?
    • Do you need an agent?
    • Should you have a writing partner? If so, what to expect.
    • Sundance - what really happens if you get accepted.
    • The Black List - what really happens if you get on it.
    • Screenwriting services - the good, the bad and the ugly.
      • Lee’s own case study that will blow your mind.
  • Getting the Job and What to Expect:
    • Case Study - Writing for a studio: TRON: LEGACY - what I learned
    • Case Study - Writing independent: THE WORDS - what I learned
    • Making THE WORDS as a Writer/Director and how to navigate when an “Independent” movie becomes a studio movie
    • How much can I take on?
    • Eternal doubt - Am I a fraud? We'll go over how to answer this plaguing question.
    • Day Job/Night Job - what is the best way to pay the bills as a new screenwriter?
  • Insider Knowledge:
    • Understanding "The Players" and how to navigate them
    • Understanding "The Venues" and how they operate - The Peninsula Hotel, The SoHo House, etc.
    • Understanding the different "Rooms" - studio, production company, agencies, etc. and what you should or should not do.
  • Q&A with Lee

About Your Instructor

Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer. Lee has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Selection. It was bought by CBS Films and is currently the #2 romantic drama on Amazon Prime.

He is a Sundance Institute Fellow, having attended the Screenwriters' Lab, and his work has appeared on The Black List.

In other areas, he has worked as a photo journalist for the Trace and Vice covering urban gun violence. Lee had his first one- man photo show at the Soho House in West Hollywood in June, 2018 and taught a Master Class in screenwriting/directing at Swarthmore College and at Stage 32 in Los Angeles.

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Other education that may be of interest to you:

Creating Realistic Characters for Television and Film

Whether we’re talking about a comedy or drama, sci-fi or horror, a film or television series, animated or live action, short-form or long-form, having good characters is essential. There’s no escaping it. Even a script with everything else going for it, if it doesn’t have strong, compelling characters, it’s not going to work. Great characters connect the audience to your world and ground it in humanity. They provide stakes, bolster your plot and keep it moving. It’s therefore crucial to understand what make an effective character and how you can create that in your own project. Unfortunately there’s not a step-by-step guide to crafting the perfect character. There’s no secret formula and there’s no surefire algorithm. Good characters are complicated and hard to define because so are people. Good characters hold a mirror up to reality and let the audience see themselves or someone else they know in them. And all of that might be fine and good in theory, but what does that actually mean in practice? If you’re a writer how can you create a character who serves as a mirror, who will stick with audiences long after the movie or show ends? And if you’re a producer or director, how can you recognize a great character from a mediocre one through the written word? Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer who has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Film Festival selection and was later bought by CBS Films. Lee is a Sundance Institute Fellow, and his work has appeared on The Black List. Through his writing career, Lee has spent more time than most considering the art of character and using that to aid his own career, as well as writers he continues to mentor and champion. Lee will walk you through the power of character and how to create great characters for your own project. He’ll begin by discussing why exactly characters are so vital to story and will teach you the key differences between a TV character and a film character. Next he will give you a brief history of character in storytelling and reveal the one fictional character from history that all other characters draw from. Lee will then discuss the difference between heroes and anti-heroes, as well as help you determine which of your characters is the driver and which are the riders. He’ll then delve into the art of a great antagonist and why an interesting adversary is so crucial to a successful story. Lee will help you frame your story through the clarity of need, both in character and in story. Next Lee will go over the classic Hero’s Journey and slightly re-imagine it for modern times. He will give you strategies and exercises to better understand and develop your own characters, including his “What’s Their God?” and “Changing A Flat Tire” games. He’ll then teach you the concept of revealing character through behavior and hiding character with words. Next Lee will delve into the idea of how your characters fit into your world, including how the environment might change your character. He’ll teach you the Shakespearean approach to character and compare it to the Balzacian approach, and will also discuss the difference between neuroticism and human comedy. Finally Lee will go over the dance between plot and character, illustrating how the two should work with and against each other to create a feedback loop that’s necessary for any great script.        Praise for Lee’s Webinar   “Great insight. Really helped me in moving forward.” -Martin R.   “I really enjoyed Lee's perspective on script writing. The examples he provided were very helpful. I'm very appreciative that he would share his knowledge, some of his techniques and be so generous with his encouragement.” -Simone L.   “Lee had a great way of explaining how to get a feel for the character and why they have the traits they do. Lee did a great job of covering a lot of character related topics which I am glad I have been exposed to.” -Karl H.

Actors: How to Snag that TV Guest Star Role and Be Successful on Set

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How To Hook Your Reader In The First 5 Pages

Learn what executives look for in the first five pages of your script from a producer whose worked with HBO, Universal, Fox, CBS and more.   "I just re-wrote my first five pages based on this class and Regina's incredibly insightful feedback, and wow! What a difference it made. This class is a "must take" Stage 32'ers!" - Shari F.   The first five pages of your script are perhaps the most important of your entire story. Those initial pages must hook your reader from the very first word and entice them to follow you into the world your story has created. No matter the genre, those first five pages are key.  Whether you’re submitting your script to a screenwriting contest, a manager, an agent, a producer, or director, your job as a writer it to craft those pages in such a way that the reader is compelled to keep reading.  Whether you are writing your first script or your fiftieth, learning to make those first five pages sing is a critical skill. Your instructor on this journey is Regina Lee. Regina is a film and TV series producer and former studio executive who has worked with writers and talent of all levels to get their projects sold to studios and networks like HBO, FOX, BET, Lifetime, Starz, Universal Pictures, The CW, CBS and more. She began her executive career at Universal Pictures, where she was the primary executive in charge of movies like X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, THE FAST & THE FURIOUS 3, THE GOOD SHEPHERD, AMERICAN WEDDING, SEABISCUIT and more. Regina has a deep and accomplished history of elevating projects and helping them find success and because she's been both a producer and a studio executive she understands what it takes for scripts to break through. Over the course of three jam-packed sessions, Regina goes in depth on what NEEDS to happen in your script’s first five pages, what executives are looking for, the typical paradigms for a script’s opening, and how you can give executives what they want to see. You will leave this class with a solid understanding of how to get your reader hooked in only 5 pages or less! Purchasing gives you access to the previously-recorded live class. Although Regina is no longer reviewing the assignments, we still encourage all listeners to participate.   More Praise for Regina’s Stage 32 Class   "Regina offers great insight. This class instantly made me a better writer.” - David L.   "Thanks for a wonderful class! Your efforts have been amazing." -Heather F.   "Great class, very helpful and useful information." -John R.

Netflix + Stage 32 Present: Television Pilot Story Structure

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How You Can Deliver TV in Post Production: Navigating Your Showrunner, Network and Talent

This webinar has a 100% satisfaction rating! Whether you’re a writer, an actor, a cinematographer, an editor, sound designer, a colorist, a VFX artist or an animator, every project you work on is going to have to pass through post production on the way to fulfilling its creative promise. Post-production is an intricate, sometimes lengthy and always critical process necessary to turn a bunch of shots, moments, and ideas into a singular and polished product. This is no easy task, and doing it well can lead to strong and ongoing career as a post producer. And if you’re a filmmaker or creator in your own right, peeling back some of the mystery of post can help inform your own art and allow you to better create. Despite how vital post-production is to any project, it’s often enigmatic and not fully understood. When most people think of production, they only think of a film set and are less able to visualize what comes after the film set is over. The concept of a dark room where so many decisions are made that determine a show’s eventual success is foreign to most. A successful Post Production process requires an elaborate choreographed dance between creativity, technology, time and money. Understanding what that Post Production process entails, and how your skills can best fit into it, is critical towards making whatever you do creatively more successful in the end. Let’s explore how post production works in scripted episodic TV, one of the most prolific art forms in today’s broadening media landscape.     Brad Carpenter is an Emmy nominated producer who for over fifteen years has built a stalwart reputation as one of television’s most sought after and effective producers specializing in post-production. Brad has overseen a slew of massively successful series including HBO behemoths BOARDWALK EMPIRE and SEX AND THE CITY, Showtime’s hit NURSE JACKIE, USA Network’s critically acclaimed THE SINNER, FX’s Emmy-winning FOSSE/VERDON and most recently LITTLE VOICE for Apple TV with executive producers J.J. Abrams and Sara Bareilles. Brad continues to produce upcoming TV shows, including the new TV fantasy drama INK MAN, currently in development. Few producers out there are as practiced and knowledgeable about the intricacies of TV post-production as Brad, and as a long-time member of Stage 32’s community, he’s thrilled to share what he knows. Brad will leave no stone unturned in this all-encompassing rundown of TV post-production, so expect to leave with a full picture of how this field works and how best you can approach it yourself.

First Impressions: How to Create Memorable Character Intros - Includes Case Studies

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