How to Nail the First Act of Your Television Pilot - With Pilot Downloads (Killing Eve, Atlanta, This is Us, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, One Day at a Time, The Expanse)

Hosted by Anna Henry

$49

On Demand Webinar - For immediate download. Unlimited access for 1 year.

Rating   | Read reviews

Start Learning

Please make sure you use the same email address as the one you use to sign in to Stage 32, otherwise you won't have access to your webinar.
apply Your coupon will be applied after you agree to terms below.

- or -

$49.00
TOTAL PRICE:
Overlay Icon

Satisfaction Rate:

Anna Henry

Webinar hosted by: Anna Henry

(Worked with CBS, ABC, Amazon, Starz, Sony, 20th Television)

Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, and multiple production companies, as well in management 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. She is currently developing procedurals, crime thrillers, dark comedies, YA and Millennial-focused projects, character-driven sci-fi, and recent period. She is a member of HRTS Associates and Greenlight Women. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

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.

 

 

What You'll Learn

  • Ingredients for a Pilot
    • Identifying the type / genre of your show
    • The importance of a compelling world
    • Our entry point – creating unique, layered characters
    • A checklist for character development
    • Story engine and episodic structure
    • What are meta-themes
    • Types of tone
    • Basic pilot structure and page count
    • Writing a “dense” script
  • What Makes an Exciting Teaser / Cold Open
    • Elements of the opening sequence
    • Incorporating characters
    • Framing devices
    • Our first peek at the world
    • Incorporating theme, tone and story engine
    • Strong out
  • Act One-The Basics
    • Key elements
    • Structure
  • Writing Compelling Character Descriptions
    • Physical descriptions
    • Elements of identity
    • What’s in a name
  • Introduction Scenes
    • Key elements
    • Generating interest in your characters
    • Character voices – how dialogue serves character
    • Additional elements to develop character
    • Introducing relationships
    • Using introduction scenes to accomplish more
  • Character Moments
    • Meeting heroic and relatable leads
    • Meeting villains
    • Meeting supporting characters
    • Introducing ensembles
    • How much backstory
    • Why pilots have newcomers
    • Why characters argue so much
    • Common mistakes
  • Exposition – World Building
    • How to describe your world and communicate it visually
    • Value of specific setting
    • Building a mystery
    • Rules of the universe
    • Overused crutches
  • Incorporating Tone and Themes
    • Early scenes
    • Conveying tone through details
    • Building themes subtly through character scenes
  • How to Bring the Audience Into Your Pilot Story
    • Step-by-step
    • Where to start your story
    • Launching your A story (aka inciting incident)
    • Starting B and C stories
    • How to craft a strong act out
  • Q&A with Anna

About Your Instructor

Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, and multiple production companies, as well in management 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. She is currently developing procedurals, crime thrillers, dark comedies, YA and Millennial-focused projects, character-driven sci-fi, and recent period. She is a member of HRTS Associates and Greenlight Women.

FAQs

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 audio recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!

Questions?

If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.
 

Reviews Average Rating: 5 out of 5

Other education that may be of interest to you:

What Makes an Unscripted Show Attractive to a Cable or Streaming Buyer?

Unscripted (reality) television has burst onto cable and streaming platforms with a vengeance. In fact, reality seems to be everywhere these days with shows covering just about every subject imaginable. However, much has changed since the pioneers of reality TV came into people's living rooms (remember THE REAL WORLD and JOE MILLIONAIRE?). Gone are the days of simple formats allowing unfiltered access into the day to day lives of real people. Today, the networks and streamers are interested in shows providing a behind the curtain peak into all sorts of different subcultures. Mostly everyone can think of a time when they've thought "Wow, that would make a great reality TV" - But where do you start if you want to develop and pitch an unscripted show ? The challenges in developing unscripted/reality shows are lengthy. Unscripted shows don’t have scripts or actors, and they deal with real people and the personal conflicts they deal with in navigating their work and personal lives. And, just like networks and streaming platforms have mandates for scripted shows, they also have mandates for unscripted shows. So, how do you plan and develop the trajectory of a show if it's not scripted? If you have a great concept and cast, it's your job to function as a producer - read: therapist and gatekeeper -  to prove that you can sustain the concept through multiple seasons. You have to make sure that you have a reliable cast that's on board with your vision. And you have to know how to sell that vision in a clear and winning fashion. This all begins by understanding what networks and the steaming platforms are looking for, who's programming what, what materials you will need to have in order to pitch, and how to put together a sizzle real and/or deck that rises above the rest. Catherine Keithley is the Vice President of Current and Development at Brian Graden Media. She produced Season 1 of INSTANT INFLUENCER with James Charles for YouTube Originals, Seasons 1 - 4 of ESCAPE THE NIGHT for YouTube Originals starring Joey Graceffa, the hour special also for YouTube Originals BAND TOGETHER WITH LOGIC and season 1 of MS. T'S MUSIC FACTORY for Lifetime. She's sold and developed a number of shows for BGM at various stages of development, casting, presentations, and pilots for networks like Lifetime, NBC, BET, POP, E!, Bravo, GSN, A&E, Fullscreen, & YouTube Originals. Catherine will teach you what makes a network interested in an unscripted show. You will learn how to pick "characters" that are watchable and whey they'd be attractive to a buyer. She'll go over the various genres that are produced for unscripted television and break them down by network. She will take you through what goes into development for each of the genres, including what materials you will need and what your sizzle needs to look like. She will even go into detail by network on who is buying what in unscripted - breaking down budget ranges so you're fully understanding on where your unscripted idea stands.    Like what you heard from Catherine during this webcast?  Send your concept to Catherine and speak with her for half-hour by clicking here.     You will see what types of characters stand out to a network, what your pitch deck needs to look like and how you can hook someone immediately with your sizzle. Catherine will give you all the tools you need to make your unscripted pitch sing.   "After working in unscripted selling to mostly all major networks, I'll help give you the insight into what it takes to pitch a winning unscripted idea that will get sold."  - Catherine Keithley

The Write Now Challenge: Black Limousine

We're revved and ready to go for the final webcast of September 2020 in the Writers' Room during the Write Now Challenge Webcast: Black Limousine!  In this challenge, you were asked to write a short scene (1-3 pages in length) using the prompt below as your opening.  EXT. STORE PARKING LOT – LATE AFTERNOONA YOUNG WOMAN, 20's, stands in the parking lot of a shabby-looking grocery store. She wears a work apron beneath her winter jacket. Just about to light up a cigarette, she suddenlyfreezes. Peering ahead she sees a BLACK LIMOUSINE coming toward her. There were some fantastic entries from our members that took this prompt in every direction - from Comedy to Drama, Supernatural to Sci-Fi, and even Thriller! It was a fantastic showcase of our members' imaginations. 

How to Make Short Form Animation Content That Gets You Noticed

As animators we pour our heart and soul into creating content we can be proud of. What most people don't realize is how many hours, days, months and even years it takes to create even the shortest form animation content to showcase your skills. Often you aspire to be noticed, not only by a viewing audience, but also by professionals who can help move the needle on your career. So how can you be assured that all your time and effort will pay off by not only reaching the widest audience possible, but by those who can help you get to the next level? Writing, boarding and creating animation content takes immense discipline. It takes the distinguished voice of a storyteller, the skillful eye of a director and the polished chops of an artist to make your vision come to life on screen. Once you've decided to embark on the path of creating content, how do you go about getting noticed? Animation is difficult to break into, but it's certainly not impossible and you CAN be seen by people that matter if you take the right steps to creating your content and getting it out there online. You have powerful tools in your hands and at your disposal through platforms like Vimeo, YouTube, Instagram and more - if you know how to use them to your advantage. Mike Disa knows a thing or two about animation. He's been working in the industry for over two decades and is currently the lead director on Netflix's hit show Paradise PD. He's worked with companies such as Disney, Dreamworks, Warner Bros., Paramount, and many others on feature films, television shows and digital series. Before he got his start, he knew no one in animation or entertainment and used his own methods to get noticed and sustain a nearly twenty five year career, which he will share with you.  Mike will teach you what type of content you can create that will help you stand out online to those working in animation. You will learn how online platforms can be best utilized to show your content and learn to set clear goals of what you are trying to get out of creating content and reach your target audience. You will know what to expect if you embark on the path for the genre of animation you work in. Mike will walk you through the development process to make sure your time is worth it before you start investing your time creating content. And, Mike will even walk you through how to promote yourself to get noticed!   Remember, it just takes one champion of you and your work to kick start your career and Mike will help you know what type of content you can create and how you can get it out there in the right places to capture the right person's eye!   We're thrilled to welcome Mike back exclusively to Stage 32. Here are testimonials from Mike's previous Stage 32 Webinars:   "Mike Disa was amazingly generous with his time and information. And he was real. It doesn't get better than that. I'll be able to apply his insights and the information he shared immediately. I'm so glad I decided to participate." - Elizabeth A.   "The webinar was excellent and very well paced. I truly appreciated the honesty and straightforwardness of the presenter. I learned a lot and look forward to the next one." - Jerry M.   "Excellent webinar. I think that I learned more than I expected to about animation writing and how it relates to working in the industry. I had a good time watching this and appreciate how kind everyone was with their time." - Kari H.   "I believe such given information was highly inspirational, utterly legit and true regarding the industry and show business. I've always wanted to learn what it takes to write an idea for an animated series, and how to put it on screen, and this webinar truly answered these vital questions. Conclusively, I would really take these tips into consideration during the writing of my ideas, and would highly recommend them to those who are ambitious to spread their stories world-wide." - Mohammed H.

Create Stability in the Freelance Industries of Film, TV or Theater

Learn directly from Jessica Sitomer, who has had her writing produced by an Emmy Award Winner, produced TV herself and has coached thousands of professionals who work in the entertainment industry. So you have chosen to pursue one of the most sought out industries on the planet: film, television or theater. People come and go, jobs come and go; this is not like becoming a teacher and once you have tenure, you’ve almost guaranteed your job security. This is an unstable industry. You’ve heard of the corporate ladder? The bad news is in our industry there isn’t one clear ladder to climb. The good news is you can build your own ladder. But before you build it, give yourself a reality check in regards to the nature of the industry you are pursuing. Understand its cycles so they don’t scare you and you’re prepared for them when they come. Take a moment to remember why you’re passionate about what you do… you’ve been given a gift, and you need emotional, financial, and physical stability so you can share it with the world. People have asked me, ‘Can I really have a career in the entertainment industry that I love, make money at it, and still have time for friends, family, self care, health, spirituality, and fun?’ And my answer… YES! Once you understand the nature of the industry and take some steps to plan for the instability, you can build your life any way you want.

Producing Projects in the New Normal with Oscar-Nominated Producer Chris Moore & Stage 32 CEO Richard "RB" Botto

The world is changing quickly and the phrase “new normal” is being bandied about with abandon. Even though filming is limited (at best), development continues to move forward and that means producers are busier than ever. In the entertainment industry, scripts continue to be optioned, projects continue to get developed, talent continues to find representation, and production is slowly starting to resume in LA and more so all over the world. So what does producing look like in this "new normal"? It’s definitely time for a check-in. So let's delve into the state of the industry today with Oscar-nominated producer Chris Moore and our fearless leader, and fellow producer, Richard "RB" Botto.  Chris Moore has done and seen it all. During a career spanning over 30 years, Chris has produced films that have had multiple Oscar nominations and wins such as Good Will Hunting and Manchester by the Sea, to studio blockbusters like American Pie andThe Adjustment Bureau, to independent darlings such as Waiting, to creating and starring in the critically acclaimed industry television shows Project Greenlight alongside Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and The Chair. One of the secrets of Chris' longevity in the business is a full understanding of the business. He's as plugged in as they come and he knows how to adjust quickly, swiftly, and successfully as the landscape changes - which seems to happen on a daily basis these days. Most importantly, Chris is known in the industry as a take-no-prisoners, no bullshit guy. He tells it like it is and pulls no punches, which, in this business, is welcome and refreshing.  Richard “RB” Botto is a producer whose films have played at dozens of festivals including the Sundance award-winning feature, Another Happy Day, starring Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore and Kate Bosworth, written & directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, What Lies Ahead, starring Rumer Willis & Emma Dumont, the documentary Crutch and the upcoming Rain-Beau’s End starring Ed Asner and Sean Young. He is the Executive Producer on Vagic with Amy Baer at Gidden Media and My Clone’s an A-Hole with National Lampoon. He is also in active production on 3 more projects in various mediums. RB is also the Founder and CEO of Stage 32 (stage32.com). Stage 32 is the world’s largest online platform connecting and educating film, TV & digital creatives and executives worldwide. Through Stage 32 he has helped incubate Chick Fight, starring Malin Akerman and Alec Baldwin, produced by Yale Productions and Ramo Law, and 10-31, produced by Eli Roth and Orion Pictures. Additionally, RB’s book Crowdsourcing For Filmmakers: Indie Film and the Power of the Crowd, was published by Focal Press/Routledge under the American Film Market Presents banner and quickly became one of their best-selling titles. The paperback, kindle edition and audiobook have all hit #1 in 6 different film and business related categories on Amazon and Audible and the title has received over 100 5-star reviews across all platforms. In another FREE Stage 32 COVID-19 webinar, Chris and RB team up for an exclusive Q&A session where they’ll answer questions from the Stage 32 community about the state of the industry today and where they believe things are headed. Bring your questions about the craft and business. If you know anything about Chris and RB, you know you're in for a candid, no bullshit, straight through the heart conversation!  

Create a Screenplay Outline and Nail Your Structure Like a Pro

Writing a great screenplay is a gargantuan effort, and putting together something like this doesn’t just happen willy nilly. No matter how good of an idea you have, how fantastic your characters are, or how mind boggling your plot twist is at the end, none of it matters without a solid structure and clear plan. Structure is often the hardest aspect of writing for screenwriters of all levels and requires a large amount of discipline and trial and error to get right. This is why, whether you’re a brand new writer or someone with tens of screenplays already under your belt, outlining is an essential tool. Mastering this skill can elevate your next project to new heights and convince more people to take notice in your story. Yet it’s not enough just to outline; you have to outline well. At its best, an outline can show you how your story should be shaped—what to cut, what to keep, where to place your beats, and how to take your audience to the perfect ending. Yet an outline can also do the opposite if you’re not careful. It can mire down your story in unnecessary scenes or can help you justify keeping aspects that really should be cut. To have a successful plan and structure for your screenplay, it’s crucial to know not only how to outline, but to read what that outline is telling you about your story. Let’s take a closer look. Sophie Azran is a producer and Creative Executive at ImageMovers, Robert Zemeckis’ production company, where she has developed projects including THE WITCHES for HBO Max., BIOS with Tom Hanks, PINOCCHIO, ARES, MANIFEST and PROJECT BLUE BOOK for History Channel, and many others. Previously, Sophie worked at Warner Bros., Tom Hanks' company Playtone and Trudy Styler's company, Maven Pictures. As an independent producer and through her role at ImageMovers, Sophie works with countless writers in developing and improving their scripts and will share exclusively with the Stage 32 community the structural and organizational practices she works on for her own projects. Sophie will walk you through how to successfully create an outline for your own feature project. She’ll begin by discussing the items you’ll need in addition with your outline, including the logline, comparisons, and character descriptions. Next she will discuss how an outline should work and at what point you should start outlining. She’ll lay out tips on how to actually get an outline started, including how it could be formatted. Sophie will then do a deep dive on structure and how each step should be incorporated into your outline. She will show an example of what an effective outline looks like and will talk through common pitfalls to avoid when outlining. She will also discuss what a completed outline can teach you about your own story and how to move forward once you have a finished outline, including transitioning to index carding and how to use your outline to start writing pages. Outlining and structuring your story is never easy, but Sophie will give you a rundown and a series of strategies to make it much more possible.   Prep work isn’t just for novices—all the great professionals do it. That’s why I’m so excited to talk about outlines, which are the foundation of all screenwriting; helping you iron out structure, character, tone and more. -Sophie Azran

register for stage 32 Register / Log In