Michael Sonnenschein is a long-time and practiced TV writer who has been staffed on shows like The CW’s 90210, NBC’s political conspiracy thriller CRISIS the original, groundbreaking syndicated comedy reality series BLIND DATE. Michael began his career as part of the Disney/ABC Television Fellowship after working as a freelance journalist and reporter for publications like the Village Voice, GQ, LA Weekly and elsewhere. He has also developed and sold several series and pilot pitches; current projects include an unannounced series at a streaming service adapting a novel set in the little-known violent aftermath of the American Revolution, a revisionist history of the Roman Empire, and a legal thriller set in Washington, DC. Michael has been able to sell his projects through his careful use of research and knows the steps to take to get research on your side. Full Bio »
Research is a component of almost any writing project-- often, a major component. It gives you the ability to write with authenticity, to better understand your characters, and to find story ideas you might not have otherwise considered. Yet research isn’t just useful for solo writers working on their feature or pilot. Research can make or break your pitch to an executive or allow you to stand out in a special way when trying to bring stakeholders on board. More so, research can help you stand out as a member of a TV writers’ room, building story arcs with your colleagues as part of a writing staff. In almost every situation, research can be a writer’s best friend, but only if you know what you’re doing when starting the research process.
Not all research is made equal, and some forms of research will serve writers better than others. The internet makes a practically infinite range of material available to television and feature writers, on almost any subject imaginable. 'Doing research online' in a general way isn't enough. Every writer you're competing with for an open assignment, a staff job, or a slot on a development slate is also 'doing research online.' You need to figure out the most effective way to wield what you learn, which varies from situation to situation and project to project. So what's the best way to approach researching your project? Perhaps even more importantly, what are the most effective strategies for deploying the tool of research to further your writing career?
Michael Sonnenschein is a long-time and practiced TV writer who has been staffed on shows like The CW’s 90210, NBC’s political conspiracy thriller CRISIS the original, and the groundbreaking syndicated comedy reality series BLIND DATE. Michael began his career as part of the Disney/ABC Television Fellowship after working as a freelance journalist and reporter for publications like the Village Voice, GQ, LA Weekly and elsewhere. He has also developed and sold several series and pilot pitches; current projects include an unannounced series at a streaming service adapting a novel set in the little-known violent aftermath of the American Revolution, a revisionist history of the Roman Empire, and a legal thriller set in Washington, DC. Michael has been able to sell his projects through his careful use of research and knows the steps to take to get research on your side.
Using real Hollywood examples and projects from his own past, Michael will teach you the most effective research strategies for any project you’re working on. He will focus on the specific research processes for writing your own project, pitching to studios and execs, and serving on a TV writers room staff. He’ll also discuss how to make sure your research doesn't backfire and weigh down your pitch, bog down your story, or annoy your showrunner-- all of which happen more often than people realize. He will reveal unusual and little-known research sources that will yield material Google won't show you. He’ll also dive into how to gain research from the real world-- unconventional ways to find out about things, researching through experience, and how to get interview subjects to open up and give you the real stuff you need to tell the story you want to tell.
"Every project I've sold, and every writing sample that's gotten me a job, has involved research, and I think that's the norm. But when writers treat research as a blunt instrument, it's often ineffective or even counter-productive. I'll share some specific tools and tactics I use in this underdiscussed part of being a working writer in Hollywood."
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Not only are more and more film festivals accepting short films, but festivals dedicated to nothing but short films have become more popular than ever. Additionally, more managers, agents, and producers are looking to short films to find untapped talent and new ideas. So many successful filmmakers today, from Christopher Nolan to Damien Chazelle, have used short films as a calling card to showcase their skills and show the world that they were ready for the big time. But shooting a quality short film means raising some financing. And for many, this can be challenging. One thing that many creatives avoid when putting together a short film is everything that goes into the business end. From determining and compiling a true and realistic budget, to being able to tell your creative and financial story within a pitch deck, to thinking about a distribution strategy and recoupment plan well before shooting, there is so much to think about toward getting investors in your corner beyond the creative. Allow us to help you by showing you everything you need to know so that you can attract investors looking to get behind you, your unique vision and your work. ABOUT YOUR STAGE 32 EDUCATOR JT Molner knows a thing or two about raising funds for shorts and feature films. Although JT is a writer and director, he's been deep in the trenches in raising funds for his projects leaving no stoned unturned and nothing to chance. After raising financing for many successful shorts which caught the eyes of producers and talent, JT rolled up his sleeves and helped his producers raise financing for his first feature film, Outlaws and Angels, which was originally shot as a short film as proof of concept. The feature became an Official Selection at Sundance and was sold to Orion Films. He will teach you everything he's learned from his decade of raising financing for his short films and other projects. And, as an added Bonus you'll receive a pitch deck from JT's film OUTLAWS AND ANGELS which started as a short film proof of concept, and went on to be made as a feature, being selected as an Official Selection at Sundance and selling to Orion films! PRAISE FOR JT'S TEACHINGS: Holy clarity! I've made so many mistakes along the way. Every short film has seemed like a struggle not worth reliving and now I understand why. These wounds were self inflicted. Thank you, JT, for not only (kindly) setting things straight, but for opening my eyes. I can't wait to get started on my next project. - Manford C.
This week we welcome playwright and TV writer who is the author of over forty plays! His television credits include Executive Story Editor on Season 2 of the Starz drama "MAGIC CITY", and serving as Executive Story Editor on two seasons of the HBO television show "HUNG". He wrote and directed the film EXILES IN New York, which played at the A.F.I Film Festival, South by South West, The Santa Barbara Film Festival and The Latin American International Film Festival in Havana, Cuba. He has also has sold his original television projects to Starz, Amazon and AMC, among others. During this incredible Executive Hour, Eduardo talks about working with Oscar-winner Al Pacino on the film SCARFACE in his early 20's, how to write compelling characters for stage and screen, what it is like being in a writers room for HBO, and offers a exercise in breaking character and story that brought one of our members to tears!
Learn directly from Alex Franklin, Veteran Studio Executive for New Line Cinema, Dimension Films, Lionsgate Films and Artisan Entertainment! In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, host Alex Franklin will discuss the globalization of Hollywood and what filmmakers need to know about important countries and markets around the world to stay ahead of the game. You will learn which markets are becoming the top foreign markets (including China, Russia, India, Brazil and more), important statistics and international comparisons, how foreign audiences, industries, and governments are changing the Hollywood system, and what all of this means for your career. You will learn how globalization is changing the distribution, marketing, production and development processes, and you will leave with a clear understanding of how industry-wide changes resulting from globalization are impacting the job market for writers, producers and directors in the U.S. The growth of international markets continues to impact studio filmmaking decisions, and foreign markets like China dominate the entertainment news. Therefore it is critical that the next generation of Hollywood producers and filmmakers understand the ways in which globalization is reshaping the industry. Your host Alex Franklin is a veteran of the Hollywood studio system, having worked in development and production at New Line Cinema, Dimension Films, Lionsgate Films and Artisan Entertainment. As a Studio Executive, he was involved in the development and production of films including Halloween (directed by Rob Zombie), Saw, Saw 2, The Punisher, 1408 and Youth in Revolt. After leaving the world of studio development, Franklin co-founded Pangea Pictures, a visual effects company which was involved in the postproduction of films including A Perfect Getaway, Brothers and The Warrior's Way. Currently, Franklin is head of film and television at Partos Company, where he specializes in working with A-List cinematographers, production designers and costume designers.
We kicking off a brand new month this week with the Breakdown Webcast: Writing Compelling Characters! In this webcast, we talk about how to create compelling characters, how to infuse those characters with a specific point of view and a sense of purpose, and how these traits then affect how the character speaks, acts, and even thinks.
An Information-Packed 4-part class with a Writer-Producer-Director With Hits On Lifetime, Apple TV, Amazon + handouts to help you with your projects! Made-For-TV Movies are feature films that are released on streamers and TV networks without a theatrical release. These films are incredibly hot content for both PayTV/Cable networks and streamers alike right now and a great way to build your writing and filmmaking career. Traditionally thought of as the romance, holiday, and thriller movies seen on networks like Lifetime and Hallmark, Made-For-TV Movies have seen a boom in viewership in recent years, which has resulted in the major streamers - Netflix, Amazon, Paramount+, Hulu, just to name a few - green-lighting numerous Made-For-TV Movies each year. The tried and true structure, tone, and pacing of Made-For-TV Movies are clearly striking a chord with audiences right now, as more and more people are tuning in for these types of movies. Everyone is getting into the Made-For-TV Movie business…and business is booming! In this 4-session on-demand Stage 32 class, you will learn the step-by-step process of developing, writing and producing your own high quality Made-For-TV Movie for a cable network or streamer. You will be taught by Made-For-TV Movie guru Michelle Mower, whose debut film THE PREACHER’S DAUGHTER, starring Andrea Bowen (“Desperate Housewives”), garnered the highest ratings for Lifetime in 2021. With Made-For-TV Movies featured on Amazon and Apple TV, Michelle is a true expert in all aspects of making a Made-For-TV Movie - from development through production and distribution. Michelle will equip you with the necessary tools to conceive, sell, and produce your own successful Made-For-TV Movies. While many writers, producers, and directors are clamoring to make Made-For-TV Movies with networks and streamers during this gold rush, many professionals aren’t well equipped to jump into the niche and deceivingly complex world of Made-For-TV Movies. For example, holiday films, thrillers and romance are some of the most in-demand genres for Made-For-TV Movies, but what types of stories/themes are programmers really wanting to buy? What type of cast do these movies feature? And how do you know if your idea will make a great Made-For-TV Movie? Many independent filmmakers approach the development of Made-For-TV Movies the same way they develop independent features, but there are distinct differences that must be considered if you want to make a successful Made-For-TV Movie. Plus! Michelle will provide you with exclusive handouts to help develop and execute your current and future MOW projects! Downloads include: Michelle's Screenplay for THE PREACHER"S SIN A Made For TV Movie Shooting Schedule A Made For TV Movie Copyright/Licensing Deliverables List Copies of Michelle's Industry Blog Post An Example One-Sheet From A Made For TV Movie You will walk away from this 4-part class with a comprehensive understanding of how you can successfully develop and sell your Made-For-TV Movie to a major network or streamer and how you can effectively produce the film to ensure it is a financial success and a hit with audiences. Testimonials on Michelle's Work and Teaching: "Michelle was incredibly helpful in getting my film in good shape to pitch to Netflix and Lifetime!" - Sammy C. "Michelle is a wealth of knowledge on everything from screenwriting to the business side of selling your project. I'm lucky to have had the chance to work with her before taking my project forward!" - Alison L. "I thoroughly enjoyed Michelle Mower's How to Develop, Sell & Produce Your Made-for-Television Movie. The creator of Lifetime's The Preacher movies gave us importantinsight and the essential tools needed to write compelling Made-for-TV movies viewers will watch over and over again. But, that's not all--she also opened up the world of developing and directing this jewel, covering every facet with tips to avoid production mishaps. It was an eye-opener. She's funny, down-to-earth and cares about paying-it-forward. You won't regret taking it." -Gayle R.
Great Characters should have Great Introductions. Join us as we breakdown how characters are introduced in features and TV scripts including Star Wars, Fargo, The Good Place, Mad Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Arrested Development.