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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The big streaming platforms (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV) are leading the charge in original programming. The number of new shows being produced has never been higher. However, these platforms have different needs, different expectations and different boundaries and mandates than those of traditional broadcast networks. So how does a creative navigate the big time streaming world? And how does a writer stand out to get staffed or sell a standout drama series? This webinar will explain in comprehensive detail how drama series are pitched, developed, and sold to streaming platforms and what you can do as a writer to position yourself to get noticed. With so many writers vying for an opportunity to sell or be staffed on a show, it’s incredibly important to understand the changing landscape and know the best ways to operate within it. Having a clear sense of how executives at streamers think and what they’re looking for will give you a distinct advantage in adjusting your script to pique their interest or in presenting yourself more effectively to sell your show or get staffed on one of their growing number of series. Spencer Robinson is a literary and talent manager at Art/Work Entertainment who's been in the industry for over twenty years. His clients have been in films with directors Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Clint Eastwood, Gore Verbinski and more. In the TV world, his clients have been regular cast members on shows for Netflix, The CW, Cinemax, CBS, NBC, FX, Starz, Nickelodeon, EPIX, and TBS, to name a few. His writing clients work in both features and television on broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms. He currently has a client writing on two Netflix series, and another client who just sold a show to Amazon. He also reps a writer who currently has a project at Aggregate Films, which has a deal at Netflix. Spencer will use his extensive experience working with writers and selling their shows to streamers to share some of the do’s and don’ts of writing a drama pilot for streaming television and outline how to tailor your script to make the best impression with the executives at these platforms. He will do this by first laying out how the streaming platforms differ from one another and what exactly they're looking for. Not all streaming platforms are created equal and it's imperative you know the difference. From there, Spencer will dive into script structure and formatting, specifically analyzing what you should be considering before you write your pilot. Next, he will tackle staffing and sales, so no matter what your goal whether to be in a writer's room or selling your pilot, you have all the information you need to position yourself correctly and with the best chance of success. Spencer will even get into the difference between streaming platforms and broadcast networks so you can determine where your material might be a best fit. Expect to leave this class with a comprehensive understanding of the shifting industry of streaming television and a toolkit to better excel within it. Like what you heard from Spencer during this webcast? Send your script to Spencer and speak with him for an hour by clicking here. Praise for Spencer's Stage 32 webinar: Spencer was awesome! Super informative and detail driven - providing great insights. Packed so much into a short amount of time which I'm super grateful for! -Eric C. Spencer Robinson has high energy and packs a ton of information in his lecture. Most importantly Spencer gives realistic advice while encouraging writers to move forward fully informed of the terrain. -Oweeda N. Spencer opened my eyes to how the TV world works with broadcast and streaming. What a great crash course! -Ricki L. "Very enlightening. Gave a realistic view of how difficult it is to get a pilot made but was just inspiring enough to give hope. :)" -Clive M.
Networking is the key to success in any industry, but in the entertainment business, it is a NECESSITY if you want to break in. And now in this increasingly online and virtual world, a large part of networking takes place in virtual settings, namely on apps and online platforms. This landscape is constantly changing, and while it can be hard to keep up with, it can also be incredibly lucrative. It is not uncommon now for writers to be discovered because of a viral post on Twitter, for friendships to be formed on Clubhouse, or for a script to be optioned right here on Stage 32. All of this just while sitting at home on your computer or phone. It’s clear that these tools are too powerful of a tool to ignore, but it’s important you know how to use these tools correctly. The world of virtual networking can seem overwhelming and foreign, especially when you’re more accustomed to traditional networking and in-person events. Yet success on these platforms is not just reserved for Gen-Z and “influencers”; creatives of all ages and background are finding success and getting discovered through these tools. Yet the key is knowing how to use these apps the right way. Just like for in-person events and old-school networking, you can use these opportunities to build your connections, or you can leave others with a bad impression. It often just comes down to understanding the rules and expectations on each platform, and understanding how to contribute and make yourself part of the community. So what are the apps where the real opportunities are forged? How can you stand out (in a good way)? With the right strategies and approach, you’ll be able to build your network and meet people who can be your cheerleaders along the way. Kristen Lucas and Tara Gore are powerhouse networkers in the entertainment industry. Kristen Lucas is a talent manager at Bohemia Group, specializing in actors and filmmakers in film and television. Her clients have appeared in films such as Netflix's I CARE A LOT and THE HONEST THIEF alongside Liam Neeson, and on television such as Netflix's THE GOOD COP and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, Hulu's CASTLE ROCK, AMC's BETTER CALL SAUL and many others. Tara Gore has produced over 300 live shows and original content for MLB including Avicii, Billy Joel, Demi Lovato, Zac Brown Band, One Republic, Elton John, John Legend, Jason Aldean, Ziggy Marley and many more. Kristen and Tara attribute their success to hustling to find opportunity where others find dead ends. Their long history of creative networking has built them a vast network of contacts across all areas of entertainment and business and allowed them to ensure the success of their clients and projects. Working together, Kristen and Tara will outline the six main apps and platforms they use to network and find connections and clients: Clubhouse, Instagram, Twitter, Stage 32, IMDB, and LinkedIn. For each they will lay out how the app works, how you can best operate within it, and the mistakes to avoid. Along the way they'll dive into success stories each platform has provided and why they worked, as well as horror stories and how you can avoid similar fates. Online networking doesn’t need to be scary and it's something you can master no matter what your background is. Expect to leave this with a bunch of ideas, real world examples, and inspiration to master these apps, continue meeting new people online, and finding your place in this industry.
Learn directly from an Oscar & BAFTA winner exclusively on Stage 32. Think VFX is only for films or digital projects with high budgets? Think again. In fact, understanding how VFX can be worked into your project can help you save costs before you ever step on set. Understanding (and removing your fear of) VFX ahead of time can actually help you trim some shooting days, save money and give you more opportunity to make your film shine and stand out from the crowd. Independent filmmaking and the creation of quality digital content calls for being creative with your budget. But for most producers and filmmakers, the idea of adding VFX to their projects seems like a budget breaker. The reality is quite the opposite. Not only can VFX be quite affordable, but also be a game changer for your project. Accounting for VFX in pre-production may also allow for less "fix it in post" issues which, in turn, will actually help you save money and stay on schedule! Christopher M. Anthony is an Oscar and BAFTA winner and the Senior Director of Kayfabe Films. He is also one of the most sought after VFX masters in the business. Just some of the films Christopher has worked on include Guardians of the Galaxy, the X-Men franchise, Harry Potter, and The Jungle Book. But don't let those big budget films fool you. Christopher cut his teeth on smaller independent shorts, features and digital projects. He gets hired because he knows how to save money and bring projects in under budget. And now, exclusively for Stage 32, Christopher is going to teach you all his tricks of the trade. Chris is going to lead you through the entire VFX process in an easy to understand format. Using 19 carefully chosen VFX clips and examples, Chris will distill VFX down to the nuts and bolts. You will easily see how VFX can work for you no matter what format or budget you're working with. "Chris is quite the gent and a caring one at that. You can see how much time and effort he put into this webinar. The examples were priceless and opened my mind to an entirely new world that, to be honest, I thought was unattainable for me as a filmmaker." - Antonio C.
Learn directly from Joe Russo, an Independent Producer who has worked on projects with FOX, SyFy, A/E, Lionsgate Films and Universal Studios! You’ve spent days, weeks, months, maybe even years, toiling away on your screenplay. You’ve read all the books. You’ve taken the seminars. You’ve work shopped your script to death. You’ve crafted a sharp pitch and logline for your script – and now someone in the industry wants to READ your work! You celebrate this long awaited victory, but what happens next? What if they don’t just like the script you’ve poured your heart and soul into, what if they WANT it. In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, Joe Russo will shine a light and give an executive’s opinion and advice on a Hollywood process you’ve all heard of, but probably don’t know nearly enough about – Development. Joe has been recognized for his “firm grasp of the craft, solid storytelling, and compelling characters”, as well as developing many acclaimed projects. The path to taking your written words and turning them into a major motion picture is a tricky, windy road. You all know the coined phrase “Development Hell”, and too many projects fall into this pit simply because the process isn’t clearly understood at the outset. So join Stage 32 as we explore the complicated and fascinating world of Development, and all of the small victories and bumps along the road that you can experience on your way to the green lighting of your screenplay into a movie.
Love is in the air in the Writers' Room! We are kicking off a brand new month this week with the Breakdown Webcast: Writing Romantic Comedies! Jason was speaking with a Senior Vice President of Development at an A-List production company who said, "Every studio executive is asking me for Rom Coms!" If you look at recent trends, it is clear they are on a come back. We will break down the beats of a Romantic Comedy so that you as a writer approach writing without falling into the trap of tired cliches. We will also explore how to take the storytelling conventions and turn them on their head. We will examine films and series including When Harry Met Sally, 500 Days of Summer, The Apartment, Knocked Up, What Women Want and more to find out what makes these projects work and how we can apply those same principles to our writing!
Robert McKee returns to Stage 32 with The Secret to Writing Compelling Characters - a rare online teaching appearance exclusive to Stage 32! Since 1984, more than 100,000 students have taken McKee’s courses in various cities around the world and now, exclusively for the 3rd time on Stage 32, Robert McKee is back and better than ever with a Masters of Craft webinar teaching you The Secret to Writing Compelling Characters. McKee’s former students include over 60 Academy Award Winners, 200 Emmy Award Winners, 1,000 Emmy Award Nominees, 100 WGA (Writers Guild of America) Award Winners, 250 WGA Award Nominees, 50 DGA (Directors Guild of America) Award Winners, and 100 DGA Award Nominees. In this exclusive Stage 32 Masters of Craft webinar, Robert McKee teaches the principles of character creation and dimension, characterization and the secret to writing complex protagonists, providing you the tools needed to construct compelling characters that will fascinate your audience. Robert McKee, a Fulbright Scholar and member of the Hollywood Hall of Fame, is the most sought after writing lecturer around the globe. He has dedicated the last 35 years to educating and mentoring screenwriters, novelists, playwrights, poets, documentary makers, producers, and directors internationally. Those who have learned from McKee have called him “the Aristotle of our time” (Quincy Jones, Ed Saxon, Steve Pressfield to name a few) because of his insight into the substance, structure, style, and principles of the grand art of story. Peter Jackson (writer/director THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD) lauds him as “The Guru of Gurus.” For the creatives at Pixar (TOY STORY, FINDING NEMO, UP, INSIDE OUT), McKee’s Story Seminar is a rite of passage.