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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Looking to develop your first pitch? Want to improve the pitch you already have? Join Stage 32's Nick & Allen and learn what turns a pitch into a request or meeting! We see over 200 projects pitched on Stage 32 each week and review the feedback execs give on all of them. We see the good, the bad, and everything in between. We see what gets read and what gets the dreaded pass. What lands on the top of the pile and what gets buried under everything else. And we see the questions about pitching that get asked week in and week out. So we at Stage 32 have decided to put our experience together in a FREE Webinar on Pitching through Stage 32! On Monday, March 12th at 1PM Pacific, Stage 32 Writing Service's Allen James Roughton and Nick Assunto will take a deep dive into sharing what they’ve learned over hundreds of pitch sessions and thousands of pitches. Have a question about pitching you've always wanted to ask us? Join us live and participate in the Q&A!
In an industry built on storytelling there’s nothing more valuable than ideas. A good idea or good story can take you far in Hollywood, but it also makes you vulnerable. From Avatar to Empire, hundreds of films and television shows have been faced with infringement and idea theft lawsuits over the years. While the film and television industry can be an exciting and supportive place, this is not always the case and it’s more common than it should be for writers’ ideas or stories to be stolen. Without the proper protection and forethought, this can leave creatives at risk. As the saying goes, it’s a jungle out there, and the risk of having your ideas stolen is unfortunately always a possibility, as is the possibility of being accused of doing this yourself. It’s important to always be vigilant and aware of these dangers. Yet this does not mean it’s open season on creators. Whether you’re concerned about having your idea stolen or facing lawsuits of your own, there are important steps you must take to ensure you and your intellectual property remain protected. There will always be a risk of being taken advantage of, but better understanding the dangers as well as how to protect and copyright your work will put you in a much safer and more secure position. Jaia Thomas is an entertainment attorney with over ten years of legal experience who has brokered deals with companies like ABC, NBC, HBO, and Bravo and has been quoted as a legal expert in such publications as The New York Times, USA Today and ESPN. Jaia regularly assists clients with transactional and intellectual property matters and counsels filmmakers and producers on all aspects of film financing, production and distribution. She also regularly assists content creators with federal copyright registration and licensing and has had several works published in the American Bar Association, National Bar Association and multiple law journals. Through her many years specializing in federal copyright registration and licensing, Jaia has become an expert on how creators can keep their projects safe, and is ready to share what she knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community. Drawing from her many years of legal experience successfully assisting filmmakers with transactional and intellectual property matters Jaia will provide you with all the legal tools necessary to protect any and every type of script and screenplay. She will begin by discussing copyright registration. She’ll explain how to register a script with the US copyright office and explain the legal advantages of doing this. She’ll also debunk common misconceptions such as the “Poor Man’s Copyright”. Next she will explain what goes into Writers Guild registration. She’ll outline how to register a script, idea or outline with the Guild and explain the legal advantages and disadvantages of doing so. She’ll also delve into the key distinctions between registering with the US Copyright Office and Writers Guild. Jaia will then go over idea protection and theft. She’ll teach you how to protect a television show or reality show in its idea form and will outline the legal requirements for filing an idea theft claim in New York and California. She’ll even go through a case study of the seminal idea theft court case Desny V. Wilder from 1956. Finally Jaia will provide you with additional precautionary measures you can take in protecting yourself, including mobile apps, digital watermarks, confidentiality agreements and non-disclosure agreements. Expect to leave knowing exactly how to protect your current and future ideas, scripts and projects. Praise for Jaia's Stage 32 Webinar "Highly informative. Thank you Jaia Thomas!" -Patrick D. "Great webinar with invaluable tips and advice. Great presentation and presenter. Very pleased and satisfied." -Robert F
It’s hard to fully appreciate just how much work goes into getting a film or TV production going. The volume of moving parts and number of i’s to dot and t’s to cross can feel staggering. It takes someone with wicked organizational skills, resourcefulness and the ability to work long hours and handle a multitude of tasks simultaneously under high-pressure situations. Whether you are a director, producer, production assistant or production coordinator, knowing how to discover your crew members’ skill sets, delegate effectively and execute tasks with extreme precision is a must for cultivating a successful career. While organizational skills and drive are certainly important in coordinating a production, it takes more than this to be a successful production coordinator or producer; it also takes a good amount of knowledge and wherewithal that doesn’t simply come naturally. Navigating union rules, building time sheets, filling out permits, working with stunt performers, building your electrical and grip departments, the list goes on. These aspects are all crucial, but if you’ve never carried out these tasks before, you’ll need guidance and education to make sure you’re doing it right and not missing any important steps. Well we have you covered! Carol Kravetz is a veteran and highly sought-after production coordinator who has worked on projects for over 30 years and set up productions for notable series like BREAKING BAD and IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, as well as various features for MGM, Warner Brothers, HBO and USA Network. Very few people know more about production coordination that Carol, and she has built a passion of giving back by teaching others her trade and giving students, career-transitioning adults and veterans of the Armed Forces a good sense of the business end of making movies. In this 4-part previously recorded class, Carol provides a fully comprehensive guide on how to be prepared to prepare, prepared to shoot and prepared to wrap. You will learn Carol’s personal list of Production Coordinator best practices, from the various tasks you will be expected to perform and how to execute them with precision, to how to recognize each document you will need in a mound of paperwork, to how to transition the office from pre-production to shoot to wrap. You’ll learn how everything is paid for, how to facilitate rentals and purchases for on-set departments, and the common pitfalls and traps that happen during production so you can avoid them. Carol then teaches you her networking, resume and follow up tips to help you find work and keep working past the wrap party. With interactive lectures and homework assignments directly geared toward making you a stronger and more competent Production Coordinator, you will leave this class with a comprehensive understanding of how to be an effective Production Coordinator and be a valuable asset to any set you work on! Purchasing gives you access to the previously-recorded live class. Although Carol is no longer reviewing the assignments, we still encourage all listeners to participate. Praise for Carol’s Stage 32 Class "Taking Carol's Production Coordinator Class was full of detailed information to get someone up and running in the position of Production Coordinator. Carol also has some great tales from the entertainment industry to make it entertaining along the way. If you want to know the ins and outs of the production office and how it relates to the production overall, this is a great class to take." - Laura D. "Carol is a wonderful source of information. Perhaps best at her department. I'd like to thank Carol for her fantastic contribution to my professional career and private learning. You have been unique and very resourceful!" - Willem V.
If you’re a horror writer, you may have tons of great set pieces you can’t wait to terrify audiences with, but unless those pages are compelling and maintain the readers interest, your script will remain just a collection of words. The first priority of ANY writer, horror or otherwise, is storytelling. Before you make a classic horror film, you’ll need an effective and readable screenplay. Horror movies are no exception to the importance of structure. It’s not just about terrifying the audience; it’s most importantly about telling a story. The story is what makes us care about the characters and the hell they are about to go through. You could have the most original scares imaginable, but if we don’t care about the story then we won’t care about the characters who have to endure those horror set pieces. Most importantly, without elements of structure, a producer may stop reading your screenplay. If that happens, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be interested in making your film. So how do successful horror screenplays nail story structure? What are the major pitfalls most horror writers fall into and what can you do to make your script stand out from the rest? David Ian McKendry is a professional screenwriter, script consultant, and script doctor who has worked for Universal, Blumhouse, Lifetime Networks, and The Hallmark Channel as well as numerous independent production companies. He began working in the entertainment industry as a video producer and writer for Fangoria Entertainment before later putting together his own horror films, including the recent ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, starring Constance Wu (CRAZY RICH ASIANS). Through his own experiences writing and producing horror films as well as fixing other writers’ scripts and teaching screenwriting and production to countless students and aspiring filmmakers, David has a keen sense of what makes a script successful in the horror genre and will be sharing what he knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community. David will dive deep into how to write and structure an effective horror screenplay. He will begin by first teaching you what the horror industry looks like today, how to find work within it and what sort of horror trends are important to note right now. He’ll then break down effective structure in horror, including dissecting the cold open, Act One, Act Two and Act Three. David will conclude by providing tips on what to do with your script after you’ve written and re-written it to get it out into the world and find the attention it needs. David will be using the screenplays for 1980’s FRIDAY THE 13TH and 2017’s HAPPY DEATH DAY as case studies as he continues to break down horror film structure. Everyone who signs up for this webinar will receive these screenplays to download for free.
Stage 32 is proud to continue our partnership with Raindance Film Festival for the 5th year in a row, and while we may not be able to all come together in London to celebrate so many amazing and talented filmmakers, we're thrilled to partner with Raindance to highlight global talent virtually and from the comfort and safety of our own homes. Even in its virtual format, Raindance continues to showcase and champion the best new films from all over the world, and included in this year's incredible program is a collection of remarkable short films. Stage 32 is bringing together some of the world's top up and coming short filmmakers whose most recent films are playing Raindance. Included in this conversation will be Arjan Brentjes, whose animated short film SAD BEAUTY is playing at Raindance, along with almost 30 other film festivals this year alone. Also featured will be London-based director and cinematographer Molly Manning Walker whose debut short film GOOD THANKS, YOU? will be playing this year's Raindance in addition BFI London, Bilbao, and Palm Springs Film Festivals. Rounding out the panel, is Will Niava, an Ivorian-Ghanaian film director based in Montréal, Canada, whose film ZOO won Stage 32's 5th Annual Short Film Contest and is currently selected at over 40 international film festivals. In this FREE Stage 32 webinar, Arjan, Molly, and Will will take part in an exclusive Q&A moderated by our very own Stage 32 Managing Director Amanda Toney to discuss the state of short filmmaking today and how they put together their most recent projects.
What is it about the most successful TV comedies that have allowed them to stand the test of time? Whether it’s ALL IN THE FAMILY, SEINFELD, PARKS AND RECREATION, or FLEABAG, it’s not the jokes that have made these shows so successful—as funny as they might be—it’s the characters. Distinct, hilarious, memorable and, above all, authentic characters are always the ingredient that will make a good TV comedy great. Whether you are working on your own comedy project or are hoping to write on an existing show, it’s crucial to have an understanding of what makes TV comedy characters great and how you can create your own Archie Bunkers and Leslie Knopes. Crafting great comedic characters is not only important in creating a successful show; it’s also how you can get noticed. After all, with so many different types of comedies in the marketplace, it is becoming the toughest genre to break into. Writing great characters can separate your work from the rest and give you the kind of attention that solid jokes and a good sense of humor simply can’t muster on their own. This means it’s vital not only to have great characters, but to know how to make them shine on the page. The good news is there are strategies and actionable lessons you can use to elevate the characters in your own television comedy. Vijal Patel is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning writer and executive producer who has written for many award-winning comedy series including ABC’s BLACK-ISH and THE MIDDLE. Vijal currently serves as writer and co-executive producer of the ABC comedy series SCHOOLED, starring Tim Meadows and AJ Michalka. He also writes and develops feature film projects for the powerhouse studio DreamWorks. Vijal has built his career on writing comedy and using it to explore race, family, religion, politics, and class struggle. In this exclusive Stage 32 webinar Vijal will teach you how to make your characters funny. He’ll go through the 2 most basic comedy archetypes and explain the difference between jokes and attitude humor. He’ll teach you how to differentiate your characters and ensure they’re unique and will guide you through both the “One Word” exercise and “Situation” exercise to help improve your characters, using examples from THE SIMPSONS, FLEABAG, BLACK-ISH, SEINFELD, and others. Vijal will then delve into how to make your characters feel authentic and how to write impactful character descriptions to ensure they pop on the page. Finally he will dive deep into how to write funny dialogue for your characters, including how to use humor, how to end the joke, metaphors, similes, and reactions. Vijal will leave you with a series of strategies and clear examples that you can bring back to your own project to make your characters, funnier, more memorable, and more authentic. Praise for Vijal's Stage 32 Webinar " LOVED IT!!!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! Vijal was very engaging, intelligent and helpful. He gave so much insight to the nuts and bolts of creating comedic characters that are authentic." -Debbie C. "Exactly what I needed to know" -Shashank M. "Great info, every moment jam packing with knowledge. Great perspective from a working writer." -Ashton S.