How to Write and Format a Made for TV Screenplay

Hosted by Courtney Miller Jr.

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Courtney Miller Jr.

Webinar hosted by: Courtney Miller Jr.

Director, Producer, Writer (A Stone Cold Christmas, Saints & Sinners) at Relevant Pictures

Courtney is a 5-time award winning director who has worked with the biggest names in entertainment including Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Usher, and Britney Spears. He's a staff writer for the hit show "Saints & Sinners" on Bounce TV and recently completed his first feature film A Stone Cold Christmas for Bounce TV, where he served as the co-writer and director. Courtney has development deals with TBS, Lionsgate, MGM, Legendary, Weed Road, Viola Davis' company Juvee, Bounce TV, and Will Packer. His award winning short film REPAIRations! - The Musical, received the Director's Choice Diversity in Cannes Best Musical. He has directed commercials for Nike, Apple & Hewlett Packard. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Writing a film for television has a ‘unique set of skills’ which are different from writing a traditional screenplay. If you never learn how to write for the BOOM!, act break structure, number of locations, and characters, you’ll get stuck in re-writing hell or worse yet, never have your script read. Understanding script structure, outlining, and deliverables for television films prior to writing will give you a leg up on the competition. Additionally, each network has its own set of rules and you want to ask the right questions prior to typing ‘Fade In’.

With more television networks producing their own content and films, the need for content is higher than ever. However, TV films have their own structure and layout, especially when dealing with networks that have commercial breaks. Additionally, working with producers and executives is a different animal than working with producers and executives in the independent world.

Courtney Miller Jr. is a 5-time award winning director who has worked with the biggest names in entertainment including Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Usher, and Britney Spears. He's a staff writer for the hit show Saints & Sinners on Bounce TV and recently completed his first feature film A Stone Cold Christmas for Bounce TV, where he served as the co-writer and director. Courtney has development deals with TBS, Lionsgate, MGM, Legendary, Weed Road, Viola Davis' company Juvee, Bounce TV, and Will Packer. His award winning short film REPAIRations! - The Musical, received the Director's Choice Diversity in Cannes Best Musical. He has directed commercials for Nike, Apple & Hewlett Packard. He knows the television writing and directing landscape inside and out and he's ready to share his knowledge with you.

Courtney will dive in by explaining all the differences between writing a TV and a traditional film screenplay. He will discuss how to format acts, how to be sensitive to the shooting schedule, what you can expect regarding deadlines and delivery dates and how to navigate dealing with the network. From there, Courtney will take you to the greenlit phase where you'll need to know what deliverables you are responsible for, how much time you'll be given to deliver your rewrite, and how to handle network notes (there will be plenty). Courtney will then jump into the writing process including how to write for the BOOM!, how many acts you need to have in your script (and if that varies) and the importance of writing a compelling and attention grabbing Act 1. Going even deeper, Courtney will discuss beat sheets, how many beats you need to add, and what your overall beat sheet should look like. And finally, Courtney will explain how to write an outline that keeps the execs happy and off your back so you can go do what you do best...write!

 

"Another winner for Stage 32. I have many scripts I thought would be a better fit for television and now I know how to get it done!"

- Fiona C.

 

"I'm ready to write for the BOOM! Thanks, Courtney!"

- Miguel P.

 

"It's always been a dream of mine to have something on the Hallmark channel. Now I have the framework and I'm ready to start writing."

Melissa H.

 

"Couldn't have been any better. Great detail!"

- Ida W.

What You'll Learn

Differences Between a TV Film and a Traditional Film

  • Understanding the different acts
  • How involved is the television network
  • The shooting schedule
  • Delivery dates
  • Types of TV projects

What Happens After the Greenlight

  • What deliverables are you responsible for?
  • How much time do you have to write your script?
  • Those dreaded notes
  • The re-write process

TV Film Script Structure

  • Writing for the BOOM!
  • How many acts?
  • The importance of Act 1

Creating a Beat Sheet

  • What is a beat?
  • How many beats to add?
  • What does a beat sheet look like?

Creating the Outline

  • The difference between an outline and beat sheet
  • Example of an outline for made for television films

Q&A with Courtney

About Your Instructor

Courtney is a 5-time award winning director who has worked with the biggest names in entertainment including Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Usher, and Britney Spears. He's a staff writer for the hit show "Saints & Sinners" on Bounce TV and recently completed his first feature film A Stone Cold Christmas for Bounce TV, where he served as the co-writer and director. Courtney has development deals with TBS, Lionsgate, MGM, Legendary, Weed Road, Viola Davis' company Juvee, Bounce TV, and Will Packer. His award winning short film REPAIRations! - The Musical, received the Director's Choice Diversity in Cannes Best Musical. He has directed commercials for Nike, Apple & Hewlett Packard.

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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!

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We have found ourselves in an age of content overload. As audiences, everywhere we turn we are inundated with stories online, on screen, in podcasts and on the radio. And these are just the stories that make it to these platforms. Script readers and producers are going through much, much more, often reading hundreds of screenplays a month. And yet, with so much content out there, scripts still rise to the top. There is a reason why projects like FLEABAG, OZARK, PARASITE, and Jordan Peele's US cut through the noise, with or without big budgets or names. It’s not theme or content matter that achieves this; it’s authenticity. The industry is changing, but this simple truth never does. Executives, producers, studios, and audiences will always seek out authentic voices. The question, then, is what exactly is authenticity and how does it read on a page? Adding authenticity to your work is a lot harder than adding, say, character headings. It’s not a switch to turn on and it’s not something that can be easily engineered. Cultivating an authentic voice is a challenge every writer faces and takes years of honing your craft. However, there are things you can do right now to better zero in on your own voice and show it off to executives and other gatekeepers. Better understanding what authenticity looks like on a page, how executives identify it, and the steps writers with strong authentic voices take before approaching a script will give you the best possible chance of your project standing out, continuing into production and ultimately premiering to the masses. Sarah Cornelius serves as Creative and Production Executive at award-winning Whitewater Films, helmed by director-producer Rick Rosenthal (HALLOWEEN II, BAD BOYS, TRANSPARENT). This approach has resulted in Whitewater producing numerous notable films which have won Independent Spirit Awards, the Sundance Directing Award, a Primetime Emmy, as well as collecting nominations for an Oscar and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Whitewater has produced projects for Paramount Classics, Netflix, Showtime, IFC, Samual Goodwyn Films, The Orchard, CNN Films and more. Whitewater Films recently completed their feature STANDING UP, FALLING DOWN starring Billy Crystal & Ben Schwartz with first-time director Matt Ratner. Their film, THE LAST SHIFT premiered at Sundance 2020 with two time Oscar-nominee Richard Jenkins. In addition they produced FIRST GIRL I LOVED (Sundance winner), HALFWAY THERE (Sundance Episodic Showcase winner) and SMALL ENGINE REPAIR (SXSW premiere). Sarah has been involved with development on each of Whitewater's projects and has the ability to communicate conceptual notes in a direct and effective manner. Sarah will use her extensive experience evaluating scripts and discovering talent to delve into what goes into finding your authentic voice and how to bring it into your script. She’ll begin by discussing the main questions you should ask yourself before writing a script, including how to prevent writer’s block, how to anchor your concept, and the three ‘whys’ you must address before getting started. Sarah will then approach the concept of authenticity from the point of view of an executive, and what specific things they look at to identify a writer’s voice. She’ll speak to format and clarity, imagery and action, dialogue, point of view, and creativity and risk-taking. Sarah will even teach you how to retain your authenticity past the writing phase. She’ll discuss how to ask for and incorporate feedback while still holding on to your voice and how to pitch what you wrote with authentic confidence. Finding your own authentic voice is never easy, but Sarah will give you the tools you need to better understand how to bring your voice forward and hone in on it with more confidence. Plus, you will receive 10 downloads of notable screenplays that exhibit an authentic voice (and 2 downloads of scripts without an authentic voice) that Sarah will use to  demonstrate how authenticity reads on the page: Jordan Peele's US CAPTAIN FANTASTIC THE SHAPE OF WATER PARASITE AMERICAN BEAUTY RESERVOIR DOGS WHIPLASH HARRIET TRAINSPOTTING APOCALYPSE NOW SHOWGIRLS CATWOMAN   "I've worked with countless writers in this industry and know how hard it is to stand out. I also know how important a sense of authenticity can be for any script. I love helping writers find their own unique voice and know how to pull it out of them. I'm so excited to share what I know with the Stage 32 community." -Sarah Cornelius

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