James Crawford is an ink-to-screen producer and development executive working in southern California, with expertise working with international creative professionals. He is currently the Head of Development for Fireside Pictures, a full-service production company with offices in Ottawa, Canada and Los Angeles. Prior to joining Fireside Pictures, James was the Executive Director of Development at Engage Entertainment, where he developed, sold, and produced seven movies to Hallmark Channel over the three years, including The Rooftop Christmas Tree (UPTV), Sleigh Bells Ring and A December Bride (Hallmark). In addition to his feature production experience, James developed several 1-hour television series at Engage, pitching to EPiX, WGN America, Cinemax, and Universal Cable Productions. James worked as the Creative Executive at Cartel Entertainment, a television and film literary management and production company, and was responsible for identifying, developing, and pitching content for its first-look deal with Entertainment One, including the Stephen King novel The Regulators. At Cartel Entertainment, James developed pitches to Amazon, FX, Hulu, Netflix, Cinemax, UCP, and other major networks. James produced the animated short series A Brief History of Dick Moves, which won Best Web Series at the 2018 Glendale International Film Festival, and has worked as a producer on the independent documentaries Code Blue: Resuscitating Rural Surgery (2019) and You See Me (2015). In the fall of 2018, James was an adjunct faculty member at Loyola Marymount University, where he taught the undergraduate film history course 1960s and 1970s American Cinema. He has been a panelist at several pitch fests, including USC’s First Pitch and The Great American Pitchfest. For the past two years, James has taught screenwriting and project pitching at the Rocaberti Writers’ Retreat at Chateau Marouatte near Angoulême, France. James is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America and the Television Academy. Full Bio »
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with mistletoe, tinsel, sleigh rides, and, of course, a boatload of new Christmas movies. Indeed, for millions of families across America and the world, appetite is high for new Christmas-themed content. Hallmark alone is premiering 40 (!!) new Christmas movies this holiday season. That’s on top of the 40 they produced in 2019. And Hallmark isn’t the only player in the Christmas movie game. Many other networks and streamers have entered this space like Netflix, Hulu, Lifetime, Freeform, Ion, OWN, and BET, to name a few. With so many networks and streaming platforms hungry for Christmas content, there has never been a better time for writers and producers to bring their own Christmas story to the screen.
If you want to write or produce your own Christmas film, there are a lot of opportunities available to you, but you first need to understand what this space is currently looking like and how you can best fit in. Who’s buying and selling? What makes a Christmas themed script successful and how can you best produce and assemble your film to make it marketable, unique, and exciting? Better understanding the context and current landscape can give your own Yule tide project the success you’re looking for.
James Crawford is a producer and development executive currently at Fireside Pictures with several holiday titles—and several dozen other pitched projects—under his belt. While at Engage Entertainment, James developed, sold, and produced seven movies to Hallmark Channel over three years, including THE ROOFTOP CHRISTMAS TREE, SLEIGH BELLS RING and A DECEMBER BRIDE. In addition to his feature production experience, James has developed several one-hour television series, pitching to EPiX, WGN America, Cinemax, and Universal Cable Productions, among others. James worked as Creative Executive at Cartel Entertainment, a television and film literary management and production company, and was responsible for identifying, developing, and pitching content for its first-look deal with Entertainment One, including the Stephen King novel The Regulators. At Cartel Entertainment, James developed pitches for Amazon, FX, Hulu, Netflix, Cinemax, UCP, and other major networks. James has a storied background as a producer and executive and is intimately familiar with what it takes to turn a script into a produced holiday film.
James will teach you how to write and produce a successful Christmas movie in today’s industry. He’ll begin by going over the market and explaining who is buying and selling. He’ll also outline what stories are popular right now. He’ll then delve into tips for writing an effective Christmas movie, both TV movies and films. He’ll discuss aspects like screenplay format, plotting and structure, themes to lean into and avoid, diversity, characters, and what the holiday film essentials are. Next James will go over how to produce a Christmas movie. He’ll talk about what a successful budget range should be and when to start pitching. He’ll explain how to cast your movie for success and where to spend your money in production. Finally he will go over distribution options for your holiday film and whether it can sell outside of the US. If you’ve always wanted to make your own Christmas movie or have a story that you think could work within the holiday market, let James give you the lowdown you need to take the next steps toward holly jolly success.
Praise for James's Past Stage 32 Webinar
James was awesome. Clear, concise, and knowledgeable.
“James Crawford was very informative, and the way he brought the webinar across was entertaining and kept you engaged. I loved every bit of it! I hope he comes back for a round 2”
Super helpful and very clear. Right to the point. Not full of anecdotes but actual teaching.
“It was very informative in a practical way. James was great!”
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!
Like it or not, the film and television industry is and will always be a business. It may produce stunning works of art and lead to social and cultural impacts, but it still comes down to the bottom line. That means that as a writer, unless your name is Christopher Nolan, you’re going to have to deal with more constraints that just the words on a page in order to make your vision a reality. You’ll need to convince a producer that the script can be made and can be made with the money available. And, if you’re a filmmaker or producer, you’ll need to understand how much of the budget is going to each page in order to make your film profitable. In order to do this, it’s important to understand how to read scripts from a cost perspective and what stands out to them as red flags or unnecessary challenges. Considering this throughout the writing and development process rather than being caught off guard after a script is fully written can be invaluable. It can be frustrating to have limitations get in the way of your creative expression, to be told that the world and story in your head can’t be made because of financial constraints. It can feel like selling out to alter your script in order to fit a financier’s budget. This doesn’t have to be the case, though—you don’t have to sacrifice your narrative in service of the bottom line. Instead, there are ways to meld your creativity with some financial savvy and learn to think about how story, character, and structure translate into dollars on the page. So before you write that ambitious live action space opera, the one on the rain planet with children and exotic animals, join producer James Crawford and learn how a producer thinks and breaks down pages.This will give you a leg up on the competition when trying to get your script made. James Crawford is the Head of Development for Fireside Pictures. Prior to joining Fireside Pictures, James was the Executive Director of Development at Engage Entertainment, where he developed, sold, and produced seven movies to Hallmark Channel over three years, including THE ROOFTOP CHRISTMAS TREE, SLEIGH BELLS RING and A DECEMBER BRIDE. In addition to his feature production experience, James has developed several one-hour television series at Engage, pitching to EPiX, WGN America, Cinemax, and Universal Cable Productions, among others. James worked as Creative Executive at Cartel Entertainment, a television and film literary management and production company, and was responsible for identifying, developing, and pitching content for its first-look deal with Entertainment One, including the Stephen King novel The Regulators. At Cartel Entertainment,James developed pitches for Amazon, FX, Hulu, Netflix, Cinemax, UCP, and other major networks. James has a storied background as a producer and executive and is intimately familiar with what it takes to turn a script into a produced film or series. James will provide you with an understanding of the unforeseen costs that go into producing a script. He’ll begin by going over what it generally means to think like a producer in the first place. He’ll then delve into the specific financial challenges that come with genre and ‘genre-ish’ projects and how you can prepare yourself for these issues. James will break down the seven main types of producers on a project and what each one does. James will focus on the relationship between the producer and the line producer, a critical partnership for finding the resources to keeping your vision. James will then give you a full breakdown of what costs could go into every single page of your script, from above-the-line and below-the-line talent to locations, production design, and small things you might not have ever considered before that can seriously add up. To illustrate this, James will provide you with a case study of a real scene of a real shooting script, illustrating line-by-line where the costs lie in the script. Finally, James will teach you 10 strategies you can use if you’re starting to go over-budget. You will leave with a firmer understanding of how your script will translate to costs, and clear strategies to keep your vision while going easier on the budget. Praise for James’s Webinar: James was awesome. Clear, concise, and knowledgeable. -Stephen B. “James Crawford was very informative, and the way he brought the webinar across was entertaining and kept you engaged. I loved every bit of it! I hope he comes back for a round 2” -Imo C. Super helpful and very clear. Right to the point. Not full of anecdotes but actual teaching. -Helena W. “It was very informative in a practical way. James was great!” -Dave M.
This week the Writers' Room welcomes in Development Executive Anna Henry into the Pitch Tank! Anna began her 20-year career as a development executive at Nickelodeon, working on the development and production of animated television series, pilots and features. Anna has been a script consultant and screenwriting instructor, as well as building her own slate as an independent producer. Her clients have worked on hit television series on all major networks, such as "THE DEUCE", "POWER", "IN CONTEMPT", "TOMMY", "HUNG", "CHICAGO FIRE", "FEAR THE WALKING DEAD", "THIS IS US", and "THE FLASH". Her clients have worked on shows at virtually every broadcast, cable and streaming television network, and have set up projects at Amazon, Starz, HBO, Sony, Fox, EOne, ITV America, OddLot Entertainment, Corus, and others. Anna enjoys having a close collaboration with writers in refining scripts, expanding their range of material, and finding the best home for each project, which is why she was an incredible guest!
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 Praise for Sarah's Stage 32 Webinar "Sarah was incredible! Loved her teaching style and insight. Great webinar!" -David P. "Very informative, well worth it!" -Caroline B. "Great webinar - loved the use of scripts and clips. Wonderful speaker!" -Ron H. "Sarah Cornelius was wonderful. Time well spent today." -Brian B. Like what you heard from Sarah during this webcast? Send your script to Sarah and speak with her for a full hour by clicking here.
Learn directly from Simon Graham-Clare (Producer) and Ricky Margolis (VP) at Future Films USA (Over 200 films & TV shows financed and produced)! In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, Simon Graham-Clare and Ricky Margolis will demystify global tax incentives and highlight some of the many other factors to take into consideration when looking at different locations. They will look at current example incentives from around the world and also enlighten you on ways these incentives can trigger additional investment into your project. Filmmakers will learn more about international independent film financing and how tax incentives are a key element to the business plan and can open doors to a slew of potential partners, helping to plot a ‘road map’ to production. Writers will learn why they need to be thinking about the locations in which they set their stories, and how it affects the attractiveness of their scripts to producers and financiers. Having a clear understanding of today’s global tax incentives will leave your project looking more professional and further advanced, hopefully increasing your chances to move the project into production. Your hosts Simon Graham-Clare and Ricky Margolis are Producers at Future Films USA, having financed and produced over 200 films and TV shows! The Future Film Group was established in London in 2000 as a film financier, utilizing the expertise of its principals in both the entertainment and business worlds. They quickly established themselves on the UK scene through their involvement in films such as Bend it like Beckham (starring Keira Knightley), The Queen (starring Dame Helen Mirren) and Mrs. Henderson Presents (starring Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins). At Future Films USA, Simon works as a producer, assessing film and television projects that Future Films might board to finance or produce. Ricky works in the role of Development Executive, continuing his work on the financing side whilst also becoming a more integrated part of the Future Film Group’s production activities.
PRE-CLASS PREP - Read your syllabus and plan out your writing ideas. Begin to think about 1-2 ideas that might be a good idea for your drama pilot. Start to prepare for your pilot pitch. WEEK #1 – Introduction, Pitch Docs, Character This week we will cover the syllabus, your instructor's background and experience, your goals for this eight-week lab and launch into a discussion on creating strong characters for your pilot. We will discuss the types of drama pilots and how they differ from network to network. We will go over how to create effective loglines and pitch documents. Then we will delve into character – what makes for strong characters and weak ones. The assignment for this week will be to create a pitch document and write a detailed description (around half a page) on each of your series regular characters. WEEK #2 – Pilot Outline and Series Bible This week we will break down pilot structure, plot and subplots. Pilot structure varies depending on the type of drama pilot (procedural or serial) and the network (broadcast, cable, streaming, digital, etc.) We will identify what kind of network to target for your story idea and structure the pilot accordingly. We will also discuss the function of your series bible and what it needs to include to support your pilot. The assignment for the week is to complete a pilot outline and start work on your bible. WEEK #3 – Pilot Outline (One on One Consultations – No Online Class) This week will consist of one-on-one consultations regarding pilot structure. Each writer will send in their pilot outline in advance and will have a 10-minute call to discuss what works and what doesn’t. The assignment for the week is to address any notes given on the outline before proceeding with next week’s class and to continue working on your series bible. WEEK #4– Scenes, Beats, Dialogue, This week we will address the qualities of effective (and ineffective) scenes, story beats, and dialogue. The assignment for the week will be to write three complete scenes from your outline: the teaser/opening scene, a scene with heavy dialogue, and a strong character scene. WEEK #5– Acts 1 and 2 We will discuss both the four-act and five-act structure. You will decide which works best for the pilot that you are developing. This week we will go over all the necessary story beats that exist in acts 1 and 2 of a drama pilot, including exposition, number of scenes per act, traditional page count, inciting incidents, acts 1 and 2 breaks, etc. The assignment this week will be to complete Acts 1 and 2 of your pilot. WEEK #6– Acts 3, 4 and 5 Similarly to last week, we will cover the necessary story beats that traditionally exist in acts 3 and 4 of a drama pilot. If your pilot structure has five or more, as some broadcast network shows do, there will be time allotted for further instruction on how to proceed. The assignment this week is to complete the first draft of the entire pilot and to turn in your series bible. WEEK #7–Consultation for Revision (No Online Class) This week will consist of one-on-one consultations. Please turn in your pilot at least 24 hours before your scheduled call, and each writer will have a 10-minute call to go over notes. Your assignment this week is to address any notes. WEEK #8– One-on-one Feedback and Polish (No Online Class) This week will consist of 10-minute one-on-one phone calls as well. Please submit your revised pilot at least 24 hours before your scheduled call. Final notes and next steps for your pilot will be given. Payment plans are available - please contact email@example.com for more information.
In this Break Down we are seeing what it takes to build a world during the Breakdown Webcast: World Building! This comes as a request from several of our members who want to discuss how to build worlds in your writing...and pre-writing. World Building is one of most important tasks in writing - it lays the foundation for everything that occurs in your story. So how can you do it within your screenplay without feeling expository or over the top? We're going to talk about how to avoid common mistakes in World Building, key ways to get better at World Building, and even look at some examples of World Building from both script and screen to see how your favorite screenwriters and filmmakers tackled this difficult task. During this webcast, we watch clips and analyze the scripts for features including TITANIC, BLADE RUNNER, JOKER and more!