Ashley Berns is a long-time literary manager who worked at respected management company Circle of Confusion for 15 years before opening his own company, Leigh Hill Management. Ashley also serves as executive producer for the Showtime comedy series WORK IN PROGRESS. Over his career, Ashley has worked with a slew of talented writer and helped them find success and build their creative career, and will share what he knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community. Full Bio »
It’s the dream of many to have a career as a writer for TV or film, to be able to make a living creating worlds and telling stories. However finding success as a writer is rarely easy, no matter how talented you are. Once you’re able to get your script into the hands of someone who can do something real with it, your script can speak for itself. But until then, you have to strive to get your work read and make sure it stands out from the others. This can be very tough. Without a professional, targeted approach, you could have the talent and the drive for a successful and sustained career as a writer but never get the opportunity.
Once you’ve worked on your craft and put the finishing touches on a script you’re proud of, it’s important to remember your job as a writer is not yet done. You still need to get your script into the right hands and make sure you stand out from the crowd. There’s no singular blueprint to get discovered and find success as a writer. Every writer’s story is different and often involves a bit of luck and happenstance. That said, there are many paths available that working writers can take advantage of. Making use of opportunities like notes services, coverage and scores, competitions, script hosting services, festivals, networking, queries, and more, can help get you on the right track as a writer and help attract the attention of busy managers, agents, and producers.
Ashley Berns is a long-time literary manager who worked at respected management company Circle of Confusion for 15 years before opening his own company, Leigh Hill Management. Ashley also serves as executive producer for the Showtime comedy series WORK IN PROGRESS. Over his career, Ashley has worked with a slew of talented writer and helped them find success and build their creative career, and will share what he knows exclusively with the Stage 32 community.
Ashley will go through the nuts and bolts and provide you with an introduction of how to build your own career in screenwriting. He will discuss what you should always have in your screenwriting “tool kit” including script formatting and other materials to have at your disposal. He’ll explain literary representation and the difference between a manager, an agent, and a lawyer and how they work together. He’ll also delve into whether you need representation in the first place. Next Ashley will talk about networking and how to come across professional when speaking with others. Finally Ashley will teach you how best to get noticed, including writing cold queries and using opportunities like festivals, competitions, script hosting, and script coverage to advance your career. Expect to leave with a much clearer idea of paths to take to better approach your writing career and strategies to better find clear success and get noticed.
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"Ashley was fantastic. I liked his realistic and honest view on the job. We learned about the upsides and the downsides. And that is the part I’m Ashley most thankful for." -Thomas D. Wonderful and insightful class. Great look inside the industry from a manager's perspective, with reference materials too. Blunt and honest but very encouraging. -Darren T. Includes Exclusive Handouts Including Scripts, Query Letter Templates, Contact Lists and More! The truth is there’s a lot more that goes into being a full-time writer than just writing, and every successful writer working today has learned how to balance the craft with the business. And while each writer’s path to success is unique, it almost always involves building your toolkit, finding the right representation, getting noticed, and networking. These elements do not come easy and are not always self-explanatory. If you’re a writer that’s serious about building a career in this field, it’s crucial to learn how writers have achieved their goals in the past and how you can use the tools at your disposal to pave your own path to success. Ashley Berns is a long-time literary manager who worked at respected management company Circle of Confusion for 15 years before opening his own company, Leigh Hill Management. Over his career Ashley has represented writers and directors including Tony Jaswinski (THE SHALLOWS), Gary Whitta (ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY), two time Academy Award nominee Lucy Walker (WASTE LAND), Nicholl Fellowship winners Alisha Brophy & Scott Miles (INSIDE JOB/Netflix), and BAFTA winner Tinge Krishnan (INDUSTRY/HBO). Ashley also serves as executive producer for the Showtime series WORK IN PROGRESS. Over the course of four sessions, Ashley will dive deep into the steps you should be taking to build your writing career and the strategies, tips, and advice you can use to find your place in the industry. He will work directly with you in a class setting, focusing on four major aspects of a writer’s career—building your toolkit, finding representation, getting your work and yourself noticed, and networking. In addition, Ashley will provide material for future use including: Successful screenplays, particularly those that started as a query Management and agency lists Successful examples of queries TV pod deals, feature producer deals, film festival lists etc. If you are a screenwriter with the hopes of writing full time but aren't sure where to start, start here! WHAT TO EXPECT This class is designed for beginner and intermediate students looking to learn the ins and outs of screenwriting as a career This is an in-depth, practical, and detailed class with significantly more content than a standard 90-minute webinar. This class will consist of four sessions, each roughly two hours in duration. In addition to the presentation-style lessons where Ashley will be walking you through various elements of building a career in screenwriting, you will have the opportunity to ask him questions during each session. Plus, to stay motivated and inspired, you will have access to a private, dedicated Stage 32 Lounge where you can communicate with your fellow classmates throughout the process. To see the full class schedule, see below under "What You Will Learn".
If you talk to an exec, a manger, or any other gatekeeper, you may be surprised to find out just how many scripts that are sent to them are turned down before they’re even given a chance. Whether it’s due to formatting errors, unclear descriptions, or other fixable problems, countless scripts fall by the wayside and countless writers lose an opportunity either because they were too eager to submit or because they weren’t able to look at their creation with objective eyes. The good news is this is a problem that can be fixed. Before you send your script off to representatives, executives, or reputable contests, you need to ensure your screenplay is written clearly, formatted correctly, and tells a story that raises the stakes and builds momentum. Too often, writers go on blind faith and hit “send” before it sees a second set of eyes. But you can (and should) be your own second set of eyes with a practice known as self-editing. This is where you take your writer hat off, hang it up for a hot second, and put your editor cap on so you can revise your screenplay in an objective manner. It’s harder than it seems, but there are actually 10 specific things you can learn to read your script for that will help ensure it’s ready to be sent. If you can master the self-edit, you will greatly improve your chances of getting your work seen. Ready to learn how to do that? Nikki Terpilowski is here to help you master self-editing techniques. Nikki is a long time literary agent and owner of Holloway Literary who represents both screenwriters and novelists and is highly experienced at negotiating book-to-film deals for her clients, most recently Argent Pictures and ABC Studios. Her roster of authors have made Amazon, iTunes, Globe & Mail and USA Today bestsellers lists, have been nominated for Goodreads Choice, and RITA Awards and received starred Publishers Weekly reviews. She has also been invited to speak, teach classes and take pitches at ThrillerFest, Sisters In Crime, Romance Writers of America (RWA), Virginia's Festival Of The Book and many more literary events. Needless to say, Nikki is incredibly familiar with writers and their work and knows what it takes for a script to make it through the noise and get her attention. Drawing on her deep literary background, Nikki will teach you an effective way to self-edit your own script and the 10 aspects you need to focus on before sending it off. From more technical issues like script formatting and establishing action to narrative topics like scene structure and character arcs, Nikki will walk you through how to determine if each element in her self-edit checklist is effective. She’ll give you tools to determine where your script’s red flags might be and strategies to fix up each element. With the strategies Nikki provides, you’ll be able to feel more confident in getting your script ready and sending it to reps, execs and contests
Networking at a film festival or industry event. For some people, just the idea strikes fear in the heart. Who do you talk to first? How do you start the conversation? Holy crap, business cards?! Do I need business cards? I'm sure you have been at industry events before where you're all fired up to go, then once you get there you stand in the corner talking only to the people you know. So, how do you break that cycle? You've probably heard things like "you have to know someone to get ahead in this business" and thought to yourself "OK, but how do I get to the point where I know that mysterious 'someone?' " The answer comes back to networking. And though that word conjures up images of smarmy frat boys in suits swilling cocktails and collecting business cards, it's really about overcoming the initial awkwardness between strangers and turning those strangers into new friends. It happens slowly, organically, naturally. But if you're smart about it and go in with a plan, you can make it happen more often and more reliably – without feeling the need for a hot shower afterward. Stage 32 is proud to bring in industry veteran, Christopher Holland, who for over a decade has worked with over 200 film festivals, including Sundance, Austin, AFI, Atlanta and more. Chris is teaching exclusively for Stage 32 Your Guide To Fearless Film Festival Networking. This webinar will ease your anxiety about making professional connections in the festival environment, or any type of creative industry event. This webinar goes beyond simply breaking the ice. You will learn specific tools & get examples on how to go into an industry networking event knowing what you want and knowing how to get it. You will receive practical advice you can use for your career no matter what level you are at. Plus, this webinar will be available for you to reference time and time again as you get ready for any festival! Register now!
Stage 32 and Vail Film Festival have joined forces to bring you an exclusive FREE virtual Q&A with top female filmmakers from the festival! Now, no matter where you live in the world you can tune in! The 2020 Vail Film Festival took place online from May 15-17, and had a special focus on female filmmakers. In addition to film screenings, the festival included filmmaker Q&A sessions, a filmmaking workshop, and a women in film panel discussion featuring leading female producers, actors, and directors. The 2020 film program will showcase narrative features, documentaries, short films, and student films. This year's lineup includes films starring Simon Pegg, Annette Bening, Juno Temple, Alexandra Daddario, Wendie Malick, Danny Trejo, Maggie Siff, Sabrina Carpenter, Natalie Zea, Jay Mohr, Jason Ritter, Kristen Vangsness, Rose McIver, and more. The lineup for the 2020 Vail Film Festival is unparalleled, and we encourage Stage 32 members to attend the virtual festival and support their fellow filmmakers. As part of our partnership, Vail Film Festival is offering Stage 32 members an exclusive 25% off discount on all-access passes to the online festival. Stage 32 members can use the code stage32 at checkout. For more info and to purchase a pass to the online Vail Film Festival please visit: www.vailfilmfestival.com
The LGBTQ+ market is expanding and it's high time fresh voices are heard. The popularity of recent titles like Netflix’s THE BOYS IN THE BAND, Hulu’s LOVE, VICTOR, and FX’s POSE point to the truth that stories and perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community are finally welcomed and in demand. This in turn is encouraging more buyers to gravitate towards content from queer voices and with queer themes. It’s been a long time coming, and now that we’re here, it’s important to take a look at what exactly is selling and what makes LGBTQ+ content authentic, responsible, and popular. As more voices and stories from the LGBTQ+ community are coming forward, audiences are clearly becoming more open and interested in exploring these themes and characters, but they’re also more discerning about the authenticity and respect queer characters are given. The romantic lead’s sassy and platonic gay best friend doesn’t fly the way it might have in the ‘90s. So what do authentic queer characters actually look like today? How can you avoid clichés and stereotypes and instead craft something complex and responsible? Whether you are queer, straight, or anything else, how can you positively contribute to the LGBTQ+ film and TV market? Devon Byers is a manager, producer, and co-founder of First Friday Entertainment, the industry's top literary management and production company dedicated to finding unique voices focused on diversity and inclusion. His clients are currently working with companies like Issa Rae’s ColorCreative and Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland, and are staffed on shows such as CBS’s GOD FRIENDED ME and CW’s KATY KEENE. Devon has based his career on championing diverse voices and bringing forward inclusive stories, and he’s bringing his perspective to the Stage 32 community. Devon will lay out what the LGBTQ+ film and TV market looks like today and how best to create your own stories and characters with these themes. He will begin by exploring what LGBTQ+ stories have been done and what you can do to make your own story unique. He’ll then delve into writing LGBTQ+ characters, including how to write them authentically and avoid clichés. He’ll outline the common traps LGBTQ+ characters often fall into and show you how to make sure your unique voice is evident in the writing. He’ll talk about themes that should be explored in this market as well as themes to avoid. Devon will also talk about if it’s okay to rewrite your straight characters for the LGBTQ+ market and whether there are any topics considered too insensitive or taboo. He’ll also discuss whether the market accepts straight people telling LGBTQ+ stories. He will then walk you through what platforms and formats are looking for this material and the most popular genres that are selling. Finally, Devon will dive into specific examples of successful LGBTQ+ projects in film, TV, podcasts and web series, and what makes them stand out. It’s an exciting time as Hollywood continues to become more diverse and inclusive. Let Devon give you the tools and confidence to responsibly contribute to this trend and even elevate it further.
As an independent filmmaker or producer, you likely start working on a new endeavor for creative reasons—the chance to tell an amazing story, build worlds, create something of cultural value. Yet this is, of course, not the only element of filmmaking. Like it or not, your independent film is not just a creative endeavor; it’s also a business. You’re sourcing financing and bringing in investors, building a team, and creating a property that will (hopefully) ultimately make money not only in the present, but for years to come. In short, you’re not just a making a piece of art; you’re also running a business. To operate successfully in the world of independent film and continue to make films that you’re proud of, you need to be able to think like an entrepreneur and understand the dynamics and the relation between financing, distribution and recoupment of film investments. Further, you need to open up your creative mindset to the myriad opportunities available all over the world including hot markets found throughout Europe. The business side of films is often especially difficult for filmmakers and creative producers, but the more you understand, the better your chances of finding a production partner or investor to take your vision forward. Working in the European market, especially with films in the €1MM and sub€1MM range can offer you opportunities you haven't thought of before. But to take advantage of this surging market, you need to understand the variety of production and financing options available and how to tap into them. Whether it's hard money, soft money or other methods toward financing and securing the necessary pieces to greenlight your project, getting a handle on the in's and out's of how to proceed will put you in a powerful and advantageous position. Understanding and executing this business model will open new doors to other productions around the world and serve to create a portfolio of proof that will serve as a calling card moving forward. David Zannoni is an international business specialist for Fintage House, the world's most respected company for revenue and rights protection for industry professionals and companies. David negotiates agreements for films and television series and is involved in business development and relationship management specifically in the US, Latin America and Europe. As an international film business specialist David is continuously present to make deals and speak at international film markets, festivals and conferences, including: the Cannes Film Festival, the European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin, the American Film Market (AFM), Ventana Sur, the Bogota Audiovisual Market (BAM), and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and travels regularly to the United States, the Netherlands, Europe, and all over Latin America. David is intimately familiar with how independent films are financed and made profitable all over the world and will share what he knows exclusively about the European market with the Stage 32 community. David will focus on the European market and walk you through what you need to know to finance your independent film, EUR1MM or less, and leave profitable. He will begin by explaining what a EUR1MM or under budget looks like, whether it’s considered a small film or microbudget, and how it compares in the larger worldwide film market. He’ll delve into how film financing works specifically in Europe, including a breakdown of soft money sources versus hard money sources, debt financing versus equity financing, tax and location incentives, and film funds and government support. He will also discuss working with a co-production as a financing tool. He will highlight how European film financing is different compared to other regions and the different levels of film financing to consider: European, national, and regional. David will next demonstrate the importance of language, culture, and collaboration and will then teach you what specifically Europe can offer for both European and non-European productions, including incentives, co-productions, diversity, talent, and shooting locations. He will explain how to approach your film as an asset, how to see yourself as an entrepreneur, and how to see filmmaking as a business. David will then go over the continental circle of financing, distribution, and investment recoupment and will explain how risk mitigation works for European film projects. Next he will discuss managing revenue and rights, as well as managing recoupment as a whole. He will spend time delving into European film contracts, including distribution agreements, CAM agreements, and sales agency agreements. David will ultimately illustrate whether European films can be profitable and how, and analyze with you when a European film can be considered successful, whether it breaks even or finds profitability. Plus, David will show a case study of a real EUR1MM European film to illustrate how a film of this level can be profitable and exactly how the money flows through from beginning to end. He’ll show financing documents and spreadsheets to illustrate the financing structure and demonstrate how money flows in and out. Through this detailed and practical demonstration, you will leave with strategies and a deep understanding of how to approach your own EUR1MM film as an entrepreneur and build a finance structure that will leave you and your investors profitable. This Stage 32 Webinar is Part 2 in David’s "Think Like an Entrepreneur" series. Click here to check out David’s webinar on being profitable in US marketplace with a sub-$1MM film. Praise for David's Previous Stage 32 Webinars "David is incredible and lovely and clearly knows his stuff." - Cynthia P. "Eye-opening information. A no-brainer approach that wouldn't be so obvious to the uninitiated." - Gary O. "By far, the best class I've seen on the subject." Kirk K. "David is a fantastic teacher. And what a voice! I could listen to him all day. More importantly, I learned so very much!" - Isabella T.