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.
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 recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!
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.
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.
Horror genre television series are in demand in a BIG way. Many production companies and buyers are actively looking for stories that provide thrills, chills and scares. In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in developing and producing popular shows for cable, steamers and network television. Shows like AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, Netflix’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (and now BLY MANOR), FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY, and HBO’s LOVECRAFT COUNTY have been paving the way for a new era of high quality, diverse, and ambitious horror series unlike anything that’s ever been created before. And according to the ratings, the appetite for this TV genre only continues to grow. If you have ever thought about writing, producing or selling your own horror television series, now is the time. You want to capitalize on this hot genre if you have a horror project you're thinking about creating or if you're interested in going to market with one you already have. With the barrier for entry open at networks, streamers and cable, there is more opportunity for you to showcase your story in the best possible light. In order to do so you have to know what the buyers are looking for and determine if your project aligns with their needs. You'll also need to understand the pitching environment and what you're up against in the room. It's important you have a clear understanding of your story, your series and your pitch in order to go from good to great and get the buyers excited about your project. Kevin Nicklaus is a veteran development executive with a long tenure with the The Wolper Organization, which has a first-look deal with Warner Bros., including HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros. features, and more. He has been integral to the early development and sales of BATES MOTEL for A&E, the Emmy-nominated ROOTS for History, STEPHEN KING'S SALEM'S LOT for TNT, THE MISTS OF AVALON for TNT, HELTER SKELTER for CBS, THE BAD SEED for Lifetime and more. Kevin has been active in the world of horror television for years now and knows better than most what it takes to get a scary series off the ground. Kevin will delve into what the world of horror television looks like today and how best to approach and pitch your own horror series to give it the best shot of getting noticed. He’ll begin with a primer of horror television, including its history and a look at why it’s now more desirable for networks. He’ll also delve into the 4 popular trends currently found in horror TV and what the most popular horror series are right now and why. Kevin will then give you tips on how to approach your own horror series including how to consider your audience, whether your idea is a series or just a long movie, using teasers and cliffhangers effectively, and how to find your episodic engine. Next Kevin will show you how best to pitch your horror series. He’ll explain who’s looking for horror projects, what a good horror TV pitch deck looks like and what to focus on when you’re in the room. Finally he will outline the biggest mistakes to avoid when putting together your horror series, both when writing the pilot and when pitching. Expect to leave with a much clearer idea of how best to craft your own horror television series and have it find success. Kevin will even provide a free download of STRANGER THINGS’ early pitch deck and use it as a case study when delving into building your own pitch documents. Like what you heard from Kevin during this webinar? You can send your TV pilot script or feature script to Kevin and speak with him for an hour! Click here for TV pilots. Click here for features. Praise for Kevin's Stage 32 Webinar "It was exactly what I was looking for!" -Seth N. "Spot on! Helped me think big picture." -Scot B. "There was a lot of specific detail and the breakdown of the pitch deck was fantastic." -Brien G. "Great speaker. very knowledgeable." -Shelly A.
Producer Development Exec Anna Henry joins our Panel as we listen and read your pitches live to help educate the Writers' Room screenwriters on what is and isn't working in their pitch.
Victor Bui, Kristi Shuton & Adienne C. Thomas are on the Disney | ABC Creative Talent Development & Inclusion Team where they oversee the Writing and Directing Programs. We discuss what writing programs and fellowships, writer development, and how to create a personal brand/story, plus a live Q&A!
Hollywood studios will release less than 100 movies in 2019, most written by veteran writers. The Independent Film market is struggling. All the while TV is exploding. More than 90% of working WGA writers are in TV, which is the market for quality writing and entertainment. Why? TELEVISION IS RUN BY WRITERS. In 2019, Television will produce more than 500 original scripted shows – that’s more than 5,000 scripts – with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon alone spending a combined $20 to $25 BILLION on programming. What’s the secret to breaking in, finding a job on staff or selling a new show? A GREAT, ORIGINAL PILOT. James Dalessandro will work with aspiring Writers, Directors, Producers to focus them on what it takes to make the dream come true – a career in Television. Your host James was handpicked by Stan Lee to write the TV Pilot and Bible for THE RESTLESS for POW! Entertainment. In addition he also has Brad Bird (Incredibles, Incredibles 2, Ratatouille) attached to direct a feature film '1906' based on his own novel. He's also written and produced TV for FX, Eone, Televisa USA, Starlings Entertainment and Gross/Jacobson Entertainment. ***All attendees will receive a pdf of THE AMERICANS pilot!