Michael Colleary is a film producer, screenwriter and television writer who’s career has spanned over 3 decades. Some of his writing credits include Face/Off, which the New York Times praised as one of the “1,000 greatest movies ever made”, Firehouse Dog, The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and the story for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Most recently in television he wrote for Unnatural History on the Cartoon Network. Michael is an active teacher and consultant who’s students have gone on to careers making movies and writing television shows such as BoJack Horseman, Modern Family, Arrested Development, The Boy Next Door, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Scrubs, Psyche and CSI Miami. Michael mentors for the Writers Guild Foundation and the CineStory Foundation. Full Bio »
You want to be a studio writer. You have a high concept screenplay. Perhaps you control some blockbuster intellectual property (IP). Or maybe you have the next big trilogy or breakthrough character idea. There are hundreds of studio films that are released each year in need of talented writers. But writing high concept screenplays requires a particular set of skills and understanding.
Landing a studio job as a writer is NOT an impossibility. In fact, more and more studios are turning to writers (and directors) of smaller films to help develop and write bigger budget features. But, as you might imagine, this is a competitive arena. Learning how to write a studio style screenplay is only part of the game. You need to understand how to get from completed screenplay to into the room. And then you have to understand how to work the room. The simplest way to get all this done? You need a team. Securing a manager, perhaps an agent, and, most importantly, a qualified, killer entertainment attorney on your side can make all the difference.
Sounds like a long haul? It's not. It all begins by looking at yourself as an entrepreneur.
Michael Colleary has been working within the studio system for over 3 decades. He was the lead writer on Face/Off and the story creator and editor on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. And those are a couple of the movies that got made! Michael has made a career and a very lucrative living writing studio films that were purchased and never made. Even though you know some of Michael’s films, he’s made an entire career off of writing things that maybe you’ve never seen get made. Studios pay big money for screenplays, even those that don't make it to the screen.
Michael will take you through everything you need to know about breaking into the studios and sustaining a career. You will learn to think like an entrepreneur and develop the skills you need to get work writing specs, rewrites, pitches and script doctoring. These are the skills that will make you an in demand writer. But that's not enough! Michael will also teach you the business side of working within the studio system. You'll understand how to build your support team and how to negotiate. This often overlooked part of the process is what will separate you from the pack and help you get in and stay in the system.
“Anyone, and I mean anyone interested in becoming a screenwriter – or becoming a BETTER screenwriter has come to the right place. Michael is the best story analyst in Hollywood. Smart, insightful, thorough and creative – he will work his rear-end off on your script or story idea until it sings with commercial and artistic viability. I know this from first hand experience, having collaborated with him on numerous television and feature film projects, beginning with ‘Face/Off.’ Additionally, he has served as my personal mentor and sounding board on practically every sale I’ve ever had in my entire career. You will not be disappointed!”
- Mike Werb; screenwriter “The Mask,” “Face-Off,” “Tomb Raider,” “Unnatural History” and more.
Demystifying "The Business"
The ever-changing landscape of the entertainment industry can be a challenging and confusing place. In this section Michael will discuss:
Screenwriter as Entrepreneur
Screenwriters can be notoriously slow to embrace their "business" side. Here Michael will discuss the crucial importance of connecting with your inner entrepreneur.
Building Your Team
You'll learn what each of your reps provides - and doesn't provide - for you. Common questions addressed:
Let's Make a Deal
In this section, Michael will explain the different categories of screenwriting jobs within the Studio system, including:
Michael will then revisit his "planetary guide" of Hollywood and walk you through - step-by-step - the process of landing a studio writing job, including:
Finally, Michael will break down how a screenwriter gets paid, how a writer's reps are paid, and how to manage economic unpredictability without losing your creative fire.
Q&A with Michael
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! For a live webinar, you will be given the link within 2 business days after the live session.
“Anyone, and I mean anyone interested in becoming a screenwriter – or becoming a BETTER screenwriter has come to the right website. Michael Colleary is the best story analyst in Hollywood. Smart, insightful, thorough and creative – he will work his rear-end off on your script or story idea until it sings with commercial and artistic viability. I know this from first hand experience, having collaborated with him on numerous television and feature film projects, beginning with ‘Face/Off.’ Additionally, he has served as my personal mentor and sounding board on practically every sale I’ve ever had in my entire career. You will not be disappointed!”
Mike Werb; screenwriter “The Mask,” “Face-Off,” “Tomb Raider,” “Unnatural History” and more.
“Among the most serious—and common—mistakes writers make is to expose their screenplays before they’re truly ready. Nothing better could happen to writers than to have Michael Colleary review their pages and provide notes prior to submission to agents, managers, and producers. This is true not only for first-time writers but also for seasoned professionals, even those who have development deals with production entities, writers smart enough to have Michael ask the hard questions before the producers ask them.
I have worked closely with Michael Colleary now for over thirty years, first as my student, and now as my longtime friend and colleague. That we regularly engage him to teach advanced classes in UCLA’s graduate screenwriting program represents eloquent testimony to the nosebleed-high regard in which he is held by all of our faculty.
Michael Colleary is an approachable, gentle taskmaster with a keen eye for what is superfluous, the roiling, swirling paraphernalia that burdens scripts when writers inevitably get in our own way, blocking our narratives, suffocating our chances for success with a particular project or an entire career. Rarely do I encounter a script consultant with chops as strong as Michael’s. Never have I met one who is stronger.”
Prof. Richard Walter, Screenwriting Chairman; Associate Dean, UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television
“Not every great athlete is a great coach and likewise, not every artist is a great teacher. Michael Colleary is that rare find who excels in both areas. As co-area head of the UCLA screenwriting program, I have watched Michael with his students. He is generous, supportive, involved. his critical insight is laser sharp, delivered with the kindest of hands.”
Hal Ackerman, former co-chair of UCLA MFA Screenwriting Program
“Michael is one of the smartest script consultants around. I first met him when I was a UCLA screenwriting grad student and was lucky enough to have him as an instructor. His notes were incredibly insightful and delivered with such finesse that I left my critique not only feeling that I could rewrite my script with ease, but that’d I’d become a better writer from that note session alone. I have since invited him to come to numerous CineStory Foundation retreats, where he is a beloved mentor, not only because his notes are outstanding, but because he is also outstanding as a person, mentor and critic. He is on our permanent mentor ask list – he’s that good.”
Lisanne Sartor is an award-winning writer/director whose short film “Six Letter Word” has screened at over fifty film festivals worldwide, including the Telluride Film Festival and the American Pavilion at Cannes (www.sixletterword.org).
She made “Six Letter Word” via the AFI Directing Workshop for Women.
Kristi Speiser, Certified Image Consultant and Life Coach for actors has been in the business 25 years and worked with stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Gerard Butler! Now she brings her extensive knowledge and experience in honing, refining and defining an actor's image exclusively to Stage 32. Examples of Kristi's Image Consulting Work “Going within is the most challenging place one will ever go. But this brings the biggest payoffs and sets you up for more success in life both personally and professionally” - Kristi Speiser When you're an actor, you're seemingly being given advice at every turn. Whether it's who to take acting classes with, how to address casting directors in and out of the room, or what roles you are or aren't a fit for, the opinions never seem to stop coming. It can be overwhelming. But one piece of advice that is golden is that understanding your brand and assuring that you are doing everything possible to put that brand on display will undeniably give you an advantage in a very crowded field. Simply put, most actors go into headshot sessions, auditions, and meetings with no clue or definitive idea as to what they're putting out there or how they are being perceived. That's something that's fully in your control and something that you can begin honing, shaping, and changing starting today. Kristi Speiser is a certified image consultant and life coach with the International Coaching Federation. After a hugely successful 20 year career working with actors in fashion advertising, Kristi moved on to become Chief Operations Manager in her husband’s acting studio. For 25 years she had an insider’s access to the business side of acting and entertainment. Exposed to thousands of actors, she played a part in the rise of major directors, producers, and stars like, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Gerard Butler. Exclusively for Stage 32, Kristi will teach you how to gain a full understanding of you who are and use that to help you define your brand. She will show you how you are likely perceived by decision makers and gatekeepers and how you can change that perception so you stop wasting time and money pursuing the wrong roles or markets. She will show you how clothes, voice patterns, communication behavior and more can be altered and modified to any situation to increase your chances of success. She will discuss how you can build effective and important relationships so you stay top of mind of casting directors and producers. Kristi will even get down into your headshots - telling you the real truths - and what photos and information should be on a personal website. In short, Kristi will teach you how to treat your career as a business and how embracing that mentality alone, and implementing these strategies toward that end, will result in more work and more happiness! This is a major deep dive into your image and brand designed to help actors of all experience and skill levels. This information will leave you refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to tackle any audition or meeting! She helped me realize the image I was putting out there was not an accurate representation of who I was. She opened my eyes to a world of color, silhouettes and accessories. Through her nurturing, I not only discovered the ability to reflect my essence outwardly, but also how to own it. – Leena H. She is an expert at what she does but most importantly someone who truly desires to see her clients succeed in the industry. – Stephanie F. I felt like I was being pulled in a dozen different directions when it came to my career: my look, my characters, my goals, my personality… Kristi brought all that into focus. – Shayna R.
All actors want representation. It’s often the first step actors take in their careers. After all, agents and managers are the ones that are connected to the industry. They know who is casting and where the auditions are, and they’re positioned to help you succeed—at least in theory. Many reps are incredible allies and partners for actors and transform careers for the better, but not all are created equal. Some reps unfortunately don’t carry their weight and fail to champion a client—sometimes they’re not as connected and in-the-know as they suggest, sometimes they might not be as invested in you as they should be. It can be common for actors in this position to blame themselves for lack of opportunities, even if the fault lies out of their control. But having a bad rep doesn’t mean you’re untalented and it doesn’t mean you can’t make it in the industry; it just means it’s time to recognize where the problem lies and to take back your own power. And, if you've decided to go without a rep, it's important to know that you have the power to move the needle on your career. Many actors will sign with an agent or manager immediately because they feel it is better to be represented than have no rep at all. However, it’s important to make sure you and your rep have the same goals for your career and that you both will do what needs to be done to get those goals accomplished. If that’s not in the cards, it’s time to make a change. Every actor should first and foremost consider themselves their own representative—managers and agents will inevitably come and go throughout your career, but you will always need to be your best advocate. It’s therefore critical to understand, as your own representative, when the people in your corner are really in your corner, and when perhaps there is more you can do as an actor to find more success. When making these difficult decisions, remember that an actor’s world doesn’t start and stop with their rep; there is so much you can do before signing, after, and in between. It’s time to understand how to take control of your own career and hold both yourself and your representative accountable (if you have one). Elizabeth Guest is an actor, writer, director and producer based in Los Angeles and has appeared on Netflix's REAL ROB, the Emmy-winning CALIFORNICATION, NBC'S A.P. BIO, CBS's THE MENTALIST and more. She attended USC's School of Cinematic Arts and has spent the past few years writing and performing her own material. She has put up numerous plays at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, one of which, called NICE GIRLS, was eventually turned into a digital series by Funny or Die. She also wrote/directed/produced and starred in the digital series GUEST APPEARANCES which won the Best Scripted Digital Series Jury Award at Austin Film Festival and the Best Short Form Jury Award at the Nashville Film Festival. She was named by Moviemaker Magazine as one of the "25 Screenwriters to Watch." Season one and season two of GUEST APPEARANCES will soon be streaming on FICTO. She has two feature films that are currently in post production. Elizabeth is a big believer in creating her own opportunities and is ready to inspire actors in the Stage 32 community to do the same. Elizabeth will draw from her own experience to teach you how to find your own power as an actor and how to know when to leave a rep that isn’t doing their job. She’ll begin by going over the roles and expectations of both managers and agents, what the differences are between the two, what an ideal agent and manager look like, and what a beneficial relationship between a rep and an actor should feel like. She’ll also discuss the separation of responsibilities that are standard between reps and actors. She’ll then talk about what to how to know when your rep isn’t doing their job. She’ll give you 6 red flags to keep a lookout for with your rep to determine if they might not be holding their end of the bargain. She’ll also share five things you should be asking yourself as a self check-in to make sure you’re doing all you can before blaming your rep. Elizabeth will teach you strategies you should try with your rep to repair the relationship and will give you tips on when to know it’s finally time to leave. Next, she will discuss the proper way to end your relationship with a manager and how to understand the legal aspects to avoid complications. Elizabeth will give you the tools and wherewithal to move forward with your career after leaving your manager or agent, including creating your own opportunities and finding ways to get yourself discovered without outside help. Finally, Elizabeth will explain what it means to take back your own power, how to craft the career you want and focus on the work to achieve your goals independently. It’s so important for actors in this industry to feel empowered and know their worth, and Elizabeth will give you the tools to do just that. Praise for Elizabeth's Stage 32 Webinar "Liz was informative and inspirational! Great ideas about content creation!" -Bill H. "Elizabeth is terrific, and inspiring. Plus she is experienced and knowledgeable" -Dede R.
The art of the pitch. In many ways, outside of honing your craft, your ability to pitch may just be the most important skill you can learn as a creative. At its core, pitching is storytelling. But the ability to be a clear, concise storyteller, and, as a result, be someone who can deliver a memorable and winning pitch is something that takes time, knowledge, a clear strategy, and repetition. Understanding how to pitch any person or audience will give you a clear and tremendous advantage in any situation or room. You will stand out from the hundreds if not thousands of pitches a gatekeeper or decision maker hears in a given year. But further, learning how to pitch will help you build confidence, a huge variable in winning over those looking to work with you, buy your material or invest in your project. The bottom line: Whether you're a screenwriter, filmmaker, producer, or any creative or industry professional looking to gain representation, sell their material, attract talent, raise financing, or simply looking to find work, you WILL have to pitch. Further, you WILL be in competition with others pitching as well. You've put so much time and effort into your work and building your reputation, you don't want to have it all undermined with a terrible pitch. And the truth of the matter is that most people that pitch make the same fatal mistakes over and over. They don't know how to tell a concise, riveting story. They don't know what to put in, what to leave out, and what elements really and truly sell someone on their story. But not you. Not anymore. You're about to become a pitching ace. Jared Iacino is a film and television executive who has heard literally thousands of pitches. As the Senior Vice President and Head of Films and Television Production at Panay Films, Jared has overseen the development and production of such films as Hit & Run, Hot Tub Time Machine I and II, Earth to Echo, Mastermind, CHiPS, and numerous television productions in conjunction with Relativity Television. Prior to his time at Panay, Jared worked on such films as The Wedding Crashers, Juno, The Devil Wears Prada, Hairspray, The Bucket List, A Raisin in the Sun, The Proposal, The Muppets, Serendipity, Van Wilder and many more. As Jared can tell you, many of these projects and hundreds more he's see get moved through the pipeline, began with a well crafted pitch. Now, exclusively for Stage 32, Jared is going to teach you everything you need to know to become a pitching ace. He will demystify the pitching process by showing you how to form and outline your pitch in practical, repeatable and memorable terms. He will identify from a studio/network/producer's perspective, the common and fatal mistakes writers, filmmakers, producers and other film creatives make when pitching their projects. He will show you the secret formula he's used when pitching and selling projects to high level executives, gatekeepers and decision makers at independent film companies, studios and networks. He will teach you the 3 most important elements every pitch should have. He will show you how to cater your pitch to different audiences and why this is such an important skill to lear. He will show you how to identify projects worthy of pitching and teach you the secret ingredient that appears in every great pitch. Jared will give you the blueprint to not only craft a memorable and winning pitch, but teach you how to deliver it in a manner that has you finding the success your work and projects deserve! "Great hearing from someone who's actually in the trenches like us. You have great energy and broke the presentation down very well; easily digestible and understandable." - Tom Z. "Terrific webinar thank you Jared. You were clear, concise and most importantly efficient! I learned a ton and I am about to use what I learned in a pitch at 2:30. I am excited to see what happens!" - Maggie G. "Thanks for being incredibly generous with your experience and expertise. I feel way more able to take on creating the brilliant pitch that reflects the story I wrote." - John T.
The writing lab is full. If you have any questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org By popular demand, we're bringing in TV executive Anna Henry (who has 100% satisfaction with her webinars!) to teach a one-on-one TV pitch document writing lab! Need help with writing your TV series pitch document? Look no further! Anna's here to help. "I thought it was a great course and really helped me understand the format. Anna is knowledgeable and quickly cuts through to what can help your story better. Her notes on my script were insightful and really demonstrated her thorough experience." - Lee L. "Anna’s class was by far the most thorough, well put together, and organized screenwriting class I’ve ever taken. I have an MFA in filmmaking and, after graduating, I still felt as if I didn’t fully understand the structure of pilot writing. Anna’s class laid it out step by step and she went through every piece in detail. She was also extremely available to her students. During our one-on-one sessions, I expected to have a quick 15 minute call with her but she ended up speaking extensively with me about my story from outline through script stages. She really, truly cares for her students and is there to answer any questions, which, given her abundant experience in the industry, is a priceless piece of her labs. Thank you, Anna!" - Jacqueline D. "Anna was concise, and detailed. I've been working on log-lines/treatments/synopsis for 2 years for my scripts and never had it nailed like Anna was able to do. She rocks!" - Cheryl Lynn S. This is the golden age of television and the appetite for content has never been greater. What does everyone network and streamer want? Fresh, unique, authentic voices with never-been-told stories. While the door is open to new writers, the competition is fierce. Of course you need a very strong finished script, but before that will be read, you need to be able to communicate what makes your show stand out from the crowd, what will make people want to watch it for years and years, and why you are passionate about writing it. You need a blueprint of what the series will be beyond one episode. That's where a pitch document (aka bible, aka treatment) comes in. Whether you are selling your show verbally, sending the pitch to a potential producer, or applying for a fellowship, this document carries the weight of your imagined world with all its inhabitants and stories. That's a tall order! So where do you begin? How do you organize your ideas? What should be in a pitch? How detailed should you get? Should you start with a summary of the pilot? Should you have ideas for future episodes? What should you say about your characters? In this lab we will delve deep into writing an effective pitch for your scripted television idea - one that will clearly communicate your intentions, excite the reader, and convey your voice and your passion. I have spent my career developing television projects with writers and selling those show ideas as a development executive, manager and producer. What I have found is that most screenwriters have taken classes that helped them learn about story structure, writing scenes, dialogue, etc. but writing a pitch is entirely different. Most writers need help with switching gears and selling their story in addition to telling it - which is the purpose of this lab. Payment plans are available - contact email@example.com for more details
So you’ve finally fleshed out your ideas for your next TV project and you’re off to the races developing your next screenplay. While working on your pilot, you’re constantly reminded of the one thing that every executive looks for: CHARACTER CHARACTER CHARACTER. Every executive says they want to read compelling characters. But what exactly does that mean? And how do you accomplish this? Literary Manager Conrad Sun represents TV writers in all genres for shows such as Blindspot, Two Broke Girls and Bojack Horseman and is a master at building character in scripts. In this top rated Stage 32 Next Level Webinar Conrad will teach you how to bring your characters to life and go from good to GREAT. You will learn empathy vs. sympathy and how the best characters invoke both feelings from your audience. Conrad will breakdown real-life examples from characters on shows such as Fargo, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and more. And, most importantly, you'll walk away learning how to apply character development to your own writing. This webinar is vital to help you strengthen your TV pilot!
How To Build Your Suspense From The Ground Up And Craft A Thriller With Earned Twists, Turns and Thrills If you're paying attention to the trades and seeing which screenplays and projects are being sold and produced, you know that psychological thrillers are highly in demand. With films like Joker, Ma, Escape Room, Glass, Ex Machina, The Invitation, Get Out, Happy Death Day, The First Purge and many more, companies like Blumhouse have propelled the production of thrillers for an audience hungry for suspense and thrills, making creepy, crawly movie-going experiences all the rage. With box office receipts in the billions it's clear that the appetite for psychological stories is raging. And, it's a more exciting time than ever to be able to a screenwriter or filmmaker who has a suspenseful thriller you want to tell. But the art of writing a psychological thriller is one of vulnerable characters, deep secondary characters, memorable set pieces, set ups, reversals, and earned twists and turns. There's a formula to it all, and those who master these skills win the day. Writing a psychological thriller and creating and maintaining suspense and high stakes throughout takes an immense understanding of the history of the genre. It's a genre based in Hitchcockian roots. One that needs to have certain elements in order to be effective to keep the audience involved, engaged and on the edge of their seat. While most psychological thrillers start off with a well thought out premise, that's all they have. The action starts quickly and then falls flat. In many other cases, the premise is in place, but the writer or filmmaker doesn't know how to get past the jumping off point. You must get your hook in place quickly - within your first five pages - and that takes skill. You need to truly create compelling characters, especially protagonist and your villain, and make them layered in order to support your theme and plot and to assure the audience always knows and is invested in the stakes. To be truly successful at getting your reader's attention, keep those pages turning and set yourself up for an offer of representation, an option, a sale, or financing, you need to understand all of the nuances that make a great suspenseful story before you type (or read) FADE IN. Steve Desmond is one of the best in the industry today writing suspense and psychological thrillers. His most recent feature screenplay, Harry's All Night Hamburgers, was adapted from a Hugo award winning short story and was one of the highest priced spec sales of the last 5 years, selling to Warner Bros. in a bidding war worth 7 figures. The film now has Oscar Nominated Producer Andrew Lazar (American Sniper) producing via his Mad Chance production banner and Ted Melfi directing. He has recently been tapped by Film Nation to adapt The Cabin at the End of the World, a Harper Collins title from author Paul Tremblay. The psychological horror and suspense novel centers on a vacationing family terrorized by four strangers who claim to be either attempting to bring about or trying to avert the apocalypse. His short film, Monsters, has played in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 43 awards including Best Short Film at the Comic-Con International Film Festival in San Diego and was a finalist at Stage 32's 3rd Annual Short Film Program. Steve filmed Monsters to serve as a proof of concept for his feature script, Twisted Avenue which is now in development. Needless to say, thrillers and suspense are in Steve's blood and the focus of all his writing. And now he's bringing all he's learned along the way to you. Steve will help you build your suspense from the ground up. He'll teach you the ultimate tool you need - the Hitchcock Ticking Clock Method which will help you on your way to setting the vital groundwork for your story. You'll learn how to create a compelling protagonist and an enticing villain. Steve will give you exercises you can use to craft your own characters and give you 5 must have tips on backstory and character confessions to give depth. You'll learn how to hook your reader in the first 5 pages and what the 3 different teasers you can write for your opening. You'll explore the power of murder in your script and the art of a twist ending. He will show you how to craft your script with producers in mind to give yourself the best chance to have your material attractive to the widest audience possible. Steve will go over how you can incorporate visuals into your story and break down case studies of Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. And, finally, Steve will share some advice on how to get your script on the screen by writing it in a producible budget. You will have a fully immersive experience from a suspense expert that will leave you excited, inspired and confident to tackle your next psychological project. This webinar was AWESOME!!! I just finished a thriller and now as a result of listening to Steve Desmond, I am ready to do a re-write which I believe will be one of the best screenplays I have ever written. Let's see what happens! - Michelle C. What a thrilling and insightful webinar, excellent!! - Kathleen W. Super helpful information that you don't find in books! - Pamela C. Very useful information - well structured and clearly presented! - Sara C.