Breaking Into the Studio System as a Screenwriter - How to Get in and Stay in

Hosted by Michael Colleary

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Michael Colleary

Webinar hosted by: Michael Colleary

Screenwriter (Face/Off, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider)

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 »

Webinar Summary

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.

What You'll Learn

Demystifying "The Business"

The ever-changing landscape of the entertainment industry can be a challenging and confusing place. In this section Michael will discuss:

  • A Brief Overview of Corporate Hollywood
  • An Industry Built On Disruptive Technology
  • A Planetary Guide to the Major Studios

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.

  • Turning Creativity Into a Career
  • Skills (Other Than Writing) that Writers Need
  • Understanding the Importance of "Relationships"

Building Your Team

You'll learn what each of your reps provides - and doesn't provide - for you. Common questions addressed:

  • How does an Agent get me work?
  • Why do I need a Lawyer?
  • What's the difference between an Agent and a Manager?
  • Am I required to join the Writers Guild?

Let's Make a Deal

In this section, Michael will explain the different categories of screenwriting jobs within the Studio system, including:

  • The Spec
  • The Pitch
  • The Rewrite
  • The Script Doctor

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:

  • Prepping Your Pitch
  • Managing Your Meeting
  • Negotiating a "studio deal"
  • When and How Each Member of Your Team Engages


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


About Your Instructor

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.


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 (

She made “Six Letter Word” via the AFI Directing Workshop for Women.


If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.

Reviews Average Rating: 5 out of 5

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How to Secure a Long and Successful Career in Today's Entertainment Industry

Chris Moore has done and seen it all. During a career spanning over 30 years, Chris has produced films that have had multiple Oscar nominations and wins such as Good Will Hunting and Manchester by the Sea, to studio blockbusters like American Pie and The Adjustment Bureau, to independent darlings such as Waiting, to creating and starring in the critically acclaimed industry television shows Project Greenlight alongside Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and The Chair. One of the secrets of Chris' longevity in the business is a full understanding of the business. He's as plugged in as they come and he knows how to adjust quickly, swiftly, and successfully as the landscape changes - which seems to happen on a daily basis these days. Most importantly, Chris is known in the industry as a take-no-prisoners, no bullshit guy. He tells it like it is and pulls no punches, which, in this business, is welcome and refreshing. And now he's here exclusively for Stage 32 to teach you how to build a lasting career in today's entertainment industry. With the evolution of the industry causing dramatic shifts in the way you create and consume content (film, television, digital) and more content being created, bought, sold, screened, broadcast and streamed than ever before, there are more and more opportunities are being presented for a creative career. But you have to know where to look, how to position yourself, how to best present yourself and show that you have a complete understanding of where the industry is headed and how you can add significant value.  Chris will discuss the current state and the shifts in the market to help you make educated decisions on the path you should take with your career in the industry to not only assure success, but satisfy the lifestyle you desire. He will also discuss where he believes the future is headed so you can be ahead of the curve in making the right decisions for you and your career. Then, Chris will make the proceedings interactive, workshopping with select attendees and discussing primary and alternative paths for their wants and goals. Some examples: For filmmakers having trouble gaining traction, Chris will go over alternative ways you can break in and gain your footing. For screenwriters who have been at it a long time and haven’t gotten their break, Chris will discuss alternatives and lifestyle choices for the current industry. For cinematographers (or other creatives) looking to move from digital shorts to streaming TV, Chris will present a path and strategies to make it happen?    This is a no nonsense, detailed filled, strategy packed session designed to help ALL creatives and professionals!     "Undoubtably, my favorite Stage 32 webinar yet, and that's saying something. Wow, was this a welcome kick in the ass. I love Chris' style, passion, and energy. Obviously, his experience and success speaks for itself, but as a teacher, he's a master. This was a huge land for Stage 32. I hope you bring him back again!" - Ronnie W.   "I like the way Chris organized all the changes in entertainment so it was easy to understand. It's overwhelming trying to figure it out and I appreciated Chris taking the time to explain it. I also appreciated the workshopping advice. Thank you Chris." - Marisa S.   "The brutal truth how Hollywood operates was eye opening, but it's best that I'm aware as I try to find my place." - Wolf O.   "Chris Moore is a hero. He saved me from my doubts." - Julia C.    

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