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
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“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.
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. It is no doubt an exciting career, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. For as many people that find success in screenwriting, there are many others who don’t. This doesn’t just come down to talent, but also to a huge array of other aspects (not to mention a good amount of luck and circumstance). Ultimately if you want to write full time, it’s important not just to hone your writing skills, but also the skills needed to live a writer’s life. It’s common for people to jump into the world of screenwriting and strive to write full time without really considering what goes into this lifestyle beyond simply writing. But the life of a screenwriter isn’t exactly straightforward or easy. Even the most successful and in-demand writers face unique challenges and difficulties. After all, you’re not just writing; you’re constantly finding new opportunities, you’re developing your craft, you’re building your brand, and balancing all of it with your own personal life. Though of course, along with these obstacles come incredible opportunities to create, to inspire others, and to contribute to today’s culture. So what does it actually mean to write full time, what does that life look like, and how can you best shape your career and your day-to-day to make the most out of your screenwriting profession? Let’s dig in. Lorien McKenna is a full-time screenwriter as well as co-host of the popular podcast THE SCREENWRITING LIFE with her writing partner Meg LeFauve (INSIDE OUT, CAPTAIN MARVEL). Lorien was a former Pixar story manager who worked on such features as UP, BRAVE, INSIDE OUT, and THE GOOD DINOSAUR and served as a producer for Paramount Animation, where she oversaw development for the animated hit WONDER PARK. Lorien and Meg sold their romantic comedy anthology, THIS THING CALLED LOVE, to Hulu with Dan Lin producing; as well as a half hour sitcom, POOG, to NBC and WBTV. Lorien also wrote HOW TO SET A FIRE AND WHY, based on the book of the same name by Jesse Ball, for Straight Up Films. Previously, she served as the Co-EP for Hulu's CURIOUS GEORGE series, and has developed projects for Disney Jr., Funko, and Netflix. Lorien has found her path and road to success through screenwriting, and has learned a slew of lessons along the way. Now she’s excited to share her perspective and advice with the Stage 32 community. Lorien will dig into what it actually means to be a full-time screenwriter and offer strategies and advice for those starting out to find their footing and create a long-lasting career. Lorien will describe what a day, month, and a year in the life of a full-time writer looks like and how she’s navigated successes and setbacks along the way. She’ll offer tips into how to make ends meet as you get started and when you might be able to give up the side job. She’ll speak to finding the writing/living balance so you can stay connected. Next Lorien will go into advice into how to get your actual writing done, day in and day out and how to improve and learn along the way. She will discuss what she has done to build her brand and reputation and why she hates networking. Finally, Lorien will share the five most surprising things she’s learned in her writing career. Every person’s writing career is different, but Lorien will provide you with context, perspective and a collection of tools you can include in your own toolbox as you work to build your own path as a screenwriter. Check out Lorien on her podcast THE SCREENWRITING LIFE! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheScreenwritingLife Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_screenwriting_life/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/_TSLpodcast TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@thescreenwritinglife?
Unscripted (reality) television has burst onto cable and streaming platforms with a vengeance. In fact, reality seems to be everywhere these days with shows covering just about every subject imaginable. However, much has changed since the pioneers of reality TV came into people's living rooms (remember THE REAL WORLD and JOE MILLIONAIRE?). Gone are the days of simple formats allowing unfiltered access into the day to day lives of real people. Today, the networks and streamers are interested in shows providing a behind the curtain peak into all sorts of different subcultures. Mostly everyone can think of a time when they've thought "Wow, that would make a great reality TV" - But where do you start if you want to develop and pitch an unscripted show ? The challenges in developing unscripted/reality shows are lengthy. Unscripted shows don’t have scripts or actors, and they deal with real people and the personal conflicts they deal with in navigating their work and personal lives. And, just like networks and streaming platforms have mandates for scripted shows, they also have mandates for unscripted shows. So, how do you plan and develop the trajectory of a show if it's not scripted? If you have a great concept and cast, it's your job to function as a producer - read: therapist and gatekeeper - to prove that you can sustain the concept through multiple seasons. You have to make sure that you have a reliable cast that's on board with your vision. And you have to know how to sell that vision in a clear and winning fashion. This all begins by understanding what networks and the steaming platforms are looking for, who's programming what, what materials you will need to have in order to pitch, and how to put together a sizzle real and/or deck that rises above the rest. Catherine Keithley is the Vice President of Current and Development at Brian Graden Media. She produced Season 1 of INSTANT INFLUENCER with James Charles for YouTube Originals, Seasons 1 - 4 of ESCAPE THE NIGHT for YouTube Originals starring Joey Graceffa, the hour special also for YouTube Originals BAND TOGETHER WITH LOGIC and season 1 of MS. T'S MUSIC FACTORY for Lifetime. She's sold and developed a number of shows for BGM at various stages of development, casting, presentations, and pilots for networks like Lifetime, NBC, BET, POP, E!, Bravo, GSN, A&E, Fullscreen, & YouTube Originals. Catherine will teach you what makes a network interested in an unscripted show. You will learn how to pick "characters" that are watchable and whey they'd be attractive to a buyer. She'll go over the various genres that are produced for unscripted television and break them down by network. She will take you through what goes into development for each of the genres, including what materials you will need and what your sizzle needs to look like. She will even go into detail by network on who is buying what in unscripted - breaking down budget ranges so you're fully understanding on where your unscripted idea stands. Like what you heard from Catherine during this webcast? Send your concept to Catherine and speak with her for half-hour by clicking here. You will see what types of characters stand out to a network, what your pitch deck needs to look like and how you can hook someone immediately with your sizzle. Catherine will give you all the tools you need to make your unscripted pitch sing. "After working in unscripted selling to mostly all major networks, I'll help give you the insight into what it takes to pitch a winning unscripted idea that will get sold." - Catherine Keithley
Using the principles learned in the Breakdown Webcast: Breaking the 4th Wall, this month members were challenged to write a short scene in which the character(s) break the fourth wall to drive the plot forward, reveal character and deliver exposition. As part of the webcast, Jason turns the microphone over to the writers to read their projects aloud for the other members in the group.
Learn directly from Amanda Toye, a producer who developed over 100 drama, comedy, and reality projects to network and cable! Many filmmakers and writers struggle with the question of whether to relocate to Los Angeles or New York to build their careers. But for many, the realities of that are very difficult with money, family, other jobs, and roots already formed in another home. For international filmmakers, it can be an even more difficult transition. The good news is that because of the shifting landscape of the Hollywood system, it has never been more accessible from anywhere in the world. The expanding of a global marketplace, and the door opening opportunities of the digital revolution have made it possible for anyone to become noticed by Hollywood and share their work with an appreciative audience. In this lecture we’ll cover everything you need to know to get noticed, and begin building the kind of career you weren’t sure you could have without making the sacrifice of moving to Hollywood. Having worked with International Studios evaluating and discovering content creators from all over the world, and specializing in bridging the gap between innovative digital practices of development, distribution, fan development and Hollywood, Amanda Toye has worked with filmmaker, writers, and content creators from all over the world from her office in Los Angeles. She currently splits her time between San Jose, Costa Rica and Los Angeles.
Join Nick and Allen for the Writers' Room Year-End Webcast where we celebrate all things Film, TV and Screenwriting from 2018 and look forward to making 2019 the best year for your writing ever!