Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer. Lee has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Selection. It was bought by CBS Films and is currently the #2 romantic drama on Amazon Prime. He is a Sundance Institute Fellow, having attended the Screenwriters' Lab, and his work has appeared on The Black List. In other areas, he has worked as a photo journalist for the Trace and Vice covering urban gun violence. Lee had his first one- man photo show at the Soho House in West Hollywood in June, 2018 and taught a Master Class in screenwriting/directing at Swarthmore College and at Stage 32 in Los Angeles. Full Bio »
Whether we’re talking about a comedy or drama, sci-fi or horror, a film or television series, animated or live action, short-form or long-form, having good characters is essential. There’s no escaping it. Even a script with everything else going for it, if it doesn’t have strong, compelling characters, it’s not going to work. Great characters connect the audience to your world and ground it in humanity. They provide stakes, bolster your plot and keep it moving. It’s therefore crucial to understand what make an effective character and how you can create that in your own project.
Unfortunately there’s not a step-by-step guide to crafting the perfect character. There’s no secret formula and there’s no surefire algorithm. Good characters are complicated and hard to define because so are people. Good characters hold a mirror up to reality and let the audience see themselves or someone else they know in them. And all of that might be fine and good in theory, but what does that actually mean in practice? If you’re a writer how can you create a character who serves as a mirror, who will stick with audiences long after the movie or show ends? And if you’re a producer or director, how can you recognize a great character from a mediocre one through the written word?
Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer who has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Film Festival selection and was later bought by CBS Films. Lee is a Sundance Institute Fellow, and his work has appeared on The Black List. Through his writing career, Lee has spent more time than most considering the art of character and using that to aid his own career, as well as writers he continues to mentor and champion.
Lee will walk you through the power of character and how to create great characters for your own project. He’ll begin by discussing why exactly characters are so vital to story and will teach you the key differences between a TV character and a film character. Next he will give you a brief history of character in storytelling and reveal the one fictional character from history that all other characters draw from. Lee will then discuss the difference between heroes and anti-heroes, as well as help you determine which of your characters is the driver and which are the riders. He’ll then delve into the art of a great antagonist and why an interesting adversary is so crucial to a successful story. Lee will help you frame your story through the clarity of need, both in character and in story. Next Lee will go over the classic Hero’s Journey and slightly re-imagine it for modern times. He will give you strategies and exercises to better understand and develop your own characters, including his “What’s Their God?” and “Changing A Flat Tire” games. He’ll then teach you the concept of revealing character through behavior and hiding character with words. Next Lee will delve into the idea of how your characters fit into your world, including how the environment might change your character. He’ll teach you the Shakespearean approach to character and compare it to the Balzacian approach, and will also discuss the difference between neuroticism and human comedy. Finally Lee will go over the dance between plot and character, illustrating how the two should work with and against each other to create a feedback loop that’s necessary for any great script.
Praise for Lee’s Webinar
“Great insight. Really helped me in moving forward.”
“I really enjoyed Lee's perspective on script writing. The examples he provided were very helpful. I'm very appreciative that he would share his knowledge, some of his techniques and be so generous with his encouragement.”
“Lee had a great way of explaining how to get a feel for the character and why they have the traits they do. Lee did a great job of covering a lot of character related topics which I am glad I have been exposed to.”
Lee Sternthal, Director, Producer & Screenwriter
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!
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. Just ask almost anyone at any coffee shop. However the life of a writer, even the most successful, isn’t always easy. The career path is fraught, unpredictable, and inconsistent. Every writer breaks in (or doesn’t) in different ways, and as a result, there isn’t a singular roadmap for aspiring writers to find the success they’re looking for. That said, having a keen understanding of the industry you’re trying to break into and a wherewithal of potentially helpful steps on your journey is vital in finding your place and advancing in your career. The truth is there’s so much more that goes into being a writer than just writing. Creative chops alone won’t save you. You are creating art for a market and therefore need to understand how the market operates in order to work within it. And while every writer’s career is unique, there are still commonalities and patterns among them and mistakes many have made that you can avoid by learning from them. Lee Sternthal is a screenwriter, director and photographer who has written screenplays for every major studio, including TRON: LEGACY for Disney, as well as scripts for Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson and many others. His film, THE WORDS starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons was an Official Sundance Film Festival selection and was later bought by CBS Films. Lee is a Sundance Institute Fellow, and his work has appeared on The Black List. Through his journey in this industry he has seen it all - the good, the bad and the ugly - and has come to Stage 32 exclusively to tell you about it. Lee will reflect on his own career as a writer, the mistakes he’s made and the successes he’s found, both in the indie space and the studio system, to give you the perspective, lessons learned, and strategies to better navigate your own writing career. He’ll begin by focusing on writers just starting out and will discuss whether new writers need a manager and whether they need an agent. He’ll then talk about the pros and cons of having a writing partner and what to expect if you join forces with someone else. He will discuss Sundance Film Festival and reveal what actually happens if your film gets accepted. Lee will also discuss the insider Hollywood script survey the Black List from and illustrate what happens when your script appears on this list. He’ll then delve into screenwriting services, how they can be helpful, and how they can be harmful. Next Lee will then share his own experiences, both writing for a studio for the Disney film TRON: LEGACY as well as writing for the independent project THE WORDS to give you a sense of what those experiences are like from the inside. He’ll discuss how to know how much you’re able to take on and how to grapple with the doubt and Imposters Syndrome that is incredibly common among writers starting to find success. He’ll then go over the best ways to continue to pay the bills as a new screenwriter. Finally, Lee will give you his insider knowledge of the industry, including how to understand who “The Players” are and how to navigate them, what “The Venues” are and how they operate and how to work different rooms. Praise for Lee’s Webinar: “It was great to hear about all of Lee’s different experiences. I feel like I have a better sense of what to expect and what to do moving forward to keep on writing!” -Dennis G. “Lee was great! This was such an interesting webinar!” -Betty H. “I’m so glad I saw this! Lee has so much knowledge to share.” -Terry C. “Lee definitely answered a lot of big questions I’ve been asking myself about getting into writing, and now I’m excited to take some next steps. Thanks!” -Gwen D.
Sorry, this lab is filled. Keep checking back Stage 32 Education for upcoming labs. Despite the quickly shifting landscape, and the uncertainty much of the entertainment industry is currently facing, there is still no better time to break into television than right now. Shows are continuing to get greenlit and writers are continuing to get staffed. Thanks to streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, HBO Max and others, over 600 shows were greenlit last year and some industry experts are predicting we may see as many as 1,000 television shows greenlit per year by 2025. We’re in the midst of a content gold rush and more people than ever are looking for and buying great ideas and great scripts for their networks and platforms. If you have a great idea for a television show, there is absolutely a path forward, especially if you know how to navigate this new landscape. The opportunities are plentiful and the prospects have never been more exciting, but to get your television project greenlit, there are a few things you need to have down pat. Obviously you need a great idea—not just an idea that’s interesting and unique, but one that can sell. You also need a standout script around that idea, one that reads great and will make network and streamer executives stop, take notice, and want to read more. Yet an idea and a script aren’t enough to get that TV show made. You’ll also need to be able to deliver a convincing and memorable pitch, complete with an outstanding pitch deck and documents, and you need to be able to package your project to be more sellable to your dream network. These elements don’t necessarily go hand in hand, and different skills are necessary to accomplish each, but all are fully attainable and within your grasp, especially the right knowledge and guidance to help get you there. Raquelle David is a Producer and Literary Manager who has sold shows to Netflix, Amazon, Film Nation, eOne, and many others. Her clients have credits including SICARIO, MAD MEN, OUTLANDER, DOWNTON ABBEY, HELL OR HIGH WATER, THE LIBRARIANS, SHAMELESS, and IRON MAN. Raquelle has worked across independent film and television as a producer as well. Her multiple film credits have garnered a number of accolades including nominations for Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Australian Academy Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award and the Screen Producers Australia Award. Raquelle previously worked for Goalpost Pictures, Seven Network, Screen New South Wales in Australia and Rhombus Media in Toronto, Canada, under the tutelage of producer Niv Fichman (THE RED VIOLIN, ENEMY, BLINDNESS). Through her career, Raquelle has helped countless writers pitch their projects or get staffed on shows, and knows better than most what it takes to get a project off the ground and greenlit. In this advanced level and exclusive six-session lab (no more than ten students will be admitted), Raquelle will work directly with you in a class setting and also during one-on-one sessions to help you get your television project off the ground and set up for success. To do so, Raquelle will guide you through selecting a concept—either an original idea or based on existing IP—and getting your TV pilot script ready. She will then help you get your pitch and pitch document ready, and will teach you how best to package your project, including finding a good producer and working with showrunners. Finally, Raquelle will go over how best to protect your IP and ownership and how to work with reps and understand the roles and revenue splits when pitching TV. If you already have a concept or even a completed pilot, Raquelle will use the same tools to help you hone and sharpen your material. Plan to leave this lab with your TV project fleshed out and improved, an effective pitch and pitch document, a plan to properly package the show, and a slew of strategies and tools to hit the ground running and finding success. WHAT TO EXPECT This lab is designed for intermediate writers and producers looking to get their individual television project ready to pitch and sell to networks. This is an in-depth, practical, and detailed lab with one-on-one time with the instructor and significantly more content than a standard 90-minute webinar. ***Only 10 Spots Available. No exceptions*** You will be given exclusive and confidential handouts that will accompany the lessons and that you will be able to hold onto after the lab ends. This lab will consist of six sessions occurring twice weekly for three weeks, each roughly 90 minutes in duration. In addition to the lessons where Raquelle teaches the class, you will have the opportunity to ask her questions during each session as well as multiple chances to speak with her directly about your specific project. 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 TV project development process. To see the full TV project development lab schedule, see below under "What You Will Learn". PLEASE NOTE: This exclusive Stage 32 lab is limited to 10 writers and will be booked on a first come, first served basis. The opportunity to work this closely and for this long with a manager and an expert in the field is an incredibly unique and valuable opportunity. If you are interested, please book quickly. Once the spots are gone, they’re gone for good. Payment plans are available - please contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information Plus! Raquelle will also provide you exclusive, confidential and helpful documents for you to download and use for your own projects including: Option Agreement Shopping Agreement TV Pitch Deck Examples TV Pitch Template TV Pilot Examples Current Network needs (current list of buyers and what they’re looking for) Current POD deals for TV Comprehensive Showrunner list
Learn directly from Scott Stoops, a manager at Benderspink who recently sold a pilot to CBS. Benderspink sold more spec scripts last year than any other management company and are best known for producing The Hangover franchise, The Ring franchise, We’re The Millers, Horrible Bosses 2, among many others! With the recent success of films such as It Follows, Insidious Chapter 3, Poltergeist and The Visit, it is evident that horror is becoming one of the most profitable and exciting genres in the industry. This is because horror films can be made on the cheap and still yield spectacular returns at the box office. Horror doesn’t rely on big IP, superheroes, or movie stars – all horror needs to deliver is a compelling story, told well, packed with plenty of chills and thrills. However, delivering on this is far easier said than done, and many writers miss important story elements that keep their horror scripts dead in the water. In this exclusive Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, Scott Stoops, a manager at Benderspink who is passionate about genre films, will teach you what makes a horror film successful, from developing a marketable and commercial plot, to unique and scary set pieces, to properly structuring and formatting your script to tell the best story possible. You will learn high-level story concepts, tips and tricks to help make your horror script scary and effective, and get an insider perspective on what concepts and types of horror films are currently selling in the marketplace. You will leave this webinar with an understanding of not only how to make your existing scripts stronger, but how to develop and come up with the next big horror hit film!
To see a video sample of the class, see below! 4 part class taught by Nate Matteson, literary manager named one of “Hollywood's New Leaders” by Variety Magazine. No matter if you write comedy, drama, horror or sci fi, every page has to count. It's easy for an executive to get distracted or lose focus if a script doesn't have high enough stakes for the protagonist, and/or the antagonist and secondary characters. One of the biggest reasons for passing we hear from executives are lack of clear or tangible stakes. Learn what it takes to keep the stakes high and keep the executive reading! Stage 32 Happy Writers is excited to bring you the previously-recorded 4 part class:How to Keep the Stakes High in Your Script - Keeping An Executive and Audience Engaged taught by Nate Matteson, literary manager at Gotham Group. Learn straight from the source on what he teaches his clients to keep them working! Here's a sample of what to expect in this exciting Next Level Class: Purchasing gives you access to the previously-recorded live class.Although Nate is no longer reviewing the assignments, we still encourage all listeners to participate!
As a writer, receiving notes on your material may be a difficult part of the process but, ultimately, it's part of your job. And understanding how to deal with and apply those notes to your writing may be your most important job of all. Make no mistake, all writers are precious about their work, and taking notes is never easy, but the sooner you open yourself to receiving and understanding your notes, and the note behind the note, the more likely your work will become tighter and you'll signal that you're a writer that people want to hire and/or pay for your work. Film and television are the ultimate collaborative medium. You write alone (or in a team), but to make the final product, the work of dozens to hundreds of people is required, and they all have a contribution to make. The work is a product to be sold to buyers and an audience, and they get a say in what they want to purchase and consume. Screenwriting is also the ultimate iterative process. No script is ever perfect on the first draft, and scripts evolve and grow even during production itself. So you will be receiving notes – lots and lots and lots of them. Some you will ask for: notes from other writers, professional consultants, managers and agents. Some you will hope for: producers, executives, directors and stars. Some you will agree to: showrunners, studio and network executives. And some will remind you that necessity is the mother of invention: from line producers, casting directors, set dressers, and costume designers. The bottom line is you need to understand what these notes mean and how to execute them when you agree and what to do when you don't. Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive. Anna has set up projects at Sony, 20th Television, EOne, Starz, Amazon, Netflix, Corus, ITV America and more. Anna began her career as a development executive at Nickelodeon, then crossed over to prime-time television working at CBS and ABC in drama development and programming before working in management and establishing herself as a Producer. Anna has been on the giving and receiving end of script notes of literally hundreds of scripts throughout her career. She has developed a strong understanding on the "lingo" of script notes and what the note behind the note means when it comes to your script. Now, you will learn how to dissect the feedback you get on your script from an executive's perspective. Anna will take you through the entire process of receiving notes. She will take away the anxiety of the entire process and teach you how to accept notes with professionalism and grace. She will explain to you who you should be getting notes from and how listening to the wrong voices can set you back. She will teach you what notes you should think about and when you should take a note as gospel. She will explain what notes are worth challenging and which you should absolutely adapt. She will help guide you through what it means when you get notes that go over structure, plot, stakes, character and exposition. She will take you through logic and clarity, cuts, action lines, dialogue and scene notes. And, she'll even go over what you should do if you get vague notes, nit picky notes and when you get suggestions and alternatives. Anna will remove all the fear and apprehension one feels when asking for and receiving notes, giving you a comprehensive guide to reference every time you get notes on your work. You will learn how apply them to tighten your work and put yourself in a position to sell your material and/or get hired!
Ready to make the transition into TV work? Or looking to start your career in TV? Even the best actors can stumble when faced with starting out in a new medium. Especially if your experience or training is mostly in theater, there are key differences between the audition styles. Most actors start with co-star roles, which are often short scenes that can be especially challenging to prepare well. Breaking into TV also requires a strong working knowledge of the business, how to build relationships with casting directors and agents, and how to best market yourself. In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, actors Uma Incrocci and Christian Pedersen will walk you through each step of the TV casting process, from submissions to auditions to producer sessions to bookings. They’ll discuss practical strategies on how to get in the audition room, how to prepare for the room, and how to book the room. They’ll focus on how to tackle a co-star audition – with specific tools and tips on preparing the material, even if you only have one line. They’ll share the tactics they use themselves on how to deal with nerves, how to ace the chit chat in the room, and how to be a smart actor that casting directors will want to call in again and again! They’ll also offer a preview of what to expect on your day on the set. Self-taped auditions are becoming more and more the norm, so they’ll also review how to make a high-quality audition video. After attending over a hundred casting director workshops and classes, going on hundreds of auditions, and booking many TV roles, Uma and Christian offer a unique insider perspective on getting started in TV work.