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.
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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.
Learn directly from Morgan Long, a coordinator from one of the big six Hollywood agencies in the TV literary department! She'll give you specific insider knowledge of the agency system and what it takes to get their attention. There is a cloud of mystery surrounding one of the biggest and most fundamental components of the Hollywood industry – and that’s the agency. Whether you’re a writer, director, non-writing producer, actor – and the list goes on to cover even the most obscure type of talent imaginable– it’s pretty basic knowledge that representation is necessary to launch your career. In this jam-packed Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, Demystifying the Agency World, Morgan will take you inside the walls of a premier Hollywood agency to shed light on the inner workings of how deals get made, how agents think and ultimately, how you can take steps in your career towards securing the holy grail that is representation. You will leave the webinar knowing: The types of representation The different departments within an agency and how they work together and function independently. The types of jobs for TV clients Identify the players we sell to What sells in the marketplace? What is packaging? An agent's day-to-day What agents want in potential clients (the brutal, honest answer) Finding representation Moving forward without representation.
Your host David H. Lawrence XVII received an overwhelming 100% satisfaction rate from Voicing Commercials - Part 1 and we are thrilled to have him back exclusively for Stage 32 to continue your education with Voicing Commercials - Part 2! Learn directly from David H. Lawrence XVII, VO and screen actor with over 50 film and TV credits, including Heroes, Lost, CSI, How I Met Your Mother, Men In Black III, Iron Man and more! "He certainly knows the business very well, I likes the way he breaks things down , it makes it easy to remember and therefore to apply to our work". - Nicolette M. "This was such an awesome webinar, especially for the price point - I learned a lot that I can take directly to my next auditions." - Stephanie M."Excellent info! Very clearly presented!" - Brad V. "This is information I am in need of and believe it or not, it's not taught by all coaches I have met. Please do more!" - Steve L. In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, you will continue your education on the most common category of voice over auditions and performance: radio and TV (and now web!) commercial copy. Using what you learned in Voicing Commercials - Part 1 about auditions, equipment and slating, you will dive into the structure of copy, looking at lists, setups, payoffs, dialogue reads, and endings. This webinar will round out your education on how to connect with a listening and viewing audience on a visceral level, taking your execution of commercial VO to a deeper and more satisfying level! You Will Leave This Webinar Knowing: How to keep your sentences tightly woven. How to perform excellent dialogue and couple reads. What are voicing lists and how to use them? Setups and payoffs in commercial VO. When to start acting and when to stop. Endings - conclusions, questions and wistfulness Plus much, much more! After a 30 year career in radio, your host David H. Lawrence XVII moved to television, and has been seen (and heard) on ABC's epic series Lost, CBS' legendary CSI, How I Met Your Mother, The Mentalist and military thriller The Unit, NBC's spy comedy Chuck, Good Luck Charlie and ANT Farm on Disney, Bella and the Bulldogs on Nickelodeon, Touch and The Finder on FOX, and is best known as the creepy evil puppet master Eric Doyle on NBC's smash hit Heroes. His film career includes on-camera and VO work on Men in Black III, Pizza Man, The Changeling, The Hulk, Iron Man, Percy Jackson, Unstoppable, Too Big to Fail, A Special Relationship and countless others. Lawrence has also voiced over 100 audiobooks. He is one of the top VO actors and instructors in the business, and we are thrilled to have him back to teach with Stage 32!
Every year tens of thousands of filmmakers go out to market or submit to festivals with the hope of getting their films distributed, only to learn that by not taking the proper steps to deliver a cleared film, they're dead in the water. In a recent survey in a popular filmmaking magazine, over 40% of filmmakers had never heard of clearances and 75% didn't know how to go about clearing their film. Managing clearances ahead of time can save you huge headaches down the road. Not only will you allow yourself the best chance to secure a sales agent and/or distribution for your film or project, but you will protect yourself legally! The last thing anyone wants after all the time and effort it takes to make a film is to find out it's being held up by expensive legal issues. The truth of the matter is, understanding and working through the issues associated with clearances is not as difficult as it sounds. It does however require knowledge, focus and discipline. It requires someone keeping an eye on the entire shoot and that begins with a script breakdown report and continues throughout production. To teach this all important webinar, we're bringing you two times the knowledge! First, Stephanie Weier is the CEO/Founder of The Domain Group. Holding a passion for filmmaking, branding and legal compliance, Stephanie has worked on building The Domain Group to be a leader in the industry with 20 years of service working for studios, indie producers, game companies, web content and commercials. Founding the company in 2001, Stephanie has lead The Domain Group to having completed over 1000 films in 15 years. She holds a EJD in Contract and IP Law from Concord Law University. Lori Dalton is the President of The Domain Group and is one of the most comprehensive and detailed clearance analysts in the industry. Her project management ability has helped position The Domain Group as both a clearance house and branding company. Combined, Stephanie and Lori have over 40 years of experience. Their company has over 1,000 credits including Happy Death Day, Breaking Bad, Crazy, Stupid, Love (Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell), Blue Valentine (Ryan gosling, Michelle Williams) Edge of Darkness (Mel Gibson) Gimmie Shelter (Vanessa hudgens) and Ray (Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington) to name a few! Together, Stephanie and Lori will lead you through the land of clearances, so you can concentrate on making the film you want to make without worry! Stephanie and Lori will teach you how to make sure your delivered project is a rockstar with distributors, and why a little more work in this area during pre-production and production can save you lots of time and money down the road. They'll start by showing you the details of a script breakdown report and explain why you need to have one. Then, they'll dive into the world of clearances, big and small so you know exactly how to handle each situation. On the fence about what to clear? They'll explain what you need to clear and what to leave alone. They'll explain what to do if your clearance request is denied. They'll also explain the all important difference between featured use and background use and why the distinction matters more than you think. They will break down title reports and copyright reports and discuss trademark law. And, most importantly, they will show you exactly what you need to do to protect yourself in case you are challenged legally in any way. Don't overlook this all important aspect of the filmmaking and producing process! Lori and Stephanie will have you navigating the world of clearances like a pro and assuring you're protected from the start of pre-production. Praise for Stephanie and Laurie "These women rock!" - Laurie T. "A masterclass. So, so, good!" - Monica H. "This is one of those subjects that prevented me from moving from screenwriting to making my own films. I always worried that I would do something wrong and get sued. No longer. Fantastic information delivered in a fun way." - Michael E. "I had no idea. I should have, but I didn't. Now I do. This was a fantastic webinar on a subject every filmmaker and producer - and probably writer - should understand." - Gary G.
Learn directly from Simon Graham-Clare (Producer) and Ricky Margolis (VP) at Future Films USA (Over 200 films & TV shows financed and produced)! In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, Simon Graham-Clare and Ricky Margolis will demystify global tax incentives and highlight some of the many other factors to take into consideration when looking at different locations. They will look at current example incentives from around the world and also enlighten you on ways these incentives can trigger additional investment into your project. Filmmakers will learn more about international independent film financing and how tax incentives are a key element to the business plan and can open doors to a slew of potential partners, helping to plot a ‘road map’ to production. Writers will learn why they need to be thinking about the locations in which they set their stories, and how it affects the attractiveness of their scripts to producers and financiers. Having a clear understanding of today’s global tax incentives will leave your project looking more professional and further advanced, hopefully increasing your chances to move the project into production. Your hosts Simon Graham-Clare and Ricky Margolis are Producers at Future Films USA, having financed and produced over 200 films and TV shows! The Future Film Group was established in London in 2000 as a film financier, utilizing the expertise of its principals in both the entertainment and business worlds. They quickly established themselves on the UK scene through their involvement in films such as Bend it like Beckham (starring Keira Knightley), The Queen (starring Dame Helen Mirren) and Mrs. Henderson Presents (starring Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins). At Future Films USA, Simon works as a producer, assessing film and television projects that Future Films might board to finance or produce. Ricky works in the role of Development Executive, continuing his work on the financing side whilst also becoming a more integrated part of the Future Film Group’s production activities.
Learn directly from Rachel Chervin, former Development Department at Broadway Video (Saturday Night Live, Portlandia, Man Seeking Woman), Gersh Agency and Imagine Entertainment! A screenwriting journey of a thousand miles begins with a single page, to paraphrase an old saying. Well, more accurately, ten pages - that's the amount of space a typical writer has to grab the attention of the anonymous, overworked reader that picked their script off a pile for evaluation. If a writer's sample script is excellent enough, the pieces start to fall into place: an entire script read, the writer recommended, the agent's decision to represent, the long and fruitful thousand-mile career. None of it happens, though, if the script never makes it to the agent's desk. But who are these mysterious readers? Who decides which scripts go on to consideration or representation - and maybe one day fame and fortune - while others get a stone-cold pass? It's not exactly who you might think: while the agents and managers of Hollywood excel at their jobs, they only have so much time in the day and most of it is not spent seeking out new talent. That job falls to the Gatekeepers, the assistants and pro readers who tackle stacks of scripts every week hoping to find the diamond in the rough: a script they can confidently recommend. In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, host Rachel Chervin will bring you an insider's perspective on agency submissions and what you can do to maximize the impact of your writing on the unsung decision makers of Hollywood. Rachel will discuss fun and informative strategies for giving yourself the best chance possible to make a lasting impression on everyone who reads your script. There are so many ways that writers can take themselves out of the running with easily avoidable mistakes, but fortunately, there are just as many ways to stand out from the pack and deliver a calling card script that demands recognition. The key, besides great writing, is knowing the Gatekeepers' game plan - and then blowing it out of the water. Rachel Chervin has been on both the buying and selling sides of the business and has extensive experience with what industry executives are really looking for and the language they use to talk about scripts under consideration. She has worked in development for Broadway Video (Saturday Night Live, Portlandia, Man Seeking Woman) in both features and television, working to find and promote up-and-coming comedic voices in the industry. She has previously worked for several years at Imagine Entertainment and the Gersh Agency on several feature films including The Rite (2011) and Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012).