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
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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.
Whether it’s penning a feature screenplay or finding a staff position on a TV series, many actors have found new and continued success by venturing into writing. And there’s a good reason why. Transitioning from one part of the industry to another can feel daunting. But if you’re an actor, you’re not starting from scratch – you are pivoting. And in order to do so you need to recognize your strengths, utilize your previous acting experience, and build on your established relationships. Most importantly, as an actor, you already have inherent superpowers that will help you excel as a writer. Actors are storytellers so it makes sense that at some point they may want to write their own stories. But will you be taken seriously? Can you move from being in front of the camera to behind the computer screen successfully? You absolutely can. And you don’t have to give up acting in order to do so. Ultimately, you will be able to write, pitch, and produce better because of your previous experience. So let’s hone those skills and get you ready to make that pivot! After starting out her career as an actress, most notably starring as Emily in the cult classic 3 NINJAS, directed by Jon Turteltaub, Kate Sargeant has become an accomplished television writer, working on over 100 episodes of network TV on shows like CASTLE, CSI: CYBER, NCIS: NEW ORLEANS and BLINDSPOT. She has also written, directed, and produced a few of her passion projects including three short films: CHANGING LANES, FACING LIFE, and ANOTHER FOREIGN CONCEPT. In addition, Kate launched an original comedic series that she wrote, directed, and produced called YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON THE INTERNET about our obsession with social media. Most recently Kate served as a Supervising Producer on a one-hour drama for Sony entitled OBLITERATED. Kate just launched a new half-hour comedy series on YouTube entitled VIRTUALLY SINGLE, which she created, wrote, produced, and stars in. Kate has successfully navigated the pivot from acting to writing and is excited to share what she’s learned during this transition. Exclusively for Stage 32, Kate will teach you how you can make the jump from acting to writing, not by starting over, but by using the superpowers you’ve already developed as an actor to take the next step. She’ll explain her own story and how she made the jump herself before explaining how you can do the same. She’ll discuss what it really means to become a writer and will then show you the superpowers you have as an actor that you might not realize that can help you with every element of writing, from dialogue writing to pitching. She’ll discuss specific challenges you’re going to need to face as an actor and will give you tools and strategies to take the first steps towards writing. She’ll finally reveal how you can use your writing to boost your acting career. If you’ve always wanted to write but have never been sure how to make the leap, Kate will give you the tools and inspiration you’ve been looking for
We've brought in producer Bradley Gallo, who's the CCO of Amasia Entertainment. Helmed by the former president of Marvel Studios, Michael Helfant, Amasia has emerged as one of the top production companies in the industry today. Bradley's recent film, Them That Follow, which he produced with Gerard Butler, is an official selection at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. In addition, he's worked on successful films such as Mr. Right (starring Anna Kendrick & Sam Rockwell) and The Call (starring Halle Berry). Over the last decade in the industry Bradley has mastered best practices to get a key director and cast attached to your film and he's going to be sharing his tips exclusively with the Stage 32 community!
During this Executive Hour Webcast, we speak with with Literary Manager Scott Schulman of Schulman Management! Scott was at More/Medavoy Management for four years, representing both talent and literary clients. Prior to More/Medavoy, Schulman worked at A3 Artist Agency as a junior packaging agent. He started his career at Fremantle in business affairs in both scripted and non-scripted television.Scott recently staffed one of his clients on Season 2 of "FBI: MOST WANTED" for CBS. He also manages two upper-level producers on the smash hit "THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY" series for Netflix. During the webcast, Scott discusses how he came to be a literary manager, what writers can be doing to get their material into the market, how to overcome a pass on your material and a lot more!
Putting together a project can be complicated. The amount of information to sift through, from guild requirements and guidelines to union rules and even whether to go union or non-union can be overwhelming, confusing and intimidating. For filmmakers, producers and other creatives looking to control their own content, navigating the guilds and the unions can be so daunting, it pushes back production and/or any forward momentum your project might have. Allow us to help demystify, simplify the guilds and unions landscape and get you on your way to doing what you want to most, making your film, TV or digital project. With independent productions on the rise, it's more important than ever to know how to handle your budget and schedule accordingly, and that begins with understanding which guilds you'll be working with and how to deal with their rules and regulations. It also means understanding the ins and outs of the unions. Buttoning up all of these important variables early will assure that nothing falls through the cracks, your set runs smoothly, and there are no unpleasant surprises once you hit the distribution and collection phases of your project. Rosi Acosta is a Unit Production Manager, DGA, who has worked on over 75 TV and Film projects and over 100 commercials. She is a valued name in Hollywood as a top UPM who's worked on films such as DRIVEN, SPEED KILLS, IMPRISONED and many more. With over three decades of experience, Rosi has worked internationally with production companies from US, Europe, Russia and Latin America. Rosi began as a casting director 32 years ago in Puerto Rico working for director Marcos Zurinaga at Zaga Films where she became one of the top casting directors in the Island. After working as such for a few years, she wanted to expand her horizons in production moving on to work with the most important TV producer in the Island, Gabriel Suau, in Telemundo-Puerto Rico, where she worked for several years in various TV shows and telenovelas. Rosi will begin by giving you a complete, yet simplified look at the guilds and unions. She will pull back the curtain and discuss the ins and outs and pros and cons of working with the labor organizations. Rosi will go over the differences between unions and guilds and help you decide if you should go union or non-union for your project. You will learn the organizations for above the line - WGAW, WGAE, DGA, SAG/AFTRA and PGA, below the line - IATSE, Teamsters and NLRB, as well as other organizations that work closely with them - ATA, AMPTP, MPAA, ASCAP, CSATF, MPSE and more. In addition you'll learn how to become a member of a union or how to become a signatory production. "Rosi, your 30 years of experience shined through today. You broke down this so it's easily understandable and now I know that my production this year will be union!" - Rachel G. "Awesome explanations of the unions, guilds and organizations. Very comprehensive." - Paul F. "You made this so easy to understand. Thanks Rosi!" - Brandon C. "Putting together my first film as a producer almost made my jump off a cliff. I wish I would have seen this first! What a world of difference it would have made. Thank you, Rosi!" -Marlene D.
Payment plans available - contact email@example.com for details 4-PART INTERACTIVE CLASS (OVER 8 HOURS OF EDUCATION) Get feedback from an executive and writer who's worked with Netflix, Disney, and more. Includes Exclusive Handouts Only Available For Those In Justine's Class! Only A Few Spots Remain - Grab Yours Now You have a script that you really believe in and you've managed to get it into the hands of a decision maker to read. Now the script has to do the work for you. Executives, representatives, and script readers typically know how they feel about a script after reading the first 10 pages. If a script doesn't grab a reader in the first 10 pages it risks being tossed aside for the next script on their pile. Your mission is to pen an opening 10 pages that stand out with a dynamic protagonist, the world they exist in, the genre, and the tone. Getting these pages right isn't easy, but we've got you covered. In this exclusive Stage 32 class, you’ll workshop your opening pages with an industry veteran who has worked as both a successful writer and executive so that your script is ready to grab readers and the industry by storm from the very first page. Whether you’re starting a new script or rewriting one you've previously completed, fitting everything into those opening pages is a skill unto itself. So, we've got a mentor for you who understands writers' struggles and executives' needs because she's done both roles. Justine Wentzell-Cheng hosts this interactive class using her strong storytelling skills and deep knowledge of the industry landscape to give you notes. She’ll highlight the crucial elements executives are on the hunt for while elevating the story and characters and show you how to nail these elements at the top for maximum effect. Justine is a former acquisition and co-production executive turned writer and producer. She has read and developed countless scripts, many of which have landed at Netflix, Disney, and other major networks and streaming platforms. Today, she works as a writer, and she currently has multiple scripts in development with broadcasters and production companies. By the end of the class, you will have a top-notch opening sequence for your script that has been workshopped with a professional and you'll have the tools to consistently grab the reader's attention out of the gate in all of your work.