Writing the Cinematic Protagonist: How to Create Memorable, Multi-Dimensional Lead Characters

Hosted by Tyler Ruggeri

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Tyler Ruggeri

Webinar hosted by: Tyler Ruggeri

Writer/Story Consultant

Tyler Ruggeri is a writer with over a decade of experience on both sides of the entertainment industry. His original screenplay The Making Of Rock Hudson sold to veteran producers Celine Rattray (The Kids Are Alright, Bernie) and Trudie Styler (Moon) of Maven Pictures. He is currently adapting a critically acclaimed non-fiction book and writing an original action drama. Prior to his writing career, Tyler was a talent manager at Exile Entertainment, where he represented screenwriters and directors while developing the company’s slate of projects. He signed emerging filmmakers including Lee Patterson (Nicholl Fellowship winner for Snatched) and Damien Chazelle, whose film Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) and won three, as well as the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to Whiplash, scripts he developed with clients have sold to A-list producers/financiers, appeared on the annual Black List, and garnered industry attention and assignments from major studios. Apart from screenwriting, Tyler has written advertising and web content for companies such as Baseline, AwesomenessTV, and Tool of North America. He has also served as a development consultant for independent shorts and features. His expertise ranges from story analysis and adaptation to rights issues and Writers Guild arbitrations, with a focus on shaping both the project itself and the writer's individual voice. Tyler is a graduate of Emerson College and began his career in the development/acquisitions department of Focus Features, following dual internships at DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Quick, name your 5 favorite movies of all time. Chances are they are all encompass different genres and various worlds and journeys. But likely, they all have one thing in common:  A memorable and multi-dimensional protagonist. Writing lead characters can be tricky. They're usually the first character that comes to mind when we're crafting our story. As such, we tend to have definitive, even strict, ideas of how that character will dress, how he or she will behave, and even what happens to them along the way. As such, many writers end up crafting their leads as rigid and one-dimensional. As a result, their lead character becomes passive and the supporting characters end up being much more proactive and interesting. Writing a truly memorable lead character takes a full understanding of your character's wants, needs, obstacles, flaws and much more. It means digging into the psychology of your lead before you begin writing so that you can make wonderful, informed discoveries throughout the writing process.

With a constant parade of franchise sequels, remakes, and reboots, it’s become harder than ever to create a unique and nuanced lead that audiences feel they haven’t seen before. And in a marketplace crowded with more of the same, it’s never been more essential (and potentially lucrative) for screenwriters to set their work apart. In addition, with the explosion of content being created for the streaming platforms, it's more important than ever, no matter whether you're writing features or TV, that you be able to create lead characters that development execs, producers, showrunners, and financiers can't deny and want to follow into fire. That uniqueness in voice and vision is getting writers signed, sold, staffed, and more and more work than ever before. So how can writers create characters that appeal to a wide audience without sacrificing the very qualities that make them singular?

Tyler Ruggeri is a writer with over a decade of experience on both sides of the entertainment industry. His original screenplay The Making Of Rock Hudson sold to veteran producers Celine Rattray (The Kids Are Alright, Bernie) and Trudie Styler (Moon) of Maven Pictures. He is currently adapting a critically acclaimed non-fiction book and writing an original action drama. Prior to his writing career, Tyler was a talent manager at Exile Entertainment, where he represented screenwriters and directors while developing the company’s slate of projects. He signed emerging filmmakers including Lee Patterson (Nicholl Fellowship winner for Snatched) and Damien Chazelle, whose film Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) and won three, as well as the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to Whiplash, scripts he developed with clients have sold to A-list producers/financiers and garnered industry attention and assignments from major studios. Tyler has read thousands of screenplays and knows first hand what makes a memorable and multi-dimensional protagonist.

And now for the 2nd time, exclusively for Stage 32, Tyler is back to teach you how to write interesting and complicated characters that audiences can root for without sacrificing depth. Tyler will focus on studying (and deconstructing) the building blocks of movie protagonists in a straightforward, fun, and easy to digest format. He’ll discuss character in a macro-level approach while zeroing in on recent examples from popular films. He will teach you about making meaningful choices for your characters and how you can't be afraid to make the tough choice. He will delve into your characters wants, needs, and goals. He will discuss whether you lead character needs to be likable. He will teach you all the rules of writing characters and show you how you can break those rules to stand out from the crowd and make an exec turn pages. He will teach you all the tips and tricks of character building that he's learned over the last 10+ years of working with writers and reading scripts. He'll even discuss writer's block - if there is such a thing - and how to get beyond it all and keep writing. In short, he will teach you everything to have your lead characters jumping from the page and pulling the reader along for his or her journey.

 

 

 

"Tyler is an extremely articulate presenter. It really helped to have such specific information about how a character can be multi-dimensional. I already see the issues with my protagonist and can't wait to get it all fixed!"

- Becca B.

 

"I took pages and pages of notes, thank you! Very well delivered, Tyler clearly had a vast knowledge of the subject. I really enjoyed it!"

- Natalie E.

 

"Thank you for bringing Tyler back. One of my favorite Stage 32 educators! This seemed like a week's worth of material delivered concisely and deliberately. I'm so grateful!

- Bob K.

What You'll Learn

  • What Do We Mean When we Talk about Character?
    • Understanding character as both a person and their environment.
  • Everything in Your Script is a Choice
    • How to make the right choices to present a realistic and definitive protagonist.
  • What Does Your Character Want?
    • Externalizing your character’s inner feelings and goals to make them relatable to viewers.
  • Do Characters Have to be Likable?
    • What is “likable” anyway?
    • How “rooting for” a character doesn’t mean what you think it does.
  • What it Means for a Character to be “Unlikable” (and How to Avoid This Note)
    • How an unlikable character can actually be an asset to your script.
  • Knowing the Rules so you Can Break Them
    • Screenwriting books/blogs/manuals – helpful or harmful?
    • Becoming an avid consumer of what you want to create.
  • The “Stakes”
    • Development execs always talk about stakes, but what are they?
    • Is an antagonist necessary?
    • Figuring out what’s holding your character back.
  • Peeling Back the Layers of Your Character
    • Structuring your story so we learn more about the protagonist as it goes on.
  • Tricks of the Trade
    • Tips, shortcuts, and other ways to harness your character.
  • Finding out What Kind of Writer You Are
    • Discover how you specifically approach your characters.
  • Avoid Writer’s Block
    • Is writer’s block real?
    • How not to get stuck when mapping out your lead’s journey.
  • Integrating Themes
    • Understanding that WHO your story is about dictates WHAT it’s about.
    • Writing specific characters with universal traits
  • Q&A with Tyler

About Your Instructor

Tyler Ruggeri is a writer with over a decade of experience on both sides of the entertainment industry. His original screenplay The Making Of Rock Hudson sold to veteran producers Celine Rattray (The Kids Are Alright, Bernie) and Trudie Styler (Moon) of Maven Pictures. He is currently adapting a critically acclaimed non-fiction book and writing an original action drama.

Prior to his writing career, Tyler was a talent manager at Exile Entertainment, where he represented screenwriters and directors while developing the company’s slate of projects. He signed emerging filmmakers including Lee Patterson (Nicholl Fellowship winner for Snatched) and Damien Chazelle, whose film Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) and won three, as well as the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to Whiplash, scripts he developed with clients have sold to A-list producers/financiers, appeared on the annual Black List, and garnered industry attention and assignments from major studios.

Apart from screenwriting, Tyler has written advertising and web content for companies such as Baseline, AwesomenessTV, and Tool of North America. He has also served as a development consultant for independent shorts and features. His expertise ranges from story analysis and adaptation to rights issues and Writers Guild arbitrations, with a focus on shaping both the project itself and the writer's individual voice.

Tyler is a graduate of Emerson College and began his career in the development/acquisitions department of Focus Features, following dual internships at DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures.

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Testimonials

"I took pages and pages of notes, thank you! Very well delivered, the lecturer had clearly a vast knowledge of the subject. I really enjoyed it!" - Natalie Ekberg

"Extremely articulate presenter. It really helped to have such specific information about how a character can be multi-dimensional." - Becca Boyd

"I took Tyler's class on writing a true story, and I found him to be the most knowledgeable and helpful on the topic of any other courses I heard on the subject, and very compelling to listen to and learn from. He represents the material strongly and in a way that can be digested for the listener. I found him to be a good teacher on the subjects he knows so well, which is not always easy to find. And on top of it all, he is very approachable and responsive after the class if you have any further questions. Whatever classes he offers, I will definitely be attending." – Anthony Buono

"I took Tyler's class on writing a true story, and I found him to be the most knowledgeable and helpful on the topic of any other courses I heard on the subject, and very compelling to listen to and learn from. He represents the material strongly and in a way that can be digested for the listener. I found him to be a good teacher on the subjects he knows so well, which is not always easy to find. And on top of it all, he is very approachable and responsive after the class if you have any further questions. Whatever classes he offers, I will definitely be attending." – Anthony Buono

"Recently I asked Tyler to help develop a short script I'd been working on. Tyler's experience with story and structure were invaluable, while his eye to producing and the practical aspects of filmmaking kept things firmly grounded. This in addition to a creative mind and collaborative style that really worked for me." - Tim Immordino, Producer

"I took Tyler’s class to have a clearer understanding of developing biopics. Not only did it give me a better understanding, it also gave me tools to help communicate much easier with the writers I’m currently developing true stories with." - Angie Lee Cobbs, Producer (Untitled Dinah Washington Project)

Questions?

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

  • I took pages and pages of notes, thank you! Very well delivered, the lecturer had clearly a vast knowledge of the subject. I really enjoyed it!
  • Extremely articulate presenter. It really helped to have such specific information about how a character can be multi-dimensional.

Other education that may be of interest to you:

The Keys to Writing True Stories, Biopics, and Adaptations

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Feature Writing Workshop: What’s Next For Your Script?

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It's not an understatement to say that the decisions made during the casting of your film, short film, TV pilot, or short form digital content can make or break or break your project. Being able to cast a wide enough net to assure that you see enough actors so you can choose those who fit the vision and tone of the material is paramount. But not all filmmakers and producers have that kind of reach. Further, they don't have the connections and experience to not only cast that wide net, but also bring in familiar and experienced talent that can accelerate this aspect of the pre-production process while saving valuable time, resources, and, most importantly, money. But for many, identifying and engaging casting directors of value is a challenging process. And for that reason alone, many filmmakers and producers handle the casting calls, the auditions and the decisions to hire their actors on their own. Often, that's a fatal mistake. Finding the right actors for your film does not have to be difficult. Neither does interviewing and, eventually hiring a casting director. The fact is, casting directors are plugged in to the most experienced and the best up and coming talent. Further, they know what to look for in the room during the audition process. What questions to ask. What signs to look for. And what red flags may be readily visible to them that you might overlook. While many filmmakers and producers believe they can't afford a casting director, they don't have the information and knowledge to truly know. Experienced filmmakers and producers know they have to include a casting director in their budget. And they also know that they can secure one without breaking the bank while bringing enormous value to their project. Over the course of her stellar and prestigious career, Casting Director Erica S. Bream (CSA) has had the opportunity to work on a myriad of projects across all platforms. A few of these titles include TV series such as ALTERED CARBON, COLONY, WORKAHOLICS, HOUSE OF LIES, CRIMINAL MINDS, and the upcoming TELL ME YOUR SECRETS, PANDORA as well as numerous TV pilots and miniseries, including Hulu’s 11.22.63, and FULL CIRCLE from DirecTV. She has worked on several feature films including STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS and many indie films, such as the John Legend-produced BREAKING THROUGH. Erica has also worked extensively in the internet and short film worlds, most recently casting award-winning AFI short, RITA MAHTOUBIAN IS NOT A TERRORIST as well as PINKY for Refinery29. She has also ventured back to her first love, theatre, working closely with THE BLANK THEATRE COMPANY and IAMA THEATRE COMPANY in Los Angeles on many main-stage plays, as well as numerous years casting The Blank's prestigious YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Finally, Erica is an Artios Award winner (Casting Society of America) and seven-time nominee for her work in theatre, television and short films. Erica will teach you exactly what a casting director does and lay out in specific detail why you need to hire one and where to find one that can make a difference for your project. She will cover all your questions on budgeting for a casting director and what the expectations should be. She will discuss how to approach casting directors for features, short films, web series, digital shorts and more. She will show you how to secure name talent that can lead to a greenlight. Erica will also take you through the audition process, including live and taped auditions, and call back sessions. She will take you through common mistakes filmmakers and producers make when communicating with casting directors and how to not only avoid them, but what to do instead.   This is a full, immersive deep dive into demystifying all the untruths and misinformation regarding hiring casting directors and how, instead, you can have a CD on your team that can help elevate your material and allow for you to see your vision on screen with actors who can carry that vision forward.   Praise for Erica "I've been listening to the wrong voices. For the longest time I thought it would be impossible to get a casting director to cast my film and also thought it would be ridiculously expensive. My world has completely opened up." - Christina T.   "Now I know exactly why my casting director was the wrong casting director. I won't make the same mistake twice." - Aimee C.   "Drop the mic advice." - Slater M.   "This felt like I was accepted into a secret club. So much information that I have never heard before. Insider kind of information. Thank you, Erica!" - Dina R.

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