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.

FAQs

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! 

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

If there has been one genre that has stood the test of time throughout the history of the film industry, it's the biopic. True stories about interesting people and events are always in vogue. Studios, indie production companies and the streamers love them because they draw big audiences and awards recognition. Actors love them because it gives them something meaty to chew on and increases their odds for awards success. Many a writer has broken through by writing a screenplay based on true events. And right now, especially with the streamers upping their game, the genre has never been hotter. But to write a killer, non-rote biopic, you need to understand where to find your material, how to secure it, and then how to best tell your version of the story so that it attracts representatives, producers, financiers, and talent. The last 10 years has seen a biopic renaissance. The Social Network, Wolf of Wall Street, The Imitation Game, 12 Years a Slave, The Theory of Everything, Bohemian Rhapsody, American Sniper, The Two Popes, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The King's Speech, Dolemite is My Name, The Irishman and Ford Vs. Ferrari all have been nominated or won major awards. And those are just a handful of the biopics that have been distributed either theatrically or digitally over the last decade. And with the streamers going full force, the studios looking for the sure thing, and the independent community looking for smaller, unknown stories, the desire for biopic and true story screenplays is only going to grow. Even short form biopics are booming with TV series and limited series based on real people and events all the rage. Tyler Ruggeri is a screenwriter, story consultant, and former literary manager with over a decade of experience on both sides of the entertainment industry. His biopic script The Making of Rock Hudson sold to veteran producers Celine Rattray and Trudie Styler of Maven Pictures. He also adapted the acclaimed non-fiction book Trapped Under the Sea, which led to a series of writing assignments on both original projects and rewrites. He is currently working on a feature for a major studio and developing a limited series. Tyler began his career as a manager at Exile Entertainment, where he represented screenwriters and directors in addition to developing the company’s film/TV slate – among his clients were Academy Award winner Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash). Other projects he developed with clients sold to A-list producers/financiers. With his vast experience, Tyler not only knows the world of writing biopics, but how to find and secure material as well. He will teach you resources to help you find the right material and how to find the right story for you to tell. He'll show you how to secure intellectual property. He will instruct you on the benefits of wiring an original screenplay vs. an adaptation. He will dig deep into the process of how to shape your story, including how to find your way into the story before you start writing so that your opening is an attention grabber. He will teach you how to do research and how you can do the extra legwork to go deeper into the world of your story. He will dive into 4 tips to join fact with fiction and 4 tips on dramatic license and when and how to use it. Tyler will show you how to creative the best character arcs possible including character motivation, behavior, stakes, and how the characters exist in time and place. He will help you uncover themes and make sure those themes are fleshed out to attract the widest audience possible. He will then discuss the market, how to sell, how to cover yourself legally and much, much more.   If you've ever had a passion to tell a story based on a real person or events, Tyler will take you through everything you need to know to secure the IP, protect yourself legally, develop the story, write the screenplay and put yourself in a position to get the material massive attention.     "Legitimately one of the best classes I've ever taken. I've had a story based on a book I've been eyeing forever and didn't know how to go about it. Now I do. What an incredible blueprint to securing, writing, and selling biopics." - Amanda P.   "Outstanding in every way." - Marco G.   "I'm overcome with gratitude. The best." - Danny C.   "I don't think I could be any more inspired." Patricia S.

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

  Week 1: Introduction & Concept/Theme – Every script begins with an idea. I’ll give an intro to the workshop process and discuss the basics of crafting a script with a strong central premise. Week 2: Character – Great scripts revolve around great characters. In this session, we’ll explore how to create compelling, three-dimensional characters that jump off the page and attract talent. Week 3: Plot/Structure – Plotting and structure are among the most difficult elements for any writer to master. We’ll dive into examples and determine how it’s best to craft a strong (but not necessarily conventional) storyline. Week 4: Dialogue & Where to Go From Here – Truthful and natural-sounding dialogue is the secret weapon of any screenplay. We’ll end the workshop by discussing the subtle ways dialogue can improve any script, and writers will determine their plans moving forward. In addition to the scheduled topics, I’ll also speak on general dos and don’ts in the industry, advice on getting representation, and other issues creatives commonly face. Writers are encouraged to participate and ask any questions that would be helpful for their projects or overall career goals.  

The Pitch Tank with Special Guest Actress, Writer, Producer Rachel Paulson

Can you believe this is the last Writers' Room Pitch Tank of 2020? And we couldn't have asked for a better guest than Producer, Actress, and Writer, Rachel Paulson! Rachel is a multi-hyphenate who is the younger sister of Sarah Paulson of “AMERICAN HORROR STORY”and Liz Paulson, the SVP of casting at Fox. Rachel is the star of the series "DATING ZOE", the host of the video series Drink Responsibly with Rachel Paulson, and the co-host of the podcast Gay vs. Straight Bitches with "ONE TREE HILL" alum, Lindsey McKeon. Rachel currently has a YA television series in development based on a true story, with Sarah Paulson attached to produce. During the webcast, Rachel and Jason critiqued pitches including epic Sci-Fi features and series, Drama, Comedy, Family, and more!  Listen to their feedback and be sure to take their suggestions in for your own pitches!   

Introduction to Film and TV Accounting: Setting Up Your Entity, Understanding Tax Implications, Investor Distributions and More

As creators we can get swept away in the excitement of having our film or television project greenlit. Imagining "lights, camera, action", the collaborative process and the excitement of having a successful and profitable project is the reason we pursue a life in film and TV. But, before you step on set and get rolling, you'll need remember that this is, in fact, a business. It's a business with a great deal of money at stake for investors who want to make sure their money is protected. In order to do this, you'll need to understand how to set up your project as an entity and the tax implications involved for you and your investors. It may be the least sexy, but certainly the most crucial component to putting together a film - the accounting process. Someone (or maybe even yourself) has taken a chance on investing in your dream, and that means that investment should be treated with care. Taking the important step of understanding what entity type you should set up and the tax implications that go along with it, will help you avoid major headaches down the road and give you the peace of mind that will allow you to concentrate on making your project the best it can be. Having your project setup correctly from the get go will also help you avoid costly mistakes with investor distributions. And, let's face it, you hope to show that you know the ins and outs and that you can deliver a successful project so your investors will stay with you and invest in your next film or TV project. John Thomas and Kristy Clabaugh are Atlanta based CPAs that specialize in providing services to the film & entertainment industries both abroad and in the US. Kristy also serves on the executive board of directors as Treasurer for both the Georgia Production Partnership and Women in Film & Television Atlanta. Together they have worked on hundreds of film and television projects assisting clients in all stages of project implementation from investor relations, entity structuring, waterfall projections, budgeting, pre-production and development, production accounting to post-production. John and Kristy will teach you the differences between an LLC, Corporation, S-Corporation and Foreign Entity and the common strategies that go along with each. You'll understand the tax effects of your selection and how dividends vs. distributions will work. You'll also learn how to work with tax incentives and financing. And, most importantly, you'll understand how to talk with your investors and what you'll need with K1s, Section 181, money flow, loan-outs and more. They will teach you everything you need to know to set up your entity correctly, protect yourself legally, give your investors the comfort and security that they're money is protected, and that you're in the best position to see a return.     "This is the holy grail! John and Kristy are so knowledgeable about so many things with the business side of the film!" They made this part of the process actually fun!" - Wade N.   "All I can say is wow. I have seen the light and now feel beyond comfortable putting together my next film." - Jennifer L.

How to Make Short-Form Content that Launches, Expands & Accelerates Your Acting Career - with 7 Video Examples

As actors, we're living in a whole new world. Self-audition tapes, online auditions, virtual acting classes...Things have changed tremendously over the last few years and those ahead of the curve are doing everything possible online to win more champions of their work and land more jobs. Many actors have embraced a "control what you can control" mindset. This includes creating short form content as a way to control and film their own material, build up a library of acting samples, and showcase their versatility and talents. The idea of creating and filming your own content, especially for actors accustomed to only being in front of the camera, can be daunting. But seriously, it doesn't have to be. In fact, if you can knock down the mental walls associated with taking the step toward controlling your own content, and thereby your brand and the course of your career, you will find yourself with more freedom and creative inspiration than ever before. And we're here to help you take a sledgehammer to those mental walls and get you moving. Elisha has guest starred on the Emmy nominated/winning shows Better Call Saul, The Newsroom, Mad Men, Southland, Up All Night, The New Normal and CSI:NY and voiced the character of Jimmy Olsen and B'dg on DC Nation Shorts's Tales of Metropolis and Super-Pets. He was also in the highly acclaimed Sundance feature Frank & Lola starring Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots. Elisha is no stranger to creating content to help accelerate his acting career. He got his start writing web-series with his friends from Emerson College, including Downers Grove, which was picked up by Warner Brothers Studio 2.0. Aside from all the roles mentioned above, Elisha's content creation strategy helped him land commercials for Mike's Hard Lemonade, Time Warner Cable, Samsung, Wendy's, McDonald's, Nintendo 3DS and Hanes. In this comprehensive and detail filled webinar, Elisha will teach you how to create short form content to launch, accelerate, and expand your acting career. He will teach you how to identify your career blueprint by asking 2 simple, but important questions. From there, he'll ask you to get real and talk through your true goals so that you know exactly what kind of short form content you'll need to make. He will show you 7 examples of short form content to open your mind, spark your creativity and help you identify the direction you want to take with your content. He will teach you the 3 boxes you need to check to make sure your idea is a great one. He will then dive into how to make cost-efficient content and how not to overthink the process. He'll tell you how to build your team - again, on the quick and cheap. And of great importance, Elisha will teach you where to release your content, assuring that you get not only the biggest audience, but the most concentrated one based on your overall goals.   "Brilliant. In every way, brilliant." - Kim G.   "So f****** inspiring." - Laura P.   "Yes, yes, yes. So tired of giving away my power. Elisha, you're my hero" Samantha K.   "This is a step I've always wanted to take. I've seen my acting friends create content to great success. I just didn't know if I could create content that mattered. Now I do." - Joshua W.   "I'm inspired and ready to rock." - Montell S.

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Learn directly from Producer Michael Wormser, whose online distribution projects have reached over 30 million viewers! Never has there been a more opportune time than now for filmmakers to directly reach a global audience. YouTube has not only provided the mechanics to do so, but also provides the bandwidth, platform, and global audience - all at the low low cost of FREE hundred dollars! Yes, that's right, FREE. Thousands of people across the world are using this platform to earn a living telling their stories, creating content based on their vision and their voice… Now it’s your turn to help carry your message to the masses. Many people create wonderful YouTube channels that go unseen. Stage 32 is here to help make sure that doesn't happen to you! In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, your host Michael Wormser will teach you how you can harness YouTube to create your own network of content for your film and build a massive fan base. Michael will show you brick by brick how you can turn your film into tangible content, culminating that into a functioning channel, and ultimately helping you get to your target goals and have your film reach an audience of millions of viewers. Your host Michael Wormser operates Level 10 Films, a film and digital production company. Prior to that he served as Head of Production at Maker Studios, Executive Producer at BlackboxTV and recently partnered with YouTuber/Actor Joey Graceffa to produce the hit web series Storytellers, which has received over 6 Million views to date. Michael also produced the YouTube Movie Smiley, starring Shane Dawson and Toby Turner, that currently boasts over 30 Million trailer views, and the Hulu series Tease for Fox Television Studios.

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