• Michael Chen

Do you think you can tell a story?

Updated: Mar 2

*Update 12 Feb 2020: A good friend of mine, Shern Chong who is also a writer suggested that I should make this post a repository in which I can keep on adding 'tools' to. I think it's a good idea. As I go along, I learn more and since one of the objectives of this post is to share with my peers, I'm going to do just that. Thanks Shern!

I have been trying to tell stories all of my professional life. As an actor or producer in theatre, tv, film and advertising - that's all I've been doing. You are making something out of nothing. Every 'maker' has a toolbox and as you make bigger and better things, your toolbox gets populated with more and evolves over time.


Since July 2019, I started a new company called Iron Hill Media (personal post about it here). The bulk of my work since then has been to work with Directors and Writers to develop ideas into full fledged TV series or movies to be pitched for further funding. I've discovered that the following elements have been immensely useful!


In this post, I'd like to share some of these tools that I've been relying on to 'make'. Maybe it can help you or at the very least, give you something to think about from another angle. As always, this is in no way exhaustive or totally 100% full proof. So, if you have other resources, ideas and comments to share with me : Leave me a comment or DM me, I'm open.


Here we go.


1. Stephen King's memoir 'On Writing'


I picked up Stephen King's memoir 'On Writing' and I found myself going back to the book again and again. I do not even consider myself a fan of his but I know enough about his iconic stories to read this book and understand what he is talking about. If you are serious about writing stories, you should pick up the book and give it a proper read. However, if you are lazy, here is a pretty good post by N.A. Turner from medium.com summarising 12 lessons that he gained from the book.


There is so much more to his book but the most practical part to it for me was when he talked about building your own toolbox, "I want to suggest that to write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then, instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work." - Stephen King. You can buy his book at KinoKuniya here (or search online for other alternatives).


2. StudioBinder

StudioBinder is a production management solution that helps video and photo productions create call sheets, shot lists, shooting schedules, breakdowns, storyboards, moodboards and more - *Description lifted from their YouTube channel's about section.


They've released a whole bunch of free resources. They also created tools and templates that are available to the public. If you want more, you simply purchase their solutions. But here are some of the free stuff that I've found very useful. *Pro-tip : Watch their videos and then download some of their free templates!


Regardless of whether you're trying to create a TV Show or movie, I think watching the videos and using the tools that I'm sharing below, in the order of which I am sharing it (Part A, B, C etc), will give you a good flow of building your approach to making your story a good one.


A. You usually already have a general story in mind. But before you launch into that, figure out your characters.



Grab the FREE Character Development Worksheet 👉 Scroll to the bottom of the page of this link and enter your name + details for the template.


B. Build on your story idea with your fleshed out characters. You can always add or subtract from your character sheet as you see fit.

Have you ever felt like you’re stuck in a creative loop? You start a script, get halfway done, but because you can’t figure out the ending, you abandon it, then start a new one. And then it happens again. And again.


►► Scroll to the bottom of the page of this link and enter your name + details for the template.


C. With a story and strong characters in place, figure out how to tell/sell your story to someone else. What's the logline?


Grab the FREE Logline Formula ►► Scroll to the bottom of the page of this link and enter your name + details for the template.


D. Finally, do you have all the elements that will enable you to present that story you've created to someone else effectively?


Grab Your FREE TV Show Bible Template ►► Scroll to the bottom of the page of this link and enter your name + details for the template.


E. How to write a memorable pilot script?

*Update: 12 Feb 2020 - Once you've created your 'characters' (Part A), 'episodic breakdown for your series' that the Dan Harmon story circle (Part B) helps with as a guide and working on your logline (Part C) at the same time, you should have more than enough to create an effective 'Pitch Bible' (Part D).


Pitching for proper funding for a series can take a while and how to do that is a whole other post that I might get around to doing one day in the future. But ultimately, you can either shoot something as a proof of concept like a shortfilm, teaser trailer and so on OR you can write a pilot script to go along with your pitch.



Grab the FREE Story Structure Worksheet for Your Pilot Script 👉 Scroll to the bottom of the page of this link and enter your name + details for the template.


F. How to pitch?

*Update: 28 Feb 2020 - Once you have done all of the above, you will need to pitch your idea to someone. I like this video as a template to practice my flow of thoughts when pitching an idea. I even use it as a checklist of sorts, when I examine my decks, to see if the deck that I am sending out actually conveys the rationale of why the show is pitch-worthy.


Grab your FREE Pitch Template 👉👉 Scroll to the bottom of the page of this link and enter your name + details for the template.


*StudioBinder's YouTube channel has a tonne of other useful playlists.


3. Other video playlists that I find very useful

Every Frame A Painting : This channel no longer updates with new content but this playlist is awesome.


The whole 'Every Frame A Painting' playlist is here at this link.


The Nerdwriter's "Understanding Art (Case Studies)" is also full of goodies.

Check out the whole list at this link.

That's it from me for some of the basic toolbox of stuff I like to play with when trying to craft stories from scratch. Let me know if you find anything useful in here or even share other 'tools' that you use!


DM me at:

© 2019 by Michael Chen. Proudly created with Wix.com

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