5 Steps to Becoming a Professional Screenwriter

Hosted by Steve Desmond

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Steve Desmond

Webinar hosted by: Steve Desmond

Screenwriter (Warner Bros., Film Nation), Filmmaker

Steve Desmond is one of the screenwriters of the upcoming feature film, A Knock at the Cabin, which comes to theaters this February from Universal Studios and director M. Night Shyamalan. He has a second feature film currently in production at Paramount, which will be released in theaters in 2024. His screenplays have been voted onto the prestigious industry Black List four times, including The Saturday Night Ghost Club, which he is attached to direct with Brad Fuller (A Quiet Place) producing. He sold his sci-fi adventure screenplay, Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers, to Warner Bros in a bidding war, with Oscar-nominated producer Andrew Lazar attached. His short film, Monsters, which he wrote and directed, has amassed over two million views online and screened in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 45 awards. Steve is represented by APA, Entertainment 360, and Ziffren-Brittenham LLP. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

A New Exclusive Webinar!

Learn how to build your screenwriting career from a professional screenwriter who's been exactly where you are and now works with Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros., M. Night Shyamalan, Brad Fuller, Andrew Lazar, and more.

Many screenwriters believe that all they need to kickstart their careers is one script. But the truth is that one script is just the first thing you need.

To be a successful screenwriter in today’s industry, you need to be dedicated, evolving, and able to bounce back from rejection, all while constantly generating new material and networking.

In this exclusive Stage 32 webinar, accomplished screenwriter Steve Desmond will show you what it takes to become a professional screenwriter with the tools he’s learned throughout his career.

Steve has had immense success in his screenwriting career. He co-wrote the upcoming feature A KNOCK AT THE CABIN from Universal Studios and director M. Night Shyamalan, he has another film in production at Paramount, and he sold his script HARRY’S ALL-NIGHT HAMBURGERS to Warner Bros. in a bidding war with Oscar-nominated producer Andrew Lazar attached.

Steve also wrote and directed the short film MONSTERS, which has garnered two million views online, screened at over 100 film festivals, and won 45 awards. He’s also attached to direct his script, THE SATURDAY NIGHT GHOST CLUB, with Brad Fuller (A QUIET PLACE) producing.

In this webinar, Steve will show you how to look at your career and projects in a new way so that you can evaluate yourself critically, build relationships that become long-term collaborators, bounce back when faced with rejection, and more.

If you attend the live webcast, you’ll also have the chance to ask Steve any questions you have about building a career as a screenwriter in today’s industry.

Set up yourself and your goals for the new year by learning from someone who’s built the career you desire. Join Steve for this fantastic webinar and give yourself the gift of this career game plan.

What You'll Learn

 

The Big Picture: Cultivating Your Mindset

  • Do you want to be a hobbyist or a professional?
  • What to be obsessed with and what not to be
  • Training for the marathon – prepare for the long haul

Lesson 1: Goal Setting & Accountability

  • Writing a mission statement and goals for yourself
  • The difference between "result" goals and "process" goals
  • Prioritizing your career over your day job
  • Holding yourself accountable

Lesson 2: The Golden Rule of Project Selection

  • Evaluating your ideas
  • Choosing what to work on next
  • Do you write what you know? Or write what you love?

Lesson 3: Building Relationships

  • Redefining "Networking"
  • "Who You Know" is up to you
  • Meeting more people
  • Staying in touch

Lesson 4: Choosing Your Partners

  • The "Venn Diagram Approach"
  • "The Office" Example
  • The most important partner of all

Lesson 5: The Psychological Journey

  • Handling rejection
  • Keeping your eyes on the prize
  • Staying true to yourself
  • Working smarter, not harder
  • Decompressing

Bonus Lessons

  • Covering your basics
  • Always be learning
  • Staying "in the know"
  • Growing by doing

Q&A with Steve

 

About Your Instructor

Steve Desmond is one of the screenwriters of the upcoming feature film, A Knock at the Cabin, which comes to theaters this February from Universal Studios and director M. Night Shyamalan. He has a second feature film currently in production at Paramount, which will be released in theaters in 2024. His screenplays have been voted onto the prestigious industry Black List four times, including The Saturday Night Ghost Club, which he is attached to direct with Brad Fuller (A Quiet Place) producing. He sold his sci-fi adventure screenplay, Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers, to Warner Bros in a bidding war, with Oscar-nominated producer Andrew Lazar attached. His short film, Monsters, which he wrote and directed, has amassed over two million views online and screened in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 45 awards. Steve is represented by APA, Entertainment 360, and Ziffren-Brittenham LLP.

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Writers: Tips to Handle the "No's" and How to Move Your Career Forward

"No" "Pass" "It's not for me" - What do you do when your script gets passed on by every company you send it to? Screenwriting is extremely hard, especially when it comes to handling rejection. But the reality is, the "no's" are a normal and part of the game. Even professional screenwriters get rejected numerous times a year. This webinar will offer tips and best practices for how to accept rejection, learn from it, and move on. Rejection can actually be empowering, and going through its trenches will ultimately make your scripts stronger and your victories feel that much better. Many aspiring writers let rejection, or the fear of rejection, stop their career before it even starts. Far too many writers quit after one or two scripts that didn’t sell. Even worse, many would-be writers don't even finish a script because they are afraid that it will never find success. Don't let that happen to you.  Unless you’re a prodigy, rejection is something you will encounter over and over and over again, even if you become a working writer. But there are ways to prepare yourself for it, and use it as a teaching device to help you become better at what you love. The reality is, you can’t control if someone doesn’t like your work. But you can control how you react to rejection, and how you choose to move forward.   ABOUT YOUR STAGE 32 EDUCATOR It took Steve Desmond 17 screenplays to become a full time working screenwriter. He didn't give up and neither should you. Steve has landed on the industry Black List four times and worked with major production companies and studios including Fuller Media (A QUIET PLACE), Warner Bros, Legendary Pictures, Blumhouse, and Mandalay Pictures, and more. FilmNation (PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, ARRIVAL) hired him to adapt the Stoker-award-winning horror novel THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD, and he's co-writing a project at Paramount with Wes Ball (THE TIME RUNNER) attached to direct. His short film, MONSTERS, which he wrote and directed, has amassed over two million views online and screened in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 45 awards. Steve believes that going through these trenches ultimately makes your script stronger and your victories even better. In this empowering webinar he'll prepare you for it so that you become better at what you love by showing you: The different kinds of rejection, including "no," no response, and the toxic response How to use rejection to make your script better The feedback process and finding trusted readers Defeating self-rejection How to get your script out there Understanding gatekeepers and how to get past them Tracking your submission progress while celebrating the wins Juggling multiple projects so you're always moving forward And so much more! You can't control if someone doesn't like your work. But you can control how you react to rejection and use it to your advantage.     "Before hearing from Steve, I would take months off between scripts if I got a really mean rejection because I couldn't handle it. Now, I'm always working on something new. If they don't want my script. No problem, someone else will or I'll make it myself!" - Emilio S.     

Subtext – How to Add Layers to Your Story and Characters

You’re a writer who is struggling with crafting believable dialogue. You’re a director looking for the greater meaning in a scene. You’re an actor trying to connect with what a character is feeling. Subtext is the backbone of emotion in any story, regardless of what genre you’re working in. It also helps to separate great scripts from not so great scripts. In this Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, filmmaker Steve Desmond will help you to craft engaging subtext to layer your stories with nuance and emotion. Whether you’re going for laughs, drama, or impending fear, he’ll help you to make your screenplay feel more true to life. For directors or actors working with existing scripts, this webinar will help you to dig deeper below the surface to find the true lifeblood beneath a line. For producers, we’ll discuss tips on how to work with writers to make their subtext come alive. Whether you’re a writer, a director, an actor, or a producer, subtext is a major part of your game and this webinar will help you add an entirely new layer to your projects.

Outlining Your Script to Find Your Story

Outlining isn’t for everyone. But if you find yourself struggling with where to begin, or getting stuck in the middle of a draft, or if the concept of writing a full screenplay just feels too daunting, then an effective outline can help make the process easier. An outline helps you to dive into your story before you begin writing, so that you can craft a plan for turning your vision into a reality. If your screenplay is a house, the outline is the architectural blueprint. Mastering outlining can elevate your next project to new heights and convince more people to take notice in your story. It happens to everyone: You have an idea that you’re passionate about and leap into writing page one. But eventually, that initial spark wears off and it’s a struggle to figure out what to write next. Outlining is a great way to curate your ideas into a game plan so you can hold on to that spark. But in order to have a successful plan and structure for your screenplay, it’s crucial to know not only how to outline, but to read what that outline is telling you about your story. Let’s take a closer look. Steve Desmond is a WGA screenwriter whose screenplays have been voted onto the prestigious industry Black List four times in the past five years, including in 2020 with his latest script, The Saturday Night Ghost Club. He sold his sci-fi adventure screenplay, Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers, to Warner Bros in a bidding war, with an Oscar nominated producer attached. FilmNation (Arrival, The King’s Speech) hired him to adapt the Stoker-award-winning horror novel The Cabin at the End of the World. He’s also been hired to work on projects for Legendary Pictures, Sony, Blumhouse, and Mandalay, amongst others. In honing his craft as a writer, Steve has leaned heavily on the art of outlining and has used it to find success for his work. Steve will provide tips and best practices for outlining to help you better prepare for writing your script and zero in on your project’s story and structure. He’ll explain the positives and negatives of outlining and how to find the outlining approach that’s best for you. He’ll also discuss how best to research and the benefits of creating a notes document. Steve will delve into ironing out your premise, focusing in on theme and tone, and building out characters. He will talk about three act structure and his own “build the bridge” method for outlining. Finally he’ll discuss next steps after you finish your first go at the outline. Expect to leave with strategies and ideas you can take back with you to better organize and attack your own script.     Praise for Steve's Previous Stage 32 Webinars:   "This was fantastic. Steve offered so much insight, dozens of little nuggets that rang true or gave me pause to think of something I'd never considered before."-Ed K. "Perfectly laid out, clear and concise material taught by a genial host!"-George P. "Steve was fantastic. His examples and insights were on point. Thanks!"-Adam H. "I made 3 pages of notes; good pertinent topics with simple fundamental answers presented. Very helpful, worth the time and fee."-Thomas W.

How To Use Crowdfunding To Turn Your Film Project Into A Reality

Learn directly from Steve Desmond, a filmmaker and screenwriter who completed a successful crowdfunding campaign and nearly doubled his initial raise! Steve has also worked on projects with Imagine Entertainment, Dreamworks Animation, The Disney Chanel, Level 1 Entertainment, Blacklight Transmedia, Preferred Film & TV and The Walt Becker Company! You have a great idea for a feature film, documentary, or short film. You’re tired of just writing stuff and want to make your dream project into a reality. But you don’t have the money to do it… Yet. In this exclusive Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, filmmaker and screenwriter Steve Desmond will help you build a killer crowdfunding plan so that you can raise the funds to get your dream project off the ground. Steve recently ran his own campaign to fund his short film on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $16K. He not only hit his goal, but blew by it raising a total of nearly $30K and his film is now in post-production! From his own experience, he’ll teach you how to craft a compelling pitch, build an online audience, and maximize your project’s potential. He’ll also go over the pros and cons of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other major crowdfunding sites, so that you can pick the one that’s best for you. From making your pitch video to writing the perfect funding email to marketing your project across all social networks, this will be a one-stop shop for how to successfully crowdfund your film.

How to Better Rewrite and Polish Your Feature Screenplay or Pilot

Congratulations – you’ve finished your first draft! But now comes the real work. The old adage goes that ‘writing is rewriting’ and that is absolutely true in film and television. A big part of screenwriting is learning how to receive feedback and how to implement it. Most professional writers go through numerous drafts and rounds of feedback before taking their scripts to the market. Just think about the first time you tried anything new – a new instrument, a new workout program, or a new screenplay. Unless you’re a natural, your first attempt isn’t usually your best. It’s the practice – or in this case, the rewriting – that helps you get better and will allow you to create something truly special. Too many aspiring writers think the hard work is over after the first draft. A first draft is a milestone accomplishment, but ultimately just one rung up the bigger ladder. But rewriting and polishing is not always an intuitive process – it’s hard to determine what to change or how much to change it. A big part of rewriting or polishing is learning how to listen to others, and realizing that even a solo screenplay can become a collaborative process. Steve Desmond is a WGA screenwriter whose screenplays have been voted onto the prestigious industry Black List four times in the past five years, including in 2020 with his latest script, The Saturday Night Ghost Club. He sold his sci-fi adventure screenplay, Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers, to Warner Bros in a bidding war, with an Oscar nominated producer attached. FilmNation (Arrival, The King’s Speech) hired him to adapt the Stoker-award-winning horror novel The Cabin at the End of the World. He’s also been hired to work on projects for Legendary Pictures, Sony, Blumhouse, Mandalay, and IM Global, amongst others. His short film, Monsters, that he wrote and directed, has amassed over two million views online and screened in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 45 awards. Steve has found his voice as a sought-after screenwriter by mastering the art of the rewrite and his excited to share what he knows with the Stage 32 community. Exclusively for Stage 32, Steve will give an in-depth and practical deep dive of the art of rewriting and polishing that you can take back to your own screenplay or pilot. Steve will share how best to utilize feedback and explain the difference between a rewrite and a polish. He will go through the psychological components of rewriting and show you how to make an effective plan to go through the rewrite process, and then how best to execute it. Next Steve will talk about how to actually trim your script by focusing on scenes and characters and how to work with producers and executives, including how to receive notes and maintain communication. He will then give you tools you can use to determine when you’re actually done. Expect to walk away with a slew of tools and ideas you can use to rewrite your own project and make it the best it can be.   Praise for Steve's Previous Stage 32 Webinars:   "This was fantastic. Steve offered so much insight, dozens of little nuggets that rang true or gave me pause to think of something I'd never considered before."-Ed K. "Perfectly laid out, clear and concise material taught by a genial host!"-George P. "Steve was fantastic. His examples and insights were on point. Thanks!"-Adam H. "I made 3 pages of notes; good pertinent topics with simple fundamental answers presented. Very helpful, worth the time and fee."-Thomas W.

First Impressions: How to Create Memorable Character Intros - Includes Case Studies

You only get one chance to make a first impression… And the same goes for your characters in your scripts. A compelling character introduction can hook a reader instantly so they climb aboard for the rest of your story. So many people talk about how a screenplay needs to grab a reader within the first five pages – let's dive in to how you grab them and keep them turning pages.   Includes real world examples from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, WHIPLASH, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and BREAKING BAD. If we don’t care about the characters, we won’t be invested in the story. Far too often, we’re so eager to get into our script’s plot, that we don’t give our characters the attention they need. Ultimately, a character doesn’t have to be likeable, or even relatable, but they do need to be captivating. If you’ve ever received a note like, “I don’t like your protagonist,” or “I’m not sure what the character wants,” or “the characters felt one-dimensional,” or “the story took a while to get going,” then this is the webinar for you. Steve Desmond is a screenwriter who works across a variety of genres. His sci-fi adventure screenplay, HARRY'S ALL NIGHT HAMBURGERS, was sold to Warner Bros in a bidding war and now has an Oscar nominated producer attached. FilmNation (ARRIVAL, THE KINGS SPEECH) hired him to adapt the Stoker-award-winning horror novel THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD. His short film, MONSTERS, which he wrote and directed, has amassed over one million views online and screened in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 45 awards including being a winning film in the Stage 32 4th Annual Short Film Contest. Steve will focus on different methods to introduce your protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters in your projects. By using both real life examples and case studies in film and TV, he’ll help you tailor your thinking to “character first, plot second.” Whether your characters are larger than life heroes, cruel villains, or average Joe’s and Jane’s, he’ll give you tips to help them leap off the page from the first time that we meet them. Steve will not only dive into your main characters, but supporting characters including your villains. He will also go deeper into how to create suspense, setting up opposites for your characters, and establishing contrasting needs. Finally, Steve will illustrate everything he's gone over with real world examples from films and shows such as PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, WHIPLASH, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and BREAKING BAD.   Praise for Steve's Stage 32 Webinar "This was fantastic. Steve offered so much insight, dozens of little nuggets that rang true or gave me pause to think of something I'd never considered before."-Ed K."Perfectly laid out, clear and concise material taught by a genial host!"-George P."Steve was fantastic. His examples and insights were on point. Thanks!"-Adam H."I made 3 pages of notes; good pertinent topics with simple fundamental answers presented. Very helpful, worth the time and fee."-Thomas W.

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