How to Better Rewrite and Polish Your Feature Screenplay or Pilot

Hosted by Steve Desmond

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Steve Desmond

Webinar hosted by: Steve Desmond

Screenwriter (KNOCK AT THE CABIN, TRANSFORMERS ONE), Filmmaker

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. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

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.

What You'll Learn

  • Utilizing Feedback
    • Finding your five trusted readers
    • Preparing questions for your readers
    • The art of listening and ruminating
    • How to keep busy while you wait for feedback
  • Is this a Rewrite or a Polish?
    • Compiling a notes doc
    • Deciding which projects are worth rewriting
  • The Psychological Components of Rewriting
    • How to separate the project from the person
    • Passionate but not precious
  • Redoing Your Homework
    • Finding your theme
    • Redoing your research
  • Making a Plan
    • Making a goals doc
    • The benefits of outlining
    • Allowing your story to take over
  • Executing Your Plan
    • Doing the little things first
    • Using your first act as a test run
  • How to Trim
    • What is the purpose of each scene?
    • What is the purpose of each character?
    • Thinking like an editor
    • Killing your darlings
  • How to Work with Producers and Executives
    • Receiving notes
    • Maintaining communication
  • How to Know When You’re Done
    • How many rounds of feedback should you do?
    • Staying out of the 95-100% zone
  • Case Studies
    • PRETTY WOMAN
    • E.T.
    • FATAL ATTRACTION
    • STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE
  • Q&A with Steve

About Your Instructor

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.

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Other education that may be of interest to you:

How To Network Effectively As A Screenwriter

Learn how to effectively network to improve your career as a screenwriter from Steve Desmond, the screenwriter of M. Night Shyamalan's KNOCK AT THE CABIN and a writer on the upcoming TRANSFORMERS ONE for Paramount Pictures! Plus! You'll receive a query letter template you can use to help you make the most out of networking!   You want to be a professional filmmaker, but how do you make connections to get your foot in the door? We’re all in the business of telling stories, but we’re also in the business of building relationships. Without those relationships, the entertainment industry can seem daunting. So how do you meet new people and make meaningful professional connections? In this webinar, we’ll throw the stereotypical “networking” pretenses aside, and focus on what it takes to begin crafting real partnerships and collaborations, with the hopes of elevating each other’s careers. The old adage holds true - it’s not just about what you know, it’s about who you know too… But who you know is ultimately up to you. This is an industry that is built on relationships. But far too many aspiring filmmakers don’t spend nearly enough time meeting new people and building those relationships. Just like writing, meeting people takes time, effort, and focus. The onus is on you to reach out and stay in touch. It’s not just about meeting people who want to do the same thing as you (i.e. writers meeting other writers). It’s about meeting people that can be helpful to your career, and who you, in turn, can be helpful to theirs. The bottom line is that your chances of success improve exponentially when you combine skill with a network of like-minded colleagues.  In this exclusive Stage 32 webinar, you will learn the skills and tools you need as a screenwriter to network effectively and build and maintain long lasting business relationships to help you shape your career. Teaching you everything you need to know about networking as a screenwriter is Steve Desmond. A longtime member of Stage 32, Steve co-wrote KNOCK AT THE CABIN, which was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and released theatrically by Universal Studios. It opened at # 1 at the box office, and subsequently #1 on VOD on Peacock. Steve is one of the writers on the upcoming Transformers franchise prequel, TRANSFORMERS ONE starring Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth, which will be released in theaters in fall, 2024 by Paramount Pictures. 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, that he wrote and directed, has amassed over two million views online and screened in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 46 awards. Steve is represented by APA and Ziffren-Brittenham LLP. In a information-packed webinar, you will learn how to make the most out of in-person and virtual networking events, how to utilize social media for networking purposes, and strategies to maintain relationships once you make them. Steve will teach you who you should be targeting when networking (hint: it’s all about who can actually buy your script!) and how you can research and get in touch with writers, producers, and reps in an organic way. PLUS! You'll receive a query letter template you can use to help with your own networking! In today’s ever connected world, it is easier than ever to network to improve your career, you just need to know how! Praise for Steve's Stage 32 Teaching "No wonder Steve's career has taken off. It's clear he has a strong sense of how to write and also how to handle the business of the industry. Learned a ton from him." - Anthony M. "Incredibly valuable webinar for everyone to take - not just writers. Networking is a tricky thing that I've never felt comfortable with, but Steve's approach and recommendations honestly make it way less daunting." - Laura L. "It's the well known truth that you have to network to make it in the film industry. But even approaching networking is a hard thing to do. Steve broke it down in a sensical and practical way that I think can work for everyone." - Matt C.  

Outlining Your Script to Find Your Story From The Writer of M. Night Shyamalan's 'Knock At The Cabin'

Learn how to outline your script to make your writing process more effective with a writer of M. Night Shyamalan's film KNOCK AT THE CABIN and the upcoming TRANSFORMERS ONE!   Outlining before writing your script can dramatically help the workflow and quality of your writing process. 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 into M. Night Shyamalan's recent horror hit KNOCK AT THE CABIN. 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 this exclusive Stage 32 on-demand webinar 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. PRAISE FOR STEVE'S TEACHINGS: "Well presented and streamlined webinar. Informative, helpful and well worth the time spent to attend. Great price/value ratio" - Karynne S. "Really useful and well presented. Enjoyed it a lot. Thanks Steve!" - Dee C. "Steve was great I loved the way he presented things and his use of examples was very helpful. I wish I had him on speed dial!" - Rick H. "I thought he was very insightful and forthcoming with his knowledge. Very genuine" - Terry S. "Lots of information presented in a fun and charming way. Good examples which illustrated the points made. Thanks!" - Manina L."Very nicely presented with perfect timing to get across the information. He was organized and loaded with hands on knowledge. Thanks for a great webinar class experience." - J'hon W."Your points were well organized, easy to understand, and you used great examples for everything, which makes a HUGE difference." - Dale L."Really enjoyed this. Got a lot of guidance." - Tiffany M.

How To Write a Killer Psychological Thriller Filled With Twists, Turns & Suspense

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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.

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. PRAISE FOR STEVE'S TEACHINGS: "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.   

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