Steve is a working filmmaker living in Los Angeles. His most recent feature screenplay, HARRY'S ALL-NIGHT HAMBURGERS, was adapted from a Hugo award winning short story and sold to Warner Bros. in one of the year's top spec script bidding wars, with Oscar Nominated Producer Andrew Lazar (AMERICAN SNIPER) producing via his Mad Chance production banner and Ted Melfi directing. He has recently been tapped by Film Nation to adapt THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD, a Harper Collins title from author Paul Tremblay. The psychological horror and suspense novel centers on a vacationing family terrorized by four strangers who claim to be either attempting to bring about or trying to avert the apocalypse. His short film, MONSTERS, has played in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 43 awards including Best Short Film at the Comic-Con International Film Festival in San Diego. It serves as a proof of concept for his feature script, TWISTED AVENUE. His thriller screenplay, ON YOUR DOORSTOP, sold to Treehouse Pictures (ARBITRAGE, ALL IS LOST) in a co-financing situation with Lost City (JUNO). Steve is a Chicago native and graduate of USC Film School. Full Bio »
How To Build Your Suspense From The Ground Up And Craft A Thriller With Earned Twists, Turns and Thrills
If you're paying attention to the trades and seeing which screenplays and projects are being sold and produced, you know that psychological thrillers are highly in demand. With films like Joker, Ma, Escape Room, Glass, Ex Machina, The Invitation, Get Out, Happy Death Day, The First Purge and many more, companies like Blumhouse have propelled the production of thrillers for an audience hungry for suspense and thrills, making creepy, crawly movie-going experiences all the rage. With box office receipts in the billions it's clear that the appetite for psychological stories is raging. And, it's a more exciting time than ever to be able to a screenwriter or filmmaker who has a suspenseful thriller you want to tell. But the art of writing a psychological thriller is one of vulnerable characters, deep secondary characters, memorable set pieces, set ups, reversals, and earned twists and turns. There's a formula to it all, and those who master these skills win the day.
Writing a psychological thriller and creating and maintaining suspense and high stakes throughout takes an immense understanding of the history of the genre. It's a genre based in Hitchcockian roots. One that needs to have certain elements in order to be effective to keep the audience involved, engaged and on the edge of their seat. While most psychological thrillers start off with a well thought out premise, that's all they have. The action starts quickly and then falls flat. In many other cases, the premise is in place, but the writer or filmmaker doesn't know how to get past the jumping off point. You must get your hook in place quickly - within your first five pages - and that takes skill. You need to truly create compelling characters, especially protagonist and your villain, and make them layered in order to support your theme and plot and to assure the audience always knows and is invested in the stakes. To be truly successful at getting your reader's attention, keep those pages turning and set yourself up for an offer of representation, an option, a sale, or financing, you need to understand all of the nuances that make a great suspenseful story before you type (or read) FADE IN.
Steve Desmond is one of the best in the industry today writing suspense and psychological thrillers. His most recent feature screenplay, Harry's All Night Hamburgers, was adapted from a Hugo award winning short story and was one of the highest priced spec sales of the last 5 years, selling to Warner Bros. in a bidding war worth 7 figures. The film now has Oscar Nominated Producer Andrew Lazar (American Sniper) producing via his Mad Chance production banner and Ted Melfi directing. He has recently been tapped by Film Nation to adapt The Cabin at the End of the World, a Harper Collins title from author Paul Tremblay. The psychological horror and suspense novel centers on a vacationing family terrorized by four strangers who claim to be either attempting to bring about or trying to avert the apocalypse. His short film, Monsters, has played in over 100 film festivals worldwide, winning 43 awards including Best Short Film at the Comic-Con International Film Festival in San Diego and was a finalist at Stage 32's 3rd Annual Short Film Program. Steve filmed Monsters to serve as a proof of concept for his feature script, Twisted Avenue which is now in development. Needless to say, thrillers and suspense are in Steve's blood and the focus of all his writing. And now he's bringing all he's learned along the way to you.
Steve will help you build your suspense from the ground up. He'll teach you the ultimate tool you need - the Hitchcock Ticking Clock Method which will help you on your way to setting the vital groundwork for your story. You'll learn how to create a compelling protagonist and an enticing villain. Steve will give you exercises you can use to craft your own characters and give you 5 must have tips on backstory and character confessions to give depth. You'll learn how to hook your reader in the first 5 pages and what the 3 different teasers you can write for your opening. You'll explore the power of murder in your script and the art of a twist ending. He will show you how to craft your script with producers in mind to give yourself the best chance to have your material attractive to the widest audience possible. Steve will go over how you can incorporate visuals into your story and break down case studies of Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. And, finally, Steve will share some advice on how to get your script on the screen by writing it in a producible budget.
You will have a fully immersive experience from a suspense expert that will leave you excited, inspired and confident to tackle your next psychological project.
This webinar was AWESOME!!! I just finished a thriller and now as a result of listening to Steve Desmond, I am ready to do a re-write which I believe will be one of the best screenplays I have ever written. Let's see what happens!
- Michelle C.
What a thrilling and insightful webinar, excellent!!
- Kathleen W.
Super helpful information that you don't find in books!
- Pamela C.
Very useful information - well structured and clearly presented!
- Sara C.
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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.
Writing scenes come naturally to many of us especially when we have an outline of what we are aiming to accomplish. Scenes require us to describe setting, introduce characters, establish tone, and achieve a list of other key elements. We are tasked with making the words in each scene exciting and engaging with a few precious moments - urging the reader to keep turning the page and for the audience to keep watching. The words that we use should guide the reader and allow our voices to shine through our work. Understanding the importance of the words you use is imperative to how well your script ultimately translates to the screen. Scenes are a building block to the narrative of your story. Without well-written scenes, the foundation of your story will crumble. It is important to examine each scene of your story and analyze what ways it can be enhanced so that it really adds to the overarching points you are trying to get across as a writer. This comes with proper execution of infusing your own personality and authentic voice in a way that uniquely connects with your readers. Although this can be difficult, there’s no need to run away from this challenge. We have the tools and resources to help your words spring off the page instead. Steve Desmond is an established award-winning and represented screenwriter who wrote the thriller feature ON YOUR DOORSTEP that sold to Treehouse Pictures which has worked with incredibly talented actors like Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Henry Cavill and he also created the horror feature, TWISTED AVENUE, which made 2015 Hit List honoring the best spec screenplays of the year. His successful portfolio of films continues with his current project, MONSTERS, that won the Comic-Con International Film Festival for Best Horror/Suspense Film and Best Overall Film and has been accepted into over forty film festivals. Steve’s well-renowned success has landed him amazing representation with APA who is connected to partners such as the Global Production Network, The Gotham Group, that produced projects such as THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES and THE MAZE RUNNER franchise, and Eclipse Law Firm which has represented projects like NARCOS, KING KONG, WATCHMEN, and YOUNG ROCK. Steve will instruct you how to effectively craft the scene descriptions of your story to make them truly come to life. After providing you with the critical Do’s and Don’ts when writing scenes, Steve will show you how to guide your reader on an exciting journey, set your tone so that readers can feel the words on the page, and craft character introductions that leave memorable impressions with your audience. He will also discuss directing on the page, rewriting scene descriptions, and the importance of reading scripts. Steve will provide you with several resourceful writing exercises that will help you generate ideas for your own prose writing. You will walk away from this session with your words leaping off the page! Steve is beyond excited to share his tools and expertise with members of the Stage 32 community.
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.
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.
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.
You only get one chance to make a first impression… And the same goes for your characters in your scripts. Think about when you go to a party… Sometimes, you meet a new person that just stands out to you, and you never forget them. Those are the kinds of characters you want to create. A compelling character introduction can hook a reader instantly so that 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. 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 that they need. Ultimately, a character doesn’t have to be likeable, or even relatable, but they do need to be captivating. While a character introduction might only take two or three pages, its ramifications are felt throughout the entire screenplay. It’s the foundation that everything else is built off of. 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 professional WGA screenwriter who works across a variety of genres. He sold his sci-fi adventure screenplay, HARRY'S ALL NIGHT HAMBURGERS, to Warner Bros in a bidding war. The project now has an Oscar nominated producer attached and is in active development. FilmNation (ARRIVAL, THE KINGS 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 write a feature film for Legendary Pictures, and two TV pilots for IM Global. His screenplays have been voted onto the prestigious industry Black List three times in the past four years. His short film, MONSTERS, that 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 to 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. Ultimately, your character introductions can become microcosms for entire arcs and plots. Beyond your main characters, this webinar will also cover bit characters as well, so that each introduction makes a strong impression on the reader. 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.