Linda Seger is a legend when it comes to screenwriting coaching and script consultant. She’s been coaching for over 30 years and pretty much invented the job title. After reading her best-selling book, “Making A Good Script Great” I had to have her on the show.
She’s best known for her method of analyzing movie scripts, which she originally developed as her graduate school dissertation on “What Makes a Great Script.” She founded the script consulting industry, becoming the first entrepreneur who saw script consulting as a business, rather than an offshoot of seminars or books.
Linda Seger has consulted on over 2000 screenplays and over 100 produced films and television shows including Universal Soldier, The Neverending Story II, Luther, The Bridge (miniseries,), etc.
“When I arrived I had an idea. Three days later the idea had become a complete and rich outline. Linda’s warmth, guidance and insight helped me structure my story and discover the layers that made it come alive.” Sergio Umansky
Her clients include Oscar® winning writer and director Peter Jackson, Sony Pictures, and Ray Bradbury. Unlike other screenwriting gurus, Linda Seger is not a screenwriter but has focused exclusively on consulting and teaching.
Linda Seger has written 13 books, 9 of them on screenwriting, including the best-selling Making a Good Script Great, Creating Unforgettable Characters, and Writing Subtext. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Ron Howard has endorsed Making a Good Script Great, saying he uses the book when making all of his movies beginning with Apollo 13.
Not a bad recommendation. Take a listen to this master class on screenwriting with Linda Seger and get ready to take notes!
Alex Ferrari 0:02
So today, guys, we have a great guest, Linda Seger. She is the grand mama of the scrim script, consulting script teaching, being a screenplay teacher, she was the one doing it before anybody else was doing it. She's been doing this for about 30 years. And she wrote an amazing book called making a good script great. She has consulted on over 2000 screenplays over her career and over 100 produced films and television shows. Her client lists include Oscar winning Writer Director, Peter Jackson, Sony Pictures, and Ray Bradbury, just to name a few. And even Ron Howard has endorsed her book, saying that he uses it on every single one of his projects, and started doing so ever since Apollo 13. That's a pretty good endorsement. So without further ado, here is Linda Seger. Linda thank you again so much for coming on indie film, hustle, we really appreciate you taking the time to talk to the tribe.
Linda Seger 1:41
I'm happy to do that.
So for for those of you for those of in the audience who aren't familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your history and what you do.
I am a script consultant and I was actually the first script consultant I made up the name I made up the job in 1981. I've worked on over 2000 projects from since then. Then I started writing books, I have 13 books out and nine of them are in screenwriting, and I do seminars on screenwriting around the world. So I've been to I believe, 34 countries now on six continents. And I usually do those one to three day seminars but occasionally longer. I'm going to Norway in November for five days and do a seminar in Oslo fun so so they're kind of exciting. It's it's all related around screenwriting.
Fantastic. So since you were one of the first people if you were actually the first person to do this, can you explain to me what in your opinion what the craft of screenwriting is, as you see it?
Well, the craft of screenwriting has to do with understanding the structure of a story, and being able to create beginning middles and ends. It's an understanding that a story has a plot line that has direction, and it has subplot lines that have dimension and that feed in and intersect and integrate with that plotline. So for instance, if you were doing a crime story, the plot line or the directional story is I gotta solve the crime. But the detective has a sweetheart, and maybe a relationship with a parent and maybe problems with the boss. And there's other these relational dimensional aspects. So the writer has to balance these and know how to structure them, then every movie, no matter what genre, there is something that this movie is about an idea we might say it's about the human condition and who we are and what our identity is. And so the writer has to know how to integrate the theme. Then of course, there are characters you have your major and your supporting and your minor. And the writer needs to know how to give dimension to a character, but also direction. So if the detective is solving the crime, they got to keep on that narrative track and keep solving the crime and not just decide to take a little vacation. And then then drama. You know, movies are cinematic. So they have to understand how do you create images? How do you make those images cinematic, visually exciting, original, unique. So I always say that screenwriting is an art craft and it takes creativity. And the art side is mainly that voice of the screenwriter, what is that, that you are that is special that's unique and that you give voice through the genre you choose through the kind of characters you Decide to portray through the stories you tell. So you're always working on all three of these aspects to learn the craft to learn how to be a better artist.
And so what since you've been teaching for so long, and what In your opinion, what is what can really be taught and what can't be taught and I think a lot of people have this assumption that they go to someone like you and they'd like you're gonna write, you're gonna help them write the great, you know, the great American screenplay, if you will, or the Oscar winning screenplay. I want people to understand what what can actually be taught and what needs to come from the actual writer themselves.
The craft can be taught, you can actually learn how to structure a story. And it will immediately improve the script. The artists something you keep having to hone and learn and to have the courage to show your voice because a lot of times people say, Well, I'm going to write a script, kind of like that last big hit. This them, it's it's not really who they are. And so you have to find what that voice is, and have the confidence to keep letting it get out there. But all these things are crap. I had an experienced which clarify this for me. Many years ago, and executive from a production company said to me, Linda, we finally figured out what you do as a script consultant. She said, we had a series of scripts come in, and they were so beautifully crafted at such a high professional level. But the artistic side and the originality was not at that same level, and we couldn't figure it out. We then discovered they had all come to you, as a script consultant. And we understood what you did that I said, I can only bring the craft, I can bring the craft up to a very high professional level as a consultant. And people can do that reading my books, or reading any books on screenwriting, go into classes, but the art has to then be raised up and said, I can't make the art get up to that professional level. But I can encourage and nurture the art. In many times learning the craft helps nurturing the art
Alex Ferrari 7:20
Very much like I don't know if there's a good analogy or not like a chef you can you can teach someone how to scramble eggs, but too, and anyone could scramble eggs, but at a certain point is that artistic aspect me I'm sure you've had some amazing scrambled eggs in your life. And probably some bad scrambled eggs in your life. And it's similar. It's like the person who, who understands that craft and, and really gets it and then also throws in themselves into it. As an artist. That's when magic happens.
Linda Seger 7:48
And there's so many different parts to that crap. I having worked on so many scripts, and before that I was a drama teacher. I taught theater at colleges, universities, I directed plays. And then when I entered the film industry, I took a series of classes, most of them through UCLA extension, just to change my mind. So I started to see scripts from the viewpoint of film, not theatre. And we could say film and television. And over these 30 plus years, one learns a great deal. So as the years have developed, and I worked on more and more scripts, I look more at things like scene transitions. How does that writer move from one scene to the next? Are they overusing flashbacks? Are they overusing voiceovers? Or do they need more voiceovers? Do have they not set up their style? How do they set up their genre? And so I'm always learning. And of course, when, whether they come to me with the class or come to me with the script, we're all in a sense, I have continued to learn about the craft and the art of screenwriting all these years. And it's a lot easier Of course, for me to do my work I have a lot more to draw on. But there's so much to the art and craft of screenwriting. Some people think it just flows the same know, the best writers, they ride and they rewrite and they hone their craft and they become more confident in their art. It's a continual process. And it isn't that it just rolls off of you. And suddenly you have an Academy Award winner.
Alex Ferrari 9:46
Right? There's, there's so many people who just watch a movie and go, Oh, I can do that. I can write a script that's easy. It's similar. Like I just listened to Mozart Symphony. I'm gonna write this if it's the same concept like you can Just because you you can you can consume it and enjoy it doesn't mean that you can do it right off the bat. It takes years and years and years of work to do. Now, what are some of the biggest mistakes you've seen screenwriters make over the years beginning screenwriters?
Linda Seger 10:12
Well, when I first started, most of the mistakes were structural, that they didn't get their story going, they didn't get it focus. Sometimes the first turning point was actually at the midpoint and they just did not have that clear sense of beginning middles meant, as the years have gone on, I have found that even the beginning, screenwriters are at a higher level, because they have usually read books and maybe taken a seminar or two, before perhaps they come to me with their scripts. So one of the problems is always originality. Yet, how do you have How are you able to be unique and different, and learn to put that out there. Sometimes it's a problem of development, that the writer is not developing the characters developing the conflict, developing the storyline, they're just sort of doing a lot of things, but it's not really happening there on the page. So I think development is a huge, you know, is a huge thing as well.
Alex Ferrari 11:30
Now what, um, over the years, I was gonna ask you, um, can you explain to people what a studio reader it does, because I know a lot of people who really don't understand exactly what the reader doesn't, and what their point is,
Linda Seger 11:45
Right! a reader who is sometimes called a story analyst, and I did that for several years, when I first entered the business. They are the people that read the scripts, and they might be handed him scripts a week. And they go home, they read the script, they write a synopsis, usually a page or two, then they write a paragraph or two that says, I recommend this or I don't recommend it for the following reasons. So let me just give you a couple for instances. I was the reader on the body guard. And remember that the
Alex Ferrari 12:24
The original, the original bodyguard,
Linda Seger 12:26
Yes with Kevin Costner,
Alex Ferrari 12:28
But that was originally with Steve McQueen. Right? It was an older script, if I'm not mistaken.
Linda Seger 12:32
Oh, I don't know about that. It was Lawrence Kasdan.
Alex Ferrari 12:37
Right. Oh, yeah. Okay, go ahead.
Linda Seger 12:39
Yeah. And this is the one that was made with Whitney who, of course, of course, when I read it, it was about a feminist comedian. And I recommended that, but because I said, I think it's very commercial. I think it's, you know, quite a good script, but it's got a big story hole in the middle of it. So in a rewrite, this has to be addressed. The person I read it read for at that time, was Jane Fonda's company, okay. And that their executive says, Oh, we think this script has problems. And I said, That's what I said. And it was I was reading is a tryout for an ongoing job with the company and they didn't hire me. They just decided they didn't think that script was that good. Well, then the script got made. Huge, huge moneymaker huge theater piece, I felt somewhat vindicated. Sure. And so my job, in a sense, was in that one paragraph to be able to say, this is what is good about the script. This is where the problem is in a rewrite, fix the problem. But they did. I was also the reader for the Christmas story. Great movie that plays. And there were two of us who were readers that EMI films, and we just thought it was fabulous. The two of us talked about it before we went into the meeting with the vice president. And we both agreed, it was just terrific. We went into the meeting, and he was lukewarm. And we pushed up that. So a story analyst or reader is not a decision maker. And they're really not there with the authority to solve problems. They can just point the way. They're really there to do the synopsis that somebody can read this, who's the next person up the totem pole and can say, Oh, yes, this sounds good. Or no, this reader has turned it down. We're not even going to bother. It doesn't have to be read by anyone else. So
Alex Ferrari 14:47
They're basically a gatekeeper.
Linda Seger 14:49
Yes. And the authority that they have is that when i when i would be a reader if I highly recommended something Somebody else had to read it. And if I turned it down, probably it would never get read again. So that's the only authority they have. And it's a different job than the script consultant whose job is to analyze in a self assess, and help solve the problems in the script.
Alex Ferrari 15:19
Right, but they're pretty powerful gatekeepers because if they don't let you through the door you're not going to get any farther they might not have the power to make the movie but
Linda Seger 15:27
yes, they already go through the door and one when I read for HBO films many years ago one of the things I would try to do is to follow what happened to the script that I recommended because of the next person disagreed with me and passed on it that really said I had not made a good decision and most the time that script went up at least two levels above me that said I was sorting them out and most as a reader I would say I recommended one out of 25 but I knew another professional reader who said hers was maybe one out of 75 she was a great reader but somebody else said to me that's that's being a little bit too much of a filter that right you're not letting some stuff in Yeah, because you might be missing some things that are going to be terrific with the rewrite like like
Alex Ferrari 16:26
the body guard. Yes. So, there is some unspoken rules in regards to how you present a screenplay to be seen by a reader is a general statement or by to be read by a producer or something like that. Things like formatting obviously. I know the the guy came in with the word the little gold tassel things on the side of a screenplay Please forgive me. Oh gold castle things do you know the things that go into the the things that hold the script together when you handed it.
Linda Seger 17:00
Page spreads but yes,
Alex Ferrari 17:01
yeah, there's like unspoken rules of like, if you put three in there not gonna
Linda Seger 17:06
remove the Brad's first thing I said don't even send me the Brad's it just gets thrown away. But yes, that is the correct and you have a title page. That's your name all your contact information on there and usually have like a colored you know, front and back. And the prescript is generally going to be less than 120 pages. And many times somewhere 95 105 that is very workable, and certain margins. Most people will use final draft or screenwriting formatting program to make it look in the correct font, all that so and then new hope it's a it's what's called a page turner. Read it, they keep turning the pages. Dialogue tends to be short, 123 lines and then the next person has their dialogue. And description tends to be fairly short and concise. There is a saying with readers, you want to see a lot of white,
Alex Ferrari 18:10
right, I've heard that I've heard that
Linda Seger 18:12
Don't have a big black dialogue don't have three paragraphs of description
Alex Ferrari 18:16
Unless it has Quinn Tarantino's name on it.
Linda Seger 18:17
Yes. whatever they want. Exactly. Good idea for people getting into screenwriting, to read scripts in your genre. So if you're a romantic comedy writer, read and study the Harry Met Sally or, you know, these I tootsies, probably my favorite. Do you love that one? Those? Were the proposal. I mean, whatever it is that you that has done well, maybe even a company that's been up for some awards, read them, watch the movies, see the similarity between the two, read early drafts if you can. And if you can read the shooting draft.
Alex Ferrari 19:02
Now let me let me ask you a question with you. You said a movie like Tootsie. And this leads to another bigger larger question. Do you think a film like Tootsie would even be made in today's Hollywood system?
Linda Seger 19:12
I would certainly hope so.
Alex Ferrari 19:14
I would I would too. It's an amazing script. It's a great but in in the world that we're living in with you know, every other movies a superhero movie or a now new Star Wars movie or, or anything that's already been based on something in the past. Do you see even Hollywood being open to like I rarely ever see originality coming out of Hollywood as much anymore?
Linda Seger 19:35
Yeah, what happens is they get into the sequels and they get into it was good last year, and they have become as I understand it, more and more closed to new writers. So what they do is, they come up, they want to do an adaptation or whatever. They go through their Academy Award list, right? And a lot of times and Things get rewritten that the difficulty, particularly with studios, studios feel they always have to bring in another writer, no matter how good the script is. And I've been working with the script that I've been that actually, I've been sort of helping set it up. Because I happen to know, some producers, I thought who would be interested who are. And they were saying, Let's go to the studio, I said, don't go to a studio, they're going to take this beautiful writer off of it, we're going to put on another writer who's not right for the shannara, then that writers not going to work. And I said, it is going to be in development health for the next three or four or forever years, it would be much better let the studio come in when you have the picture made. And I think that's what they are going to do with this. So one of my favorite scripts I've ever worked on how to 2500 scripts, probably the best script. It has been in development hell at a studio for three years now, you know, and it was, there was I thought it was ready to shoot, you know, now, things do go through rewrites, you get the director on board to get the producers on board. And so say well, okay, that's the process, no matter how good the script is, it is going to go through this process. But okay,
Alex Ferrari 21:24
Linda Seger 21:25
Yeah. But with a production company, the writer is more apt to be part of that process. And even sometimes, as a script consultant, I'm part of that process as well. So we we meet and we're a team and you're able to listen to what the producer says and say, I see what you want to do. Okay, here's where we could do it. And then I'm talking to the writer, we're all together, working it out together, rather than simply taking this script and handing it to somebody else.
Alex Ferrari 22:00
Now, can you explain the concept of on the nose dialogue, which I think is and cliche dialogue is, which is I think when some of the worst offenders in screenwriting today,
Linda Seger 22:10
Cliche dialogue, is those things we always hear? Which is yes. I can't tell you how many times as the someone says, Yes. It's, it's overused. And on the nose dialog is say, Oh, I see you're at this party. You're also eating shrimp like I see you. Right? We have so much common we both have gone for this trip. Are you attracted to me?
Alex Ferrari 22:41
like normal human being spotted speak,
Linda Seger 22:43
As opposed to the subtext is, you might have two people talking about the strip and saying, well, it's very, you know, it's very juicy, I love to say, and all of a sudden, you say this is really a love scene. One of the loveliest scenes to watch for subtext where it's not on the nose is in sideways, my mile sit down with a glass of wine, and she says, Why are you so into Pinot Noir? And he says, Hi, well, Pinot Noir, and he says, you know, it's so brilliant and, but it's subtle, and you have to coax it. And I think Myles is talking about himself ever seen. He's really saying to Maya, if you could only coax out my brilliance. Like what happens with Pinot Noir. It is so rich, and it's so wonderful. And right. When I show the scene in a class, I tell the class while you're watching the scene, keep in mind, they are not talking about wine, it's the love scene, they're talking about each other. And it's so cute because you suddenly start hearing the giggles. You get it get what's going on under the surface. So you're trying and one of my books is called writing subtext is called the subtitle is what lies beneath. And the whole idea of how do you get resonance. Just to give you another example, which is going to be used in the new edition of writing subtext is that if you're doing a movie, like the proposal, and somebody like Sandra Bullock with her handsome young assistant says, I'm preparing him for this important meeting. It's a that's on the nose. But if she were to say, I'm grooming him for this meeting, now you have another level of meaning going on, because of course, they are going to end up as bride and groom, right so that the writer keeps working with the better choice of words that has resonance or that has an underlying meaning without just saying it.
Alex Ferrari 24:55
Right, right now there's and there's also writers that actually make a living, just coming into The cleanup dialog for sub and adding subtext where there was a lot of on the note stuff.
Linda Seger 25:04
Yes, yes. And there the rewrite that meant the uncredited rewrite in many cases, and many times that person is given a very specific assignment. If you remember Romancing the Stone years ago was one of my friends triva Silverman, who was for many years, the executive story consultant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was called in to make Joe more likable. So they said you don't like her. And so she started going out was her job to go through the script. She was a great comedy writer. And just to go through the script and say, What do I start adding? Course Joan became more likable with the cat and giving her the food when she finished her book to help celebrate. And this those little tidbits
Alex Ferrari 25:56
and adds a lot those little little little little things that you add to a character is is is massive over the course of of the storyline. Now can you can you paint a picture for me of what a working writer is in Hollywood today? Not the million dollar Shane blacks and Aaron Sorkin's of the world, but like the rest of the W ga cuz I think, because I think a lot of writers get into the screenplay game because they all think they're gonna win the lottery. Same reason why filmmakers want to make a movie because they think they're going to go to Sundance and make, you know, get get a win the award and Harvey Weinstein is going to write him a check for, you know, 5 million bucks, and the rest is history. And I think I want to kind of break that notion of the million dollar lottery ticket kind of writers, and what the rest, because there's a lot more at the bottom of the mountain than there is at the top. But there but there are working like people who make a living doing that. So what can you paint a picture of what an actual working writer is in Hollywood,there.
Linda Seger 26:52
First of all, a lot of writers who gain some kind of a reputation are called in either because let's say an independent producer, has option to book. And let's say for instance, they can't afford a Writers Guild writer, who might start at 65,000. And they're thinking I could afford 25,000 30,000, I can afford that bigger price. And so they option a book, maybe for very little money, depending. And now they're looking for a writer. Now what happens sometimes with inexperienced producers, they choose the wrong writer, they choose the person who's not writing in that genre, which is what, so they're writing a romantic comedy. And they say, well, this person is known for is really well known as a writer, let's get them and maybe their drama writer, action writer, but they need to find a writer. And so there are many experienced writers in the Hollywood or around the country, who are very good at what they've done. They've probably written five scripts, maybe they've had one movie made, maybe they've had something optioned. And they are hired to turn that book into a script, or somebody is written a script, and it needs a rewrite from somebody more experience. So the writer gets hired. Now they can get right hired by a production company, maybe a small one, because they can get hired by a studio if they're well known. But they are hired specifically to write it. Or those people who say, Well, I want to write my life story. I want to have a screenplay based on me, I've had this happen. A lot of money,
Alex Ferrari 28:45
Right! Those are always wonderful scripts, I'm sure.
Linda Seger 28:48
Yeah. And what happens though, is that the writer is in a bind, because this person who wants their life story told, doesn't know what a script is. And they're trying to satisfy that person, because that's the person paying them knowing that probably, it will either never get made, or it will get made low budget and never see the light of day or never get any place to get a release or anything. So what so writers, like there's lots and lots of experience people out there. love these writing jobs. Now sometimes they don't get these writing jobs in Hollywood. Just give you a few examples. I had a client who moved to Florida we had worked on an adorable script that took place in the south a very light, lovely charming romantic comedy. She couldn't get it made. She went over to England and she reset it in a village in England instead of maybe it was Alabama and she got it made over there. So so many times the writer has to be thinking about, I shouldn't go the Hollywood game, I don't think I'm going to get any place, right, or the writer director that does a movie, very low budget, gets it into film festivals and maybe gets a job out of that. I had a writer director that I worked with who did a film for $7,000. And I'll tell you, that film looked really good. And
Alex Ferrari 30:28
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Linda Seger 30:38
It took place on a desert, it's called far from ascension, and I don't disclose anything I work on. But once the film is made, it's to everyone's advantage, right? It was the title of it, sure, and very limited sets. But sometimes people can get movies made for very little, or for 100,000, or for half a million. I know a Producer Director that I've worked on some scripts she's given to me, and I think I've recommended some and she's gotten them made. And she said, I'm very good at raising money for these, you know, small budget movies, and we get them into screenwriting festival, you know, various film festivals. And then she said, we get a release. in certain places. It's never going to be the release like a studio film. But they get made. And actually a movie I worked on with that she did is she said, we won the award for Best inspirational film, and we beat out Warner Brothers.
Alex Ferrari 31:44
That's always nice
Linda Seger 31:45
For the award is that that's pretty cool.
Alex Ferrari 31:48
No, is there a place where writers can actually you know, where would you suggest writers send their scripts to kind of get feedback because it's you know, it's tough to stuff to get a script, a screenplay or even read, but like festivals or contest or groups, what would you suggest?
Linda Seger 32:03
Yes, well, the first thing is don't ever send anything anyplace, without having other people having read it. Now there's different levels of readers, you certainly can start with people that you know, you probably know some writers, trade scripts with your friend, just make sure that you don't give your script to somebody who is negative, and is going to demoralize you. There are people that will demoralize a writer, and they won't write for years. And I know some of us, right, of course, writers. Sure. So that's the first level is dis people, you know, the second level, for very little money, you can have it read by a story analysts. And they're going to just do a couple pages of notes. And, you know, they'll give you some feedback. And that can be helpful to know how will a story analysts. Look at this. I know some people who are wonderful story analysts, so anyone ever wanted a recommendation or see ads all over me, that can be 50 or $100. For that, then the next level is the script consultant. And that's the people like me whose job it is to really analyze the script to look at the strengths, look at the weaknesses, figure out how to make the weaknesses become strengths. So very, and I have all sorts of levels of services from extremely detailed to one or two pages that really give writer a sense, this is what you have. Is this worth investing a lot of money in because maybe the story is not good enough anyway? Or you really have something here, right? No, no guarantees, and whether it will get made. Then Then, after you've gone through some steps to get professional feedback, entering screenwriting contests and see what happens that it would if you can get a one of the top three like a third place, second first winner, whatever. And there are loads of screenwriting contest. So you want to try to make something happen with that because if you get a first place now when you show that to a producer, you can say By the way, it won first place, like recently one of scripts script, I'd worked on one first place that the worldfest Houston Film Festival for screenwriting, and I mean that's worth a lot that's sure their full award to get so you want to have something that if you write to a production company, they have a reason to read your script.
Alex Ferrari 34:50
Anything anything that could give a little cachet to the script.
Linda Seger 34:52
Yes. And if you can add to say I've been writing for several years, I've written five scripts. This one, I think fits your company. By the way, it's it's also won the screenwriting awards and was chosen as something that can help make them want to read it.
Alex Ferrari 35:13
Now, you touched a little bit about this earlier about other markets besides Hollywood, which a lot of people always focus on Hollywood or just the American market. But there's so many emerging film markets around the world, you know, that are just embracing filmmaking, and just blowing up as far as the market is concerned. So how can screenwriters leverage those markets and helping them get their screenplays made?
Linda Seger 35:35
Well, the first thing is, if somebody is not from the United States, don't try to go to Hollywood go to your own country, you probably have a better chance. I have a client coming in. Next week from Mexico, he went to Columbia film school. He said, Every one of us who were from outside the United States have gotten films made since we graduated Columbia to 1215 years ago. He said not one of my us colleagues at Columbia film school have gotten filmmaking was that was the US market is really tough.
Alex Ferrari 36:11
Although they made they've made it in their own countries.
Linda Seger 36:14
Yes. And so right. And so when the US market is the toughest, so when people from Germany or England or wherever, say, Well, I want to get a film in Hollywood said don't even bother, try to get it made in your own market, because you have a better chance in that market. And then Hollywood will come after you. Because they've seen this film, and they think it's great. And well, let's get that you know, that writer. So now the other thing is somebody who is from the US can always go to another market. And say what, what are some markets where I actually could get my script into somebody and who's doing work or doing co productions at other markets. So Canada, for instance, or Germany, or England got it, if you've got some scenes in Germany, go to German producers. And if you've got scenes in England, goat England, producers, and this sad kind of bypass, or if you don't bypass the US market, go to a production company, not a studio, it's hard to get your script into a studio anyway. And maybe don't go to the biggest production company, don't start with Ron Howard's company, where you probably won't get it read anyway, or get in the door. Try to find what those smaller companies are. Look at the credits of movies that you love, and don't look for a universal production. Look for that fourth name down that those precursors, and of course, sometimes with smaller, you know, smaller producers are trying to find that writer who's just wonderful, but less expensive.
Alex Ferrari 38:05
Will you like, like, um, I don't mean to interrupt you, Reese Witherspoon, she actually created her own production company, and started taking in scripts. And she got some really great scripts out of that, out of that, and she also produced Gone Girl, she she actually got that she got the rights to Gone girl.
Linda Seger 38:25
And look for those actors. If you want to go after an actor look for the actors that have production companies, because you have a better chance with that. Then some other way. And then you know the thing with agents, people say, Well, can I get an agent or manager say, well, it'll take you years, you might do better, getting a deal. And then you can go to an agent, because you have proven something about yourself. It's really, really hard to get an agent. And it's very, very hard to get your agent as a new writer to work for you and make anything happen.
Alex Ferrari 39:02
Yeah, I know many writers in LA, that have that problem with their agents and managers. Oh, yeah. Cuz they just want to look, they're in the business to make money. And it's much easier to sell someone who has an Academy Award, or has a proven track record than to hustle, a new guy coming up? Yes. Now do you? do you suggest screenwriters, right screw or short films or short screenplays to see if they can get that produced in a way to build a track record up?
Linda Seger 39:30
Well, especially if they're directors themselves and want to do a short film short films have great opportunities at film festivals and short films can prove who you are. They show your ability. I work on quite a few. I say quite a few. I mean I work on short films. And one of the things I always look for is to find out something in that short film that makes the writer Director known. So don't just do another car chase, they can get Michael Mann to do the car chase, they don't mean to do something interesting, whether it's in the writing of it or the approach to it, so that you can start getting awards with the short film and someone looking at it says, oh, that directors that they're not only good at what they're doing, but wonderful script, you know, great job of directing. So again, you have something to show. And it doesn't have to be a 30 minute film. There's a lot of fabulous films of six minutes or 10 film. In fact, years ago, I worked on a short film, it was called there is no APR. And the two characters were named May and June. Nice, too. It was six minutes, it was two women on their way to Las Vegas, where one was going to give a quickie before us. And the the writer said, I want to do this little film, and then I'm going to do a feature. And she was sort of dismissing that little film and I say her name is Sherry Norris. And I said, Sherry, take that little six minute film very seriously. So she hired me as a script consultant, she hired a directing consultant, and the film one audience favorite award at the Elven a film festival. And she then went on to do an adorable little romantic comedy called duty dating. And she might have done a film since then. But it was interesting, the same everything you do you do with the same professionalism, as when you finally get the opportunity to do the feature, right. Don't ever dismiss anything.
Alex Ferrari 41:50
Now the structure of of a short screenplay, a short film screenplay must be obviously much different, in the same but much more condensed. So you have to get to those beats much faster, I would imagine, right?
Linda Seger 42:01
Yeah, I still structured in the 3x structure, clear beginning middle and, and even with this little, there is no APR. I looked very carefully at the structure. She had her turning point she had her development, she had our conflict. Everything was in there, but you only have six minutes to do it.
Alex Ferrari 42:22
So it's a much it's even a tougher chore chore than doing a 90 minute script. At that point.
Linda Seger 42:27
Well, I don't know if it's tougher, a different, you know, tough, and it is interesting to see how well many of these do I think every short film I've won I've worked on has won awards. And and sometimes I remember one, one writer early on many years ago said you were the only person who believed in this. And he said and that kept me going and I did my little short and it won these five awards. And now what a What a nice thing is to start to see and get some kind of success because you can write for years and years and years and not get any feedback that tells you Oh, you did a good job on that.
Alex Ferrari 43:14
Right. And that does help as a as an artist, you want that reinforcement? reassurance, if you will, like hey, I'm on the right track, I'm actually good at what I'm doing. Maybe I can keep I should keep trying to do this because it's a it's not a it's not a sprint, this is definitely a marathon
Linda Seger 43:32
Not to figure, it is going to take you years. So unless you love doing doing it unless you love the writing, don't even bother. No one is waiting for you. That is going to keep you going as you feel inside yourself passionate about what you're doing. And you are keep going through the learning curve.
Alex Ferrari 43:55
Yeah, absolutely not 111 thing i i've when I've been when I wanted to start studying screenplay writing and, and all the books and you obviously your your books are on the top of that list. The one book that really kind of, or the concept, I guess was Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, which that kind of changed the game for for storytelling in the last 3040. When did that come out? He when he released that?
Linda Seger 44:24
Oh, I know that it was in the early to mid 80s after Star Wars came out, which I think was more like 77 or sitting right? At seven. But when Star Wars came out, and Joe and George Lucas started to talk about how he had to use Joseph Campbell's theories. Then people started to look at Joseph Campbell. And then Christopher Vogel wrote the book called The writer right, which deals with the hero's journey and I did some parts in my making a good script. On the hero's journey in the first two editions, and I actually told Christopher, I said, you need to write a book on this. And if you don't in two years, I'm going to that's not the book I want to write. Right. Then once in a while, Chris, thanks me. He said, I really glad you pushed me because that book has been extremely well received and done extremely well.
Alex Ferrari 45:25
I've read that book. A lot of times. Yeah.
Linda Seger 45:27
Yeah. Like I do with doing seminars on that so one can get Joseph Campbell kind of put down into screenplay form by reading Chris's book.
Alex Ferrari 45:37
Right It kind of like yeah, cuz the Joseph Campbell's is more mythology. It's not focused specifically on filmmaking. While Chris Chris's book is that's what I loved about his, his book as well. Now, when they're when there's writing a screenplay, and then there's also marketing a screenplay and getting your voice out there as a screenwriter, do you have any tips on how you can get that script that they finally made out there until the world like, actually gets seen?
Linda Seger 46:04
Yes, well, that's, that's the golden ticket. That's a whole world in itself. But one thing people can do. They can go to conference screenwriting conferences that have pitch fest. One of the best is those the great American pitch Fest in Los Angeles, that's usually in June, it is put on by a woman from Canada in Calgary, a name signal now who is just fabulous, it is so well organized, she gets so many people there to receive pitches, hundreds and hundreds of people go. And so you have an opportunity to do that five minute pitch in front of people who actually have the ability to buy your your Scout, then story Expo in September has a pitch fest which is getting bigger and bigger. And it's the same thing. You go there you have your one sheet, plus you have your screenplay in your briefcase. And when they say I'm interested, you give them the one sheet in the next day, you send them the script, if they say they're willing to read it, get up there really quickly,
Alex Ferrari 47:13
Linda Seger 47:15
And there's been a lot of successes with something like these pitch fest. There's one, I think there is one in Canada. And I would even suggest that some of the Americans go up to Canada and do that with Canadian producers. And again, you might have a better chance.
Alex Ferrari 47:36
Just less competition is less competent, and there is a cachet. Maybe not in Canada, but other parts of the world that like oh, this is a US I'm an American Screenwriter, a Hollywood screenwriter, it might have some more cachet might have more pull in marketing.
Linda Seger 47:51
Yes, yeah. There are some things where people put their Synopsys on wine. And you have to be kind of careful about that, because it's easier to steal. That. And I do know some people have done well with that. I think there are some of those sponsors of those kind of Synopsys that actually say they can get it into producers and giving in the executives and maybe the executive sort of thumb through there and just take a look to see if there's anything of interest. I don't know. Just overall when the senate decided they're probably quite low, but then everything is quite low.
Alex Ferrari 48:34
No, can you can you really briefly talk about loglines, which is something that a lot of people don't talk about, and the importance of them?
Linda Seger 48:41
Oh, yeah, log lines are that one line that immediately encapsulates your story. For instance, if I said a shark threatens a tourist town on a fourth of July weekend, yes, jaws
Alex Ferrari 48:56
I love et et was fantastic. No joke.
Linda Seger 49:02
And something withdraws as you listen, that log line, it has conflict on it. You use the word threatens, it has high stakes, it's the fourth of July weekend, which says this is the tourists dollars, as he says, and it's a sharp so it's the man against monster story in one line, you have so much information. And so a writer works and works on that log line because if you go to a pitch fast, you might want to have that log line to pull the person in immediately that you're pitching to. The other thing that you work on is what's called the elevator pitch, which is the 22nd pitch. So you get into an elevator and you press the 12th floor and you turn around as Steven Spielberg is standing behind you. That's when you go into your I have a script. Shark threatens
Alex Ferrari 49:57
Pride on pitch that story to him. I think he knows that
Linda Seger 50:00
That pitch to say, I had to say that because I just happened to have this opportunity. Yeah, let me see what that person says. And you, again, make it very, very concise. Michael Haig has written a book called, I think it's selling the selling your script in 60 seconds or something like that. It's about pitching and it's about treatments and, you know, these these log lines, and it's that whole idea, you have to be able to get that script very, very concise that somebody immediately gets, what's the genre? What's the stakes, what's the conflict, give me something about you know, my, maybe my main character might be in there. Give me lots of information.
Alex Ferrari 50:49
So um, I want to just to kind of close off our interview with two movies that I wanted you to kind of talk about a little bit and two of them were considered to the great, great screenplays ever written. But one, and they're very different from each other. One movie is Shawshank Redemption, which is considered probably one of the greatest films ever made, at least by IMDb standards. What makes that movie so ridiculously amazing. And from an F talk to every every scope of life, you know, for every everybody from you know, millionaires to you know, kids to me, like people love that movie. And it wasn't wasn't widely loved when it first came out, but it's grown and there's this thing about it. Can you kind of break that down? And then the other movie? story? Sure. I'll tell you about the other movie afterwards, which was you think about? And then I'll go to the Okay, and the other one is Pulp Fiction. Like how that that magic? what that is?
Linda Seger 51:54
The greatest movies of all time? I'm not sure I would
Alex Ferrari 51:57
Some of them. I didn't say most, but some of them
Linda Seger 51:59
Say they are both, you know, they're both very good. They're both excellent. And I say well, what is it about them? Shawshank? I think the the feeling for the characters. And their situation in their context is so strong. When you imagine with Morgan Freeman, he just pulls you into that story beautifully. Tim Robbins, and memorable scenes, one of the things to look for in a movie is what are the scenes you probably have not seen before the carry so much emotion so much feeling it because that's where you go into the art of the craft where Shawshank is based on Stephen King's story. Sure. When I think of Shawshank and I think of that scene where Tim Robbins goes into the room and locks the door and plays a piece of classical music, it's an opera, and he puts it on the intercom and it just floods the prism and everybody just as brought to a halt by the beauty to bring beauty in that and that oh my gosh, that feeling of that scene. So sometimes in movies when you analyze them you for instance, structurally, Shawshank I think the resolution is too long in that movie. And so from just a purely structural craft viewpoint, I think it could have been tighter. But from an artistic viewpoint, just a story that pulls you in and the twists and turns of the story. The fact that this guy kept getting his Rita Hayworth you could dig behind them and what it took him and themes of determination. So you can look to say it's a great story. It's great characters is acceptable roles that really bring great actors to the table. It's a theme that is expressed. And it has in that case, the twists and turns. Pulp Fiction is such an original piece. You have very little money to shoot it with low budget, lots of fascinating things that mean the guy has just shot the person and he starts quoting from the Bible. Oh my gosh, what is and the sure hand I think the thing with Quentin Tarantino. By the time he did Pulp Fiction, he knew what he was doing. He said he had spent 10 years doing a movie that couldn't even be released. It was so awful sure that he did Reservoir Dogs then he did Pulp Fiction. And I remember in that opening scene in the cafe, that when he stopped that he starts to cry Credit is belly dancing music I mean it happened years ago I I started surfing music, took belly dance to that sure killer piece of music starts the movie again in a totally different place at I totally trusted Quentin Tarantino knew what he was doing. He was not going to drop that same way we're going to come back to it. And to feel that sense of a writer director who knows what they're doing and has it sure and confident hand
Alex Ferrari 55:34
Right, that's a great analogy of that
Linda Seger 55:36
How he just interwove all of this
Alex Ferrari 55:40
And still hitting the beats still hitting that he hit. He hit that hero's journey, oddly enough within that structure
Linda Seger 55:49
Say and he also I analyzed Pulp Fiction in terms of its structure and it's beautifully structured. I think right at the midpoint is the story of the watch, which acts as kind of a fulcrum for the first half and the second half does and the interweaving is really fascinating because he'll drop something for a while but then you know he's going to come back to it
Alex Ferrari 56:16
you know the funny the funny I'll tell you real quick funny story about the pulp fiction is I was listening to an interview with Robert Rodriguez and he was talking about he was he was you know, they're best friends and they've been and they were doing the movie at the time. And just like George Lucas had at screening of Star Wars for you know, the Paloma and Coppola and all that and everyone said oh poor George poor poor George he just yeah well maybe next one George Spielberg was the only one that kind of like you might have something here. Clinton did the same similar thing with with Pulp Fiction he brought in all his his his friends which for filmmakers and writers and stuff and Robert was the only one that wasn't there he was off shooting somewhere but after the screening he talked to some people and one of the one of the directors who we remain nameless because no one knows who it is because quitting won't say who it is he's like you know I'm gonna have a stern talking to about with with Quintin about this I mean he needs to learn how to make a movie I mean this is not right what he's done I think he's gone off course and then he was going to make that phone call but then quitting was over in France with a can so after he won the Palme d'Or is free calls him up it goes I was gonna give you a stern talking to but what the hell do I know?
Linda Seger 57:32
Well in Pulp Fiction has what I call the loop structure is that you loop it back and Quintin who quotes some somebody else says a story has a beginning middle of end but not necessarily in that order correct and in my book advanced screenwriting I talk about different non traditional structures and use Pulp Fiction as the example of loop and just an unusual structure but he knew what he was doing
Alex Ferrari 58:04
That confident hand is is something that that I it's a great it's a great description of the of Quentin Tarantino was a filmmaker he he's gonna go down his route no matter what what you think about it but he knows he's going to take you in this journey is kind of like when I saw Birdman last year and and I was like Oh, I forgot what a real directors
Linda Seger 58:26
Yes, somebody knows what they're doing and they This is not their first rodeo right just like took you through this first time they have done this
Alex Ferrari 58:35
And it's so I just still remember watching Birdman and going this is what a director's like you like you watch it when you watch a Scorsese movie or one of the you know the big but I hadn't seen a movie so original and it completely and he took you on that journey and you trusted him the entire time and it was it was a one and I'm so glad I won the Oscar It was like such an odd choice for you know for the for the academy but I thought it was a wonderful choice. So last question, my dear is the toughest question of the mall. So prepare yourself. I asked this of all of my all of my guests. What are your top three films of all time?
Linda Seger 59:11
Oh, okay. The best
Alex Ferrari 59:14
In your opinion.
Linda Seger 59:15
There's so many but let me just mention a couple I particularly find is gems. One is always Amadeus.
Alex Ferrari 59:24
Yeah, you're not I just had someone say Amadeus is a wonderful
Linda Seger 59:28
Big diamond was a really big one. You know, like Gone with the Wind. Those are the big diamonds. You know, if you say the top three films, I wouldn't know how to answer that. I could answer it in terms of movies that I am incredibly fond of. Yeah, no rules. No rules. Like my some of my favorite. Now. People know I talk about witness a lot and I have talked about it for many, many years. I think it is one of the best structures. films. And these guys really knew what they were doing telling the story. Who is I have a special feeling for witness. My husband who at that time was the guy was dating sorta kind of proposed to me in the middle of the barn raising same sort of kinda. And then the proposal became specific and now we've been married for it'll be 29 years next year. Congratulations. So I have a real feeling comedies I put to it See, right off the top very thematic, very strong, just in a wonderful acting wonderful characters, great idea behind it. So those are three and then I'll just mention what I call a little gem, the little diamond stand by me, I love grants are made to me is a great example of a very small film of 12 year old boys, and how a film can be about that and pull somebody in who ordinarily would not be pulled into that film. If somebody said what is one of the least interesting things to you, is I would say 12 year old boys because they make me so nervous, that they walk on railroad tracks and trains are ready to come. You know, all of that. And I said, I love that film. I just think it's a great example of dimensionality and heart and having this little directional line, let's go find a dead body. Now all stuff about friendship. It's just, I call that the little diamond. Absolute gem of a little movie.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:45
Wonderful list. Wonderful list. So Linda, where can people find you?
Linda Seger 1:01:48
LindaSeger.com is my website. My email Linda at LindaSeger.com seger, think of Bob Seger if you're not sure how to how to find me. And it's the same spelling. And then I got a full website. There's a whole lot of stuff on there. So people will probably find interesting,
Alex Ferrari 1:02:11
And you have many even 13 books,Correct?
Linda Seger 1:02:14
Yes, there's nine of them on screen writing.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:19
Okay. And then you also do court you also do consulting, as well as workshops every once in a while.
Linda Seger 1:02:24
That's what most of my work is script consulting. And then I do seminars. So my next one is Norway. And I was in Europe all summer long doing Vienna, in Germany and England, in Paris and the tough life. tough lesson. Yeah, tough life. I think I did seven in nine weeks, and I just went from one country to the other with a little vacation time in there. So, but I'm pretty easy to find.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:50
Okay, fantastic. Linda, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We really appreciate it.
Unknown Speaker 1:02:55
Okay, and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and also sign up for my newsletter.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
Absolutely. Thanks again, Linda.
Linda Seger 1:03:03
Thanks so much.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:04
I really love talking to someone who has such a strong grasp on the craft of screenwriting, you can just tell that Linda knows it inside and out. And I learned a ton just by listening to her and talking to her and this in this interview. If you guys haven't had a chance to read her book, go out and get making a good script. Great. You will thank me for it. We will leave a link of that in the show notes that you can get at indiefilmhustle.com/030 and I'll have links to her all her books there as well as her official site as well. Don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us an honest review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. So thanks again guys for taking a listen. I hope it was helpful. Keep that also going keep that dream alive. I'll talk to you soon.
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