How to Make a Good Script Great with Linda Seger
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 AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)
Not a bad recommendation. Take a listen to this master class on screenwriting with Linda Seger and get ready to take notes!
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Linda Seger – Official Site
- Making a Good Script Great – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
- Creating Unforgettable Characters
- Writing Subtext
- The Million Dollar Business of Screenwriting
- Bulletproof Screenplay Script Coverage Service – Get Your Screenplay Covered by Industry Pros
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Screenwriting Audio Book)
- Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker or via RSS. Additionally, you can also subscribe to the blog and get all of my material (blog posts and podcast) by clicking here.
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- Jim Uhls’ (Writer of Fight Club) The Screenwriters Toolkit
- Paul Castro’s The MILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS OF SCREENWRITING
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- Stephanie Palmer’s Good in a Room – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
- Karl Igelsias’s Writing for Emotional Impact – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE
- Save the Cat!® The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
- Linda Seger’s Making A Good Script Great – FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSION
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Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number eight writers aren’t exactly people that are whole bunches of people trying to be one person. F Scott Fitzgerald broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next round. It’s the bulletproof screenplay on cast showing you the Crafton business of screenwriting while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof.
And here’s your host Alex Ferrari. Welcome to the bulletproof gameplay podcast. I am your humble host Alex Ferrari now Today’s Show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage now unlike other. Coverage Services bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are in the goals of the project you are so we actually break it down by three categories micro-budget indie film market and Studio film.
There’s no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading Temple movies. When you move these going to be done for $100,000 and we wanted to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios C WM NBC HBO Disney. Scott free Warner Brothers The Black List and many many more.
So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers. Head on over to cover my screenplay now after speaking to so many screenwriters out there. I know and I’ve heard so many times that they want to learn how to produce their own screenplays. They want to produce their own work and have no idea how to do it.
Well wanted to let you guys know that I just launched a brand new game changing producing course called the indie film producing master class with award-winning indie film producer Suzanne lions. Master Class focuses on $1,000,000 and Below budgets, but all the things you learned there can easily be translated to a hundred million dollars if need be so if you want to learn how to produce your own material just head over to producing Master Class.
Today you are in for a treat because today’s guest is Linda Seger. She is the Grandmama of script Consulting script, uh teaching she’s been doing this for over 30 years coaching, uh screenwriters and she has consulted an over 2,000 screenplays and over 100 produced films and television shows. She has worked with clients like Peter Jackson Sony Pictures and Ray Bradbury and even Ron Howard.
Her a very high endorsement and says he uses her book on the making of all of his films and started started using that book on Apollo 13, which I think he won the Oscar for. Now that’s not too bad of an endorsement. But uh Linda is also very famous for writing a book called making a good script great, which is pretty much standard on every screen writers, uh bookshelf.
If it’s not there you should get it right now, but you get all the links to any of her books at the end of the show in the show notes. So without any further Ado, please enjoy my conversation with Linda. So for uh, for those of you for those of in the audience who are unfamiliar with your working until it’s a little bit about your history and what you do.
I have a script consultant and I was actually the first script consultant. I made up the name I made up the job in 1981. I worked in over 2,000 projects from since then. Um, then I started writing books. I have 13 books out in nine of them aren’t screenwriting and I do seminars on screen writing around the world.
So I’ve been to I believe 34 countries now on six continents and I usually do. One two three day seminar, but occasionally longer. I’m going to Norway in November for five days and do a seminar as low fun. So so kind of exciting 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, um, can you explain to me in your opinion what the craft of screenwriting is as you see?
Well, but the crap distrain writing 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 sub plot lines that have Dimension and that feed in and intersect and integrate with that Platt line.
So for instance. If you were doing a crime story the plot line of 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 where 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 in your supporting and your minor.
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 decided to take a little vacation, right and then then drama, um, 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 and unique? So I always say that screenwriting is an art a craft and it takes creativity and and they aren’t side is mainly that voice of the screenwriter. What is it that you are that is special that’s unique and that you give voice.
To 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 since you’ve been teaching for so long, um 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’re like, you’re gonna write you’re gonna help them write the the great, you know, the Great American screenplay if you will or the oscar-winning screenplay, I want people to understand what can actually be taught and What needs to come from the actual writer themselves the crap can be taught.
You can actually learn how to structure a story and it will immediately improve the script the artist something you keep having to hone and learn and to have the courage to show you voice because a lot of times people say well, I’m going to write a script. Kind of like that last big hit 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 craft. I had an experience which clarify this for me. Many years ago an 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 they 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 in screenwriting going to classes. But the art has the then be raised up. I 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 very much like, uh, 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 to anyone could scramble eggs, but at a certain point, it’s that artistic aspect you mean I’m sure you’ve had some amazing scrambled eggs in your life and try some bad scrambled eggs your life and it’s similar like the person 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. 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 and 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 that theater 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 over using flashbacks?
Are they over using voice overs or do they need more voiceovers? Do you have they not set up their style? Um, how do they set up their genre? And so. I’m always learning and of course when other 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 you seem help the best writers, they write 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. Right? Right. There’s uh, 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 in it’s the same concept like you can’t 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. Well, when I first started most of the mistakes for structural that they didn’t get their story going they didn’t get it focused. Sometimes the first turning point was actually at the midpoint and they just did not have that clear sense of beginning middle and end.
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 taking a seminar or two before perhaps they can they come to me with their scripts. So one of the problems is always originality that how do you have how are you able to be unique and different?
And learn to put that out there. Um, sometimes it’s a problem of development that the writer is not developing the characters developing the conflict developing the story line. They’re just sort of doing a lot of things but it’s not really happening there in the page. So I think development is a huge, you know is a huge thing as well.
Now what um over the years when it was gonna ask you. Um, can you explain to people what a studio reader it does because I know a lot of people that really don’t understand exactly what the reader does and and and what their point is, right? Um a reader who is sometimes called the 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 an a couple for instances.
I was the reader on The Bodyguard. And remember that the the original the original bodyguard. Yes with Kevin Costner, but that was originally with Steve McQueen right was an older script if I’m not mistaken. Oh, I don’t know about that. It was Lawrence Kasdan, right? Yeah. Okay, go ahead and it’s the one that was made with Whitney.
Of course, of course when I read it it was about a feminist comedian. And I recommended that um, 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 address the person I read it read for at that time was Jane Fonda’s company 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 as a tryout for an ongoing job with the company and they didn’t hire me. They just decided they don’t think that script was that Goodwill then the script got me huge huge moneymaker huge a theater piece. I felt so much 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 it didn’t I was also the reader for the Christmas story. Oh great movie that plays and there were two of us who were readers at Mia my 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 um, we both agreed. It was just terrific. We went into the meeting and he was lukewarm and we pushed at that. So A Story analyst or reader is not a decision maker and the really not there with the authority to solve problems. They can just point the way the really there to do the synopsis that somebody can read this.
Who’s the next person that’s the totem pole and can say oh, yes, this sounds good or no. Um, this reader is turned it down. We’re not even going to bother it doesn’t have to be read by anyone else. So they’re basically a gatekeeper. Yes, and the authority that they have is that when I um 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, 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 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 recommend it 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. 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 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 The Bodyguard. Yes, so, um, there is some unspoken rules in regards to how you present the 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.
Um, I know the the um, oh God, I can’t even remember the word the little gold tassel things on the side of the screen play. Please forgive me things, you know, the things that go into. The things that hold the script together when you ended it, thank you. But yes, yeah, there’s like unspoken rules of like if you put three in there not even gonna look at it removes.
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. It’s for name all your contact information on there and usually like a colored, you know, um fronted back and the prescriptions generally going to be less than 120 pages and um many times somewhere 95 105.
That is very workable and certain margins. Most people will use final drafters screenwriting formatting program to make it look the correct font all at so and then you hope it’s what’s called a page-turner keep turning the pages dialogue tends to be short. One two three 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 right? I’ve heard of that. I’ve heard that don’t have a big black that dialogue don’t have three paragraphs of descript unless it has Tarantino’s name on it. Yes, whatever they want exactly idea for people getting into screenwriting. To read scripts in the OR genre.
So if you’re a romantic comedy writer read and study the Harry Met Sally or um, you know, the companies I took these probably my favorite that one those a great 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 early drafts of few can and if you can read the shooting draft now, let me let me ask you a question that with you.
You said a movie like and this leads into another bigger larger question. Do you think a film like would even be made in today’s Hollywood System? I would certainly hope so I would I would too. It’s an amazing script. It’s a great but in the world that we’re living in with, you know, every other movies a superhero movie or a 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? Yeah. It happens is they get into the sequels? They get into good last year and they have become as I understand it more and more close 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 was Studios. Studios feel they always have to bring in another right or no matter how good the script is and I’ve been working with the script that I’ve been 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 um, they were saying let’s go the studio I said, Don’t go to a studio. They’re going to take this beautiful writer off of it and to put on another writer who’s not right for the genre. Then that writers not going to work and I said it is going to be in development Health in 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, um, one of my favorite scripts I ever worked on out of 2500 Scripts. Probably the best script, um and has been in development hell at a studio for three years now.
Yeah, it was it was I thought it was ready to shoot, you know things do go through rewrites you get the director and board to get the producers on board. And so you say well, okay. That’s the process no matter how good the script is it is going to go through this process, but. Okay, enough’s enough 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 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 talkin to the writer.
We’re all together working it out together. Rather than simply taking the script and handing it to somebody else. No, can you explain um the concept of on the nose dialogue which I think is and cliche dialogue is which is I think one some of the worst offenders in screenwriting today. Let’s shade dialogue is those things we always here which is yes.
I can’t tell you how many times I see. Someone says yes,
it’s it’s overused and on-the-nose dialogue is say. Oh I see you’re at this party. You’re also eating shrimp. Like I am I to you, right we have so much in common. We both have gone for this room. Are you attracted to me? Like normal human beings spot speak as opposed to the subtext is you might have two people talkin about the shrimp and saying well as very, you know, it’s very juicy.
I love gives and also as if this is really a love scene one of the loveliest things to watch for subtext where it’s not on the nose isn’t sideways. I am I’ll sit down with a glass of wine and she says, You so into Pinot Noir and he says time up Pinot Noir and he says, you know it so brilliant and but a subtle and you have to coax it, I think miles is talkin about himself.
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. Well, you’re watching the scene keep in mind. They are not talkin about line. And so I love seeing their talkin about each other and it’s so cute because you suddenly start hearing the giggles, right?
Forget it. Yeah, that’s what’s going on under the surface. So you’re trying and one of my books is called writing subtext subtitle is What Lies Beneath and the whole idea of. How do you get resonance? Um 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.
Or this important meeting. It’s like that’s on the nose. But if she were to say I’m rooming him for this meeting. Now, you have another level of meaning going on because of course they going to end up as bride and groom, right so that the writer keeps working with the better choice of word that has resonance or that has an underlying meaning without just saying it.
Right right. Now there’s on there’s also writers that actually make a living just coming into the cleanup dialogue for some and adding subtext where there was a lot of on the nose stuff. Yes, yes, and they’re the rewrite that man 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. One of my friends was Silverman who was for many years, uh, the executive story consultant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was called in to make Joe more likeable. So they said, you know like her and so she started going at was her job to go through the scriptures a great comedy writer and just to go through the script and say what do I start adding and of course Joan became more likeable with the cat.
Giving her the food when she finished her book to help celebrate and just those little tidbits and I a lot those little little little little things that you had to a character. This is uh, its massive over the course of of the storyline now I can you can you paint a picture for me of um, what a working writer is in Hollywood today.
Not the million dollar Shane blacks in Aaron sorkin’s of the world, but like the rest of the wga because 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 all think they’re gonna go to Sundance and make, you know, get a win the award and Harvey Weinstein.
Write him a check for you know five 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 riders and what the rest because there’s a lot more at the bottom of the mountain there is a but there are working with like people who make a living doing that.
So what can you paint a picture of what an actual working writer isn’t Hollywood. First of all a lot of writers who gained some kind of a reputation. Are called them either because let’s say an independent producer and optioned a book and let’s say for instance. They can’t afford a Writers Guild writer who might start at 65,000 and then thinking I could afford 25,000 30,000.
I can’t afford that bigger price. And so. They option A book maybe for very little money depending and now they’re looking for a writer and what happened sometimes within experience. Producers they choose the wrong writer. They choose the person who’s not writing in that genre, which is what and so they’re writing a romantic comedy and they say well this person is known for is really well known as the writer.
Let’s get them and maybe they’re a drama writer action writer, but they need to find a writer and so there are many experienced writers. And Hollywood around the country who are very good at what they’ve done. They probably ring five scripts. Maybe they’ve had one movie made maybe they’ve had something option and they are hired to turn that book into a script or.
Somebody has written description. It needs a rewrite from somebody more experienced. So the writer gets hired now they can get right hired by a production company maybe a small one course, 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, right? Those are always wonderful scripts. I’m sure 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 it 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 anyplace to get a release your anyting. So, um, uh, so writers lots and lots of experience people out there. Love these writing jobs. Now. Sometimes they don’t get these writing jobs and Hollywood and just give you a few examples.
I had a client who moved to Florida we had worked on 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 him. Maybe it was Alabama and she got it made over there.
So so many times the writer has. You thinking about I shouldn’t go the Hollywood game? I don’t think I’m going to get anyplace 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.
I’ll tell you that film looked really good and they took place on a desert called far from Ascension and I I I 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. Um, very limited sets. But sometimes people can get movies made for very little or for 100,000 or for half a million.
Um, 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 the maid 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 and she said we get a release.
In certain places is 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 at Warner Brothers. That’s always nice for the award. That’s pretty cool. 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 stuff to get a script a screenplay or even read but like festivals or contest.
Or groups. What do you suggest? Yes. Well, the first thing is don’t ever send anything any place 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 that 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 those right writers sure. So that’s the first level is just people, you know, the second level for very little money.
You can have it read by a story analyst and they’re going to just do a couple pages of notes and you know, they’ll give you some feedback in that can be helpful to know how will a story analyst. Look at this. I know some people who are wonderful story analysts. So anyone ever wanted a recommendation or see ads all over.
I mean that can be 50 or $100 for that. Then the next level is the script consultant. 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. Um, is this worth investing a lot of money in the. Maybe the story is not good enough anyway, or you really have something here, right? No, no guarantees. And whether it’ll get made, um, then then after you’ve gone through some steps to get professional feedback entering screen writing contest and see what happens.
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 when of script script I’d worked on one first place that the world Fest Houston for screenwriting.
And I mean that’s worth a lot. That’s sure to get so you want to have something that if you write to a production company, they have a reason to read your script anyting anything that could give a little cash to the script. 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 also won the screenwriting Awards and.
Was chosen as I mean something and help make them want to read it. Now you touch the little bit about this earlier about other markets decides 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. Um, 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. 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’re probably have a better chance. I have a client coming in. Um 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 12 15 years ago. He said not one of my colleagues at Columbia Film School of gotten film me was that it was the US market is really tough. Oh, no, they made they made it in their own countries.
Yes, and so. Right. And so when that the u.s. Market is the toughest so when people from Germany or England or wherever say, well I want to get a film in Hollywood don’t even bother 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 we’ll let’s hit that, you know that writer so.
Now the other thing is somebody who is from the US and 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 whole Productions at other markets. So Canada for instance or Germany or England? Got it if you got some scenes in Germany.
Go to German producers and if you got scenes in England go to England producers, um and this kind of bypass um, or if you don’t bypass the US market go to a production company not a studio. It’s hard to get your script interest through you anyway, right 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 goes producers and of course sometimes with um smaller, you know, smaller producers are are trying to find that writer.
Who’s just wonderful. But less expensive well, like like, um, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, um Reese Witherspoon, uh, 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 um Gone Girl. She actually got to got the rights the gun girl and look for those actors if you want to go after and after look for the actors they have production companies.
As you have a better chance with that than some other way and then you know, the thing with agents people say well, can I get an agent or manager and say well it’ll take you years you might do better getting a deal and then you can go to any agent because you have proven. Something about yourself.
It’s really really hard to get an agent and as very very hard to get your agent as a new writer to work for you and make anything happen. Yeah. I know many writers in La that have that problem with their agents and managers. Yeah, because they just want to look they’re in the business to make money.
And if it’s much easier to sell someone who has an Academy Award or as a proven track record than to hustle a new guy coming up. Yes, um now do you um, do you suggest screenwriters short films or short screenplays to see if they can get that produced in a way to build a track record up? Well, especially if they’re directors themselves and want to do a short film short films of the great opportunities that film festivals and short films can prove who you are.
They show your ability. I work on quite a few and say quite a few. I mean I work on short films and one of the things I always look for. Uh 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 you know, Michael Mann to do the car chase.
They don’t need 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 director is not only good at what they’re doing but wonderful script no great job of directing. So, um again, you have something to show and it doesn’t have to be a 30 minute film.
There’s a lot of fabulous films at six minutes or 10 in fact years ago. I worked on a um short film it was called there is no April and the two characters were named May and June I said it was six minutes. It was two women on their way to Las Vegas were one was going to give a quick Eevee forest.
And the uh, 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 name is Cherry 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 on audience favorite award at the Albany 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 um, It was interesting to say everything you do you do with the same professionalism as when you finally get the opportunity to do the the feature right?
Don’t ever dismiss anything. Now the structure of a of a short screenplay 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? Yeah, I still structured in the 3x structure their beginning middle and end and even with this little um, Uh, there is no April.
I 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. It’s a much it’s even tougher or than doing a 90-minute script at that point. Well, I don’t know if it’s tougher a different, you know top and it is interesting to see.
How well many of these do I I think every short film I want I’ve worked on has won awards and uh, 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 in that kept me going and I did my little short and it won these Awards and uh, you know, what a what a nice thing is to start to see and.
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. Right and that does help as an artist. You want that reinforcement? Assurance 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 after 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. I think that is going to keep you going as you feel inside.
Passionate about what you’re doing and you are keep going through the learning curve. Yeah, absolutely. Now one. Um, one one thing I I’ve when I when I went to started studying screenplay writing and and uh all the books and you obviously here’s your books on the top of that list. Uh, the one book that really kind of um, or the the concept I guess was uh, Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, which um, that kind of changed the game for um for storytelling.
In the last 30 40. When did that come out? When did he release that? I know that it was in the early to mid 80s after Star Wars came out we could act I think was more like 77 right? Correct 7 but when Star Wars came out in uh, 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 write which deals with the hero’s journey and I I did some parts in my making a good script raid 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 if that’s not the book. I want to write you should write it then once they’re while Chris thanks me. He said I’m really glad you pushed me because that book has been extremely well received and done extremely. Well, I’ve read that book. I do with seminars on that. So um one can get Joseph Campbell kind of.
Put down into screenplay form by reading Chris’s bark right kind of like yet because Joseph Campbell’s is more mythology. It’s not focused specifically on filmmaking while Chris Chris is book is that’s what I loved about his. His book as well. Um now when they’re when there’s writing a screenplay and 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 into the world like actually get seen. Yes, well, that’s that’s the golden ticket. That’s a whole world in itself. But one thing people can do. Um, they can go to confiscating writing conferences that have pitched best.
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, Calgary. Name signal who is just fabulous. That 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 step 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 and your briefcase and when they say I’m interested you give them the one sheet in the next day.
You send them a script if they say they’re willing to read it. Is it there really quickly very quickly and there’s been a lot of successes with something like these pitchfest there’s one and 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.
Um, Just this competition it’s less competent and there is a cachet maybe not in Canada, but other parts of the world that like, oh, this is a us an American screenwriter Hollywood screenwriter and might have some more cash have more pull, uh, and in marketing. Yep. Yeah, yeah, there are some things where people put their synopses online and you have to be kind of careful about that because it’s easier to steal and I do know some people have done well with that.
I think there are some of those um sponsors of. Those kind of synopsis 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. Um this overall what the Senate is are there probably quite low, but then everything is quite low.
Now, can you uh, can you really briefly talk about log lines which is something that a lot of people don’t talk about and the importance of them. Oh, yeah, like the lines are that one line that immediately encapsulate your story for instance. If I said the shark threatens the tourist town and of course of July weekend.
Yes Jaws, I love dtt. Was fantastic.
Not something withdraws is you listen that logline it has conflict on it. You use the word threatens. It has high stakes as the Fourth of July weekend, which says this is the Tourist dollars as he says and it’s a shark. So it’s the mannequins Montessori in one line. You have so much information and so a writer Works in words on that log line because if you go to a pitch Fest, you might want to have that blog line to pull the person in immediately.
That you are 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 and Steven Spielberg is standing behind you. That’s when. You go into your I have a script a shark threat final pitch that story to him.
I think he knows that what that punch to say. I had a say that because I just happen to have this opportunity. Let me see what that person says and you again make it very very concise. Michael Hague is written a book called. I think it’s selling. The selling your script in 60 seconds. It’s something like that is about pitching and is about treatments and um, 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. So um, I wanted just to uh to kind of closed off our interview with uh, two movies that I wanted you to kind of talk about a little bit and um, two of them are considered to the great great screenplays ever written but um, uh one and they’re very different from each other.
Uh, one movie is Shawshank Redemption, which is considered probably one of the greatest films ever made. Um at least by IMDb standards, um, what makes that movie so ridiculously amazing, uh from NF talked to every. Every scope of life, you know for everybody from you know, millionaires to you know kids to 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 just thing about it.
Can you kind of break that down and then the other movie um story I’ll tell you about the other movie afterwards you think about I’ll go to the okay. The other one is Pulp Fiction. Like how that that magic of what that is the greatest movies of all time. I’m not sure I would know what it does some of them.
I think most of them they are both, you know, they are both very good. Um, they’re both excellent. Um and say, well what is it about them? Um, I think the feeling for the characters and their situation in their context is so uh strong when you imagine with Morgan Freeman. He just pulls you into that story.
So beautiful Robin’s and memorable scenes one of the things to look for in a movie is. What are the seams you probably have not seen before that carry so much emotion so much feeling it because that’s where you go into the art. Not the craft or Shawshank is based on Stephen King’s Story when I think of Shawshank and I think of that scene where Tim Robbins goes into the room and locks the door and plates.
I piece of classical music and Opera and he puts it on the intercom and it just floods the prism everybody just as brought to a halt by the beauty to bring Beauty in that and oh my gosh the feeling of that scene. Um, so sometimes in movies when you analyze them. For instance structurally Shawshank.
I think the resolutions 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 view point just a story that pulls you in in the twists and turns of the story the fact that this guy. Getting his Rita Hayworth could take behind them and what it took and themes of determination so you can look to say it’s a great story.
It’s great characters as active roles that really bring great actors to the table. It’s a theme that is expressed. And um, it has in that case the twists and turns. Whole section is such an original piece. If very little money to shoot it with low budget lots of fascinating things. I mean, the guy is just shot the person and he starts quoting from the Bible my gosh and the shirt 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. Then he did Reservoir Dogs, then he did fiction and I remember in that opening scene in the cafe that when he stopped that.
He starts the credit and his belly dancing music. I mean, it happened years ago. Aye-aye sir. The surfing music right belly dance of that killer piece of music starts the movie again in a totally different place at I totally trusted. Quentin Tarantino know what he was doing. He was not going to drop that scene.
We were going to come back to it and to uh feel that sense of a writer director, who knows what they’re doing and has a sure and confident hand now, right? That’s a great analogy that how he just entered all of this. And still hitting the Beats still hitting that he hit he hit that hero’s journey oddly enough within that structure 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 the interweaving. Is really fast and he’ll drop something for a while. But then you know, he’s going to come back to it. 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 um, Robert Rodriguez and he was talkin about um, he was he was seen at their best friends and they’ve been and they were doing the movie at the time and just like George Lucas had that screening of Star Wars for you know, the Palm on Coppola.
All that and everyone said oh poor George George. He just yeah. Well, maybe next one. George Spielberg was the only one that kind of like you might have something here Quentin did the same similar thing with uh with Pulp Fiction. He brought in all his his friends, um, 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 will remain nameless because no one knows who it is because Quentin won’t say who it is. He’s like, you know, I’m gonna have a Stern talking-to about with quitting 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 gonna make that phone call, but then. Quentin was over in France with so after he won the palme D’Or his friend calls him up and goes I was gonna give you a Stern talking-to, but what the hell do I know? I’m Gretchen.
Well fiction has what I call the loop structure is that you Loop it back and uh, Quentin Who quotes some somebody else says, you know story has a beginning middle and end but not necessarily in that order, correct. And in my book had been screenwriting I talk about different non-traditional structures and Pulp Fiction is the example of Loop and just an unusual structure.
But he knew what he was doing that confident Han is is something that um that I it’s a great it’s a great description of of the Quinton was a filmmaker. He he’s gonna go down his route no matter what. What you think about it, but he knows he’s gonna take you in this journey. It’s kind of like when I saw Birdman last year and I was like, oh, I forgot what a real directors like somebody knows what they’re doing.
And they and this is not the first rodeo right? Just like took you through the first time they have Godless and it’s so I I just still remember watching Birdman and go. This is what a directors like like you watch it when you watch a Scorsese movie or one of you know the big but I hadn’t seen a movie so original and completely he took you in that journey and you trusted him.
The entire time um, and it was uh, it was a one and I’m so glad I won the Oscar. I was like such a odd choice for uh, you know for the out for the Academy, but I thought it was a wonderful Choice. Um, so last question. My dear is a toughest question of the mall. So prepare yourself. I asked this of all of my uh, all my guests.
What are your top three films of all time? Oh, okay the best. Yeah in your face, there’s so many but let me just mention a couple I particularly find is gems one is always Amadeus. Yeah, you’re not I just had someone else. I’m a day system wonderful thing big diamond really big one. You know like Gone With the Wind.
Those are the the big diamonds. Um, You know who say the top three films I went on to answer that. I could answer it in terms of movies that I am incredibly fond of the time. 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 for many many years.
I think it is one of the best structured films and these guys really knew what they were doing telling the story because I have a special feeling for witness my. Husband who had that time was guy was dating sort of kind of proposed to me in the middle of the barn-raising scene. Then the proposal became specific and now we’ve been married for it’ll be 29 years next year.
Congratulations. So, uh, I have a real feeling uh comedies I put to exceed the top very somatic very strong. Um, Just you know Wonderful acting wonderful characters great idea behind it. Um, so those are three and then I’ll just mention what I call a little gem the little Diamond stand by me. I love that 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 coordinating would not be pulled into that film if somebody said what is one of the least interesting things to you as I would say 12 year old boys because they make me so nervous they walk on railroad tracks and trains already 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 a this little directional line. Let’s go find a dead body all stuff about friendship. It’s just uh, I call that the little Diamond absolute Gem of a little movie. Wonderful list wonderful list. So uh Linda where can people find you.
Um, Linda is my website my email Linda Linda, I think ABAB Seger if you’re not sure how to how to find me and it’s the same spelling. Um, and I got a full website. There’s a whole lot of stuff on there that people will probably find interesting and you have many evil. Books, correct. Yes. There’s nine of them are in screenwriting.
Okay. And then you also do you also do uh Consulting as well as um workshops every once in a while. Yes. Most of my work is script Consulting and then I do seminars for my next one is Norway and um, I was in Europe All Summer Long doing Vienna and Germany in England and Paris. Tough life tough.
Yeah. Yeah tough life. I think I did seven in nine weeks and I just went from one country to the other with little vacation time in there. So, uh, but I’m pretty easy to find. Okay fantastic Linda. Thank you so much for taking out the time to talk to us. We really appreciate it. Okay, and you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter.
And um also sign up for my newsletter. Absolutely. Thanks again Linda. Thanks so much. It was an absolute pleasure talking to Linda. She really drops a major knowledge bombs on the tribe today, and I really do appreciate her taking the time out to talk to us. So thank you Linda very much if you want links to anything we talked about in this episode just head over to indie film.
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So just head over to screenwriting podcast. And as always keep on writing no matter what I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay. That’s bul la.