Today on the show we have the legendary Linda Segar. Linda was one of my first ever interviews back when I launched Indie Film Hustle and her episode is by far one of the most popular ever. Here’s some info on our lovely guest.
In 1981, Linda Seger created and defined the career of Script Consultant. She based her business on a method for analyzing scripts that she had developed for her doctoral dissertation project. Since then, she has consulted on over 2,000 scripts including over 50 produced feature films and over 35 produced television projects. Linda was the consultant for Peter Jackson’s breakthrough film, Brain Dead and for Roland Emmerich’s breakthrough film, Universal Soldier.
She was the script consultant on Pasttime and Picture Bride–both winners of the Audience Favorite Award at the Sundance Film Festival–as well as for the films The Long Walk Home, The Neverending Story II, Luther, Romero, and television movies and mini-series including The Bridge, the Danish-Swedish mini-series (now playing in the US).
Other clients include Ray Bradbury who said, “Linda’s technique is a light to see by,” William Kelley, Linda Lavin, and production companies, film studios, producers, directors, and writers from over 33 countries.
Having authored nine books on scriptwriting, including the best selling Making A Good Script Great, Linda is one of the most prolific writers in her field.
Here new book The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking: From Script to Screen explores what goes into the making of Hollywood’s greatest motion pictures. Join veteran script consultant Linda Seger as she examines contemporary and classic screenplays on their perilous journey from script to screen. This fully revised and updated edition includes interviews with over 80 well-known artists in their fields including writers, producers, directors, actors, editors, composers, and production designers.
Their discussions about the art and craft of filmmaking – including how and why they make their decisions – provides filmmaking and screenwriting students and professionals with the ultimate guide to creating the best possible “blueprint” for a film and to also fully understand the artistic and technical decisions being made by all those involved in the process.
“A very thorough and fascinating look at the whole filmmaking process – the art and the craft. Highly readable and interesting for filmmakers or beginners with a special emphasis on the power of collaboration. A well researched insider’s guide – like taking the hand of accomplished filmmakers and learning from the best.”
– Ron Howard, Oscar-Winning Director and Co-Founder of Imagine Entertainment
Enjoy my knowledge bomb filled conversation with Linda Seger.
Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now today is a special crossover event between the bulletproof screenplay podcast and the indie film hustle podcast. On the show we have returning champion and legend in the screenwriting field. Linda Seger, Linda is the author of the best selling game changing book making a good script great. Some of her other titles are writing for subtext creating unforgettable characters, making a good writer great advanced screenwriting, the art of adapting turning fact and fiction into film, just to name a few. And her brand new book is called the collaborative art of filmmaking from script to screen. In that book, she interviews over 80 well known artists, directors, producers, writers, editors, composers, production designers, and see how they work together to make some of the greatest films of all time. Now. I love Linda, she has been on she was one of my early early original guests on the indie film hustle podcast show, and an early guests on the bulletproof screenplay podcast. I wanted to have her back, because I want to not only talk about her new book, but really go into the weeds on making a good script great and what it takes to be a screenwriter in today's world and just talking to her. You know, Linda is a wealth of wealth, a wealth of information, she really is truly a national treasure when it comes to screenwriting. She not only works with Oscar winning directors and writers and producers, but she also works with the little guy, the one screenwriter who's just starting up with an idea. She works with everybody and everybody from the beginner to the professional and everyone in between. and she has such amazing insight and stories about that process about creating good scripts, things that actually sell in the marketplace, and honing in on that idea, that idea that you might be bringing to her. She's there to really kind of help you chisel it and define what you're trying to do. So I had an absolute ball talking to Linda, this is a fairly epic episode is over an hour and change. And she just kept talking and talking and I seriously could have kept talking to her for hours. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Linda Seger. I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Linda Seger, thank you so much for being on the show, Linda.
Linda Seger 4:57
Oh, thank you.
Alex Ferrari 4:58
You have been you were one My early, one of my early episodes, one of my early interviews and your how to make a good script. Great. And you honestly, were one of the most popular podcasts I had on both of my podcasts. And for everyone that everyone who's listening who doesn't know who Linda is or her work, she is a legend she has been she was like one of the first if not the first.
Linda Seger 5:21
Yeah, and I was the first. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 5:23
So you actually started the whole consulting, helping screenwriters writing.
Linda Seger 5:30
I started the script consulting business. And I started it is I was the first one to think of it is an entrepreneurial business, as opposed to somebody teaching a class and helping people with their scripts.
Alex Ferrari 5:46
So tell us a little bit about tell everybody a little bit about your background, if they don't know who you are?
Linda Seger 5:50
Well, I have a big background in drama, I have a Master's, I have a doctorate in a very unusual field of drama and theology, if you can figure that out. And I've taught college, I've directed plays, and I did a thesis for my doctoral degree on what makes a script work or what makes a great script. And when I entered the film industry, in 1980, I found a whole lot of scripts that didn't work. And I took my thesis and I apply that to those scripts to figure out what's missing. And it was very workable, I started out very slowly went to a career consultant said, this is really what I want to do. So I've been doing this since 1981, I really still enjoy doing it. I work with a whole huge breadth of writers, I work with people who say I have an idea. And I work with Academy Award winners, and just about everybody in between.
Alex Ferrari 6:54
Now, I want to add, I've always been curious about this, because I've had like your friend Michael Hagen, and Chris Vogler and a lot of these guys who are in the space with you, and they also work with like, you know, starting out, and then they also work with these big Oscar winning. How is the conversation like when you have an Oscar winning screenwriter, who's obviously very capable and very seasoned? What is the conversation like that too, like when they call you for help? Where's their block? what's what's stopping you from writing something?
Linda Seger 7:26
Sometimes the problem is that it's simply not selling, and they're wondering if there's something wrong that they are not seeing. Because no one is very objective about your own work, you need a professional outside eye. But what I noticed with the experienced writers, very, I'm very respectful. And I'm very careful, and I don't have to say as much. So I might just say, Okay, let's look at this first turning point. It's a little muddy, could it be just a little cleaner to really get that narrative track and the second app going? And they nod? And I, I don't have to say more, because I don't have to explain that they know exactly what I'm saying. So there's a shortcut. And there's a kind of a trust that is there that okay, I say those three sentences and next point. And, and most of the time, experienced people are also very respectful of me. And there is that mutual sense, you're both doing a professional job. Now, I do have experienced writers who say, never tell anyone who worked with me, that I call you in on my scripts, because I'm a professional. Right? And I think other people really don't mind. Like I worked with William Kelly, who wrote witness after witness. And I think we actually worked on two scripts so they they didn't get made. And I think the producers had an idea that was kind of unworkable, no matter what you did with that. But that was great to work with him and to know him.
Alex Ferrari 9:10
That's, that's amazing. Yeah, cuz I know a lot of times, screenwriters, especially when they get up, up and up, or the upper echelons of the business, where their names are now famous or known in the industry, at least, they don't want to know that they don't want to let anyone know that like I have a secret weapon like Linda, for advice.
Linda Seger 9:32
Yeah. And other people are actually very pleased about them say, Oh, that's, that's fine. And in fact, when I started out in 1980, and 81, I was a secret from everyone and nobody would admit it. Now, what happens is a lot of people consider it sort of a badge of honor and professionalism. Like Of course, I go to a script consultant to make sure I get that last five or 10 or 20% out of my scripts, like No problem.
Alex Ferrari 10:01
That's amazing because I mean, cuz a lot of times screenwriters, especially young screenwriters, they just they don't they don't think squeek consultants can bring a lot of value to them, because they're like, oh, if, if they can do like, if they if they're that good, why haven't they won 10 Oscars and things like that. And it's, it's kind of, I've always looked at as, like, you're looking at it, you're like a technician, you're gonna come in and do things, and see things that they just are not going to see, no matter how talented they might be. Michael Jordan had a coach, I mean, he was the greatest basketball players of all time.
Linda Seger 10:36
Well, the other thing is consulting is a totally different talent than screenwriting. And you have to be diplomatic, you have to be very good at explaining concepts. So, you know, when people say, Well, you don't write, say, No, I'm not interested in writing, I'm interested in consulting, because that's where my ability and that's where my background is. and consulting is a combination of analytical and creative, because I have to get inside that other person's story in their style. And when I give notes, I have to if it's a comedy, I have to give calm comedy notes, not just, you know, notes. And, and I'm there to help them work and nurture their own talent and their particular abilities. So it's, it suits me very, very well. And there's just a lot of people say, I just don't want to do that I really want to write and so that's great.
Unknown Speaker 11:39
We need writers.
Alex Ferrari 11:41
Now your new book? Well, one of the many I mean, you've written like 13 or 5000 books. Well,
Linda Seger 11:47
I didn't know for 15 and, but nine on screenwriting, and I'm writing my 10th on screenwriting right now.
Alex Ferrari 11:53
Right. And you've and you've written, you're very prolific as a writer. I don't know what you're saying you don't like to write. But you do write, you write, you write these books, you write a lot of books. But your latest book is the collaborative of art of filmmaking, the art of filmmaking from script to screen, yes. Push the book out there. Absolutely. So I wanted to ask you, what are some of the necessary elements that make a successful creative caliber collaboration?
Linda Seger 12:22
Well, the first thing is that film used to be think thought of as the directors, the true artists, so it was called the auteur theory. And somewhere in the 80s, maybe even into the 90s, people began to think differently about making a film. So this is a collaboration between the greatest artists in each of their areas. I mean, imagine working with the greatest composers, the greatest makeup artists, the greatest actors, the greatest directors, and what a thrill that is, when you think of how much they bring, because they are masters at what they do. So the collaborative art of filmmaking follows the script from the script stage, through every artists to look at what does each artist do along the way to create the film. And the script is really sometimes thought of as a guide or a blueprint. It's, it's one of the few art forms that is not complete when you do it. It's not complete, until all these different artists come in and do this great work with that. Now, what we did the for the first two editions were done with I had a co author Ed Wetmore, who actually died in 2016, but gave me permission before that, to do the third edition by myself. When we first did this, we interviewed 70 different artists. And then we've added interviews. And in this one, the third edition, I've added some more and also did a lot of Google research as well. And now it isn't really exactly an interview book, what it is, is that all these different artists, talk about ideas, so that so I will discuss an idea, let's just talk about what a composer does. And then there might be a series of quotes from famous composers that expand the idea that I have introduced. So and then there's a case study and we decided to keep the same case study is the second edition, which is a beautiful mind. Just because it's it's a great film. And it's really, really difficult to talk to every artists on a film. And that was the whole idea of a case study. So the first edition, the case study was Dead Poets Society, and some of those quotes are integrated into this book. And then the second edition was a beautiful mind with the help of Ron Howard at getting to all These people, except for the actors and runs, it doesn't matter what I do. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are not going to talk to you. So there was so much written online, so I got great material in there for them. And it is interesting because it's not easy to get these interviews. And but, I mean, literally, we did 70 we sat down with I mean, I had lunch with Ron Howard, I went to Hans Zimmer's studio, music studio, who's the composer and was on actually, on a set with a Bill Conti, the composer. When he was recording the music, he invited us to come in, listen to a recording session. So we were in Leonard Nimoy, his home sipping cappuccino when Lawrence chasms home. And I mean, it was it was just, you know,
Alex Ferrari 16:00
it's tough, it's tough. It's a tough game,
Linda Seger 16:02
it's really tough to deal with these people. And so there were there are some additions to those. And just lots of lots of wonderful information in here. That's really important to every artists, because the actors should know what the editor is doing, and the editors should know what the composer is going to do. But for the screenwriter, it's really important to know what people are going to do with your script. And when what they're doing is fine. And when what they're doing is you just cringe over that because you you want great people working with it.
Alex Ferrari 16:43
No, I mean, if you can imagine Steven Spielberg's work without john Williams, or without or without Janice Kandinsky as his cinematographer. I mean, what Kathleen Kennedy or Kathleen? I mean, yeah, his amazing collaborators, he has him everyone thinks of Steven Spielberg as one of the greatest directors of all time, which he is, but without this group of people around him, he doesn't have that magic, you have to it is such a collaborative art. And people always forget about that, because of this theory, the autour theory, which, you know, like the Kubrick's of the world, and you know, Billy Wilder and Orson Welles and these kind of older filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock, but all of these guys had such a color. I mean, they had collaborators for years. I know Ron Howard, he won't even move on a movie unless his first ad is available, and he's worked on his first ad, they will stop them, we can't, can't go until the first ad is.
Linda Seger 17:42
Yes. And people like Spielberg, or a lot of a lot of these other people. Clint Eastwood uses a lot of the same people Spike Lee, is say we have such a shorthand, it's just so relaxing is so much easier, because you know, where everybody is, you know, that you can trust them. And so more and more people have this group around them, that, as you say, goes this far as the assistant director, and I mean, Lauren's cast and did so many movies with Carol Littleton as the editor. Do so you to say, Yeah, when you work well with people, you want to keep working with them.
Alex Ferrari 18:23
It's hard. It's hard to even find people you can work with in this business. And when you find them, you hold on tight. Yes, yes. Yeah, that's, that's the best. And you also mentioned something earlier that, you know, screenwriters should actually know what the editor and the DP and everyone else is doing. And I'm such a proponent of educating yourself as much as humanly possible about the process and so many times, specifically, screenwriters, they'll just stay in their little screenwriting bubble and they just like, well, like, I don't even know what a dp does, or I don't even know what the editors doing and make if you don't have to be an expert on any of those areas. But do you agree that you should at every every person should know everything as much as they can about this process?
Linda Seger 19:05
Yes. And one of the reasons to know so much is that you want the best people in each area to be attracted to your script. And if you know how to write that script, where the editor says, I just love the way these scenes move one to the other. I love how clear the narrative wine is. vs. I want to be part of that or the director loves the images, or the producer says, You know, I think I can sell this. I think this is really commercial. It's got all the elements that we look for in a great film. So the more you can know about that, the better and there is a saying, you can't use it if you don't know it. And so said you never block out law knowledge you never limit yourself and maybe on technical things. I say I don't want to learn. I don't want to learn that but But you know, when it comes to film or something like that you really want to be open, because it's amazing how many tools you will use that are in your toolbox.
Alex Ferrari 20:12
Now, if you're able to write if you're able to write something like you're saying that, you know, can address an editor going, Oh, I just love the way this is that or this or that, or the DP goes, Oh, I love the images. And what you could do with that, a lot of times those secondary and third layer of people, like the director will be maybe on the fence and they'll hand it to the editor. I'm like, What do you think? And that's the thing that puts it puts us over the top is that or the producer will do the same thing.
Linda Seger 20:36
Plus, these areas are so fascinating. Before we did the first edition of this book, I did a class in every area at UCLA. And so I took editing, I audited composing. I did and I actually have had a background acting so but I took an acting weekend. And I took actually three film directing classes. And people said, Are you interested in directing film? I said, No, I just want to understand that folk that focus on that perception of the director. And I totally enjoyed all of these classes. They're just so fascinating to learn how all these different pieces fit together. And then talking to people who just, you know, really knew how to be interviewed and knew all this amazing information. You know, acting How do you prepare for the acting part or makeup. Another thing I find so interesting was the different personalities. Because Brian Howard said, the director gets to play with everybody. And so the director has to be kind of extroverted, but to think of the editor in the dark room editing, and you think of the writer in the room, by him, by him or herself very solitary. So that's a different personality, or the actor that has to relate so well to so many people. The makeup, people told me, one of the things that they had to do is they said, We have to be able to move with all these different personalities, because we are the first person the actor sees. And we have to help set the tone, if they want to talk before they start shooting will having their makeup on, we will talk and if they want to be quiet, we will be quiet and we better be in a good mood. Because that's part of our job is to get that attitude going before he go on the set and have to do that hard work.
Alex Ferrari 22:45
That is what we like to call being professional. Yes, professional, which is, unfortunately, lacking in many ways in the business.
Linda Seger 22:56
Well, in this business, there is a tendency to think that everyone can do everything everyone thinks they can write, and they can act and they can direct. And the composer said we are the first artists where people will actually admit they can't do our work. And they say and a lot of times that they will say to the composer something like I want a motet here. And the composer will say, believe me, you do not want a motet here. Let me play you what actually is. And one of the quotes in this book, which is so cute, as they said, so many people don't know how to talk to the composer. And someone says, you know this, this is a little too much like yellow sunshine, could you make it more like a blue cloud? Like the composes? I guess so I guess we can do that.
Alex Ferrari 23:51
No, it's because I've worked with many composers in my career and it is like, once or twice, try to talk in their talk. And both times they just like you need to stop that. That is not your job. It is my job to do that. And all you got to tell me and this is a great piece of advice for people working with a composer is speak emotion. Speak. What do you want to feel I'll get that's my I'm the translator from your emotion to the music. That's why you have me here. I think that was a great, great way of looking at it.
Linda Seger 24:23
Yes. And in that moment when composers say I got it you know or I I'm they play a little tune I said that said that they play a little Tennessee. No, not even close.
Alex Ferrari 24:38
I like I would love to sit in a room with john Williams and Steven Spielberg just for like 15 minutes to be a fly on that wall during any any of their sessions just to see what that after so many decades and decades of making iconic things together. Like what's that conversation like at this point?
Linda Seger 24:56
One of the interesting things that I have in here is that when john Williams compose that five note sequence in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he said, I sat down and I came up with 350 combinations of these five notes. And then Spielberg asked a mathematician, how many possible come combinations are there? And I think it was something like 34,000 and john Williams that I think maybe among my 350 I can find something you know, the right kind of sound that I'm looking for. But isn't that amazing? And see, I think that's another great thing about professionals is that sometimes people think professionals it's easier said no profit, the difference between a professional and an amateur is the professional works harder to make. Good Yeah, they will they keep working to get it right. And they have they have trained themselves to sort of know that aha moment. Does, yes. Okay, this is what I'm looking for. But, you know, screen professional screenwriters write a scene 22 times, and amateurs after the third time they think it's there and say no, is that that's the difference between the two is you? You learn? Okay, let me look at this again. I have a saying with the books I write if I haven't written that sentence, 10 times is probably not good enough.
Alex Ferrari 26:26
That's, that's great.
Linda Seger 26:28
Yeah. is in you just and you work on the wording and you work on the rhythm and you reverse the sentences. And then you decide, let's not do that here. Let's do this here. And I'm in just because I, I'm a nonfiction writer, because I do the screenwriting books, and I do some books on spirituality. And so in doing though, is I'm, you know, I'm doing the creative process of a writer, I'm just doing it in the form of nonfiction, as opposed to screenwriting. And it is interesting. I love working with ideas. I love writing books. And I have never had a desire to write screenplays. I love consulting on screenplays, I just just love the different subject matter I get and the different problems I encounter. So we all have that place where we have to figure out where we fit. And what's nice about the collaborative art of filmmaking that if you want to be in the film industry, but you're not sure where you want to be, you read about all these hours and say, Oh, I'm fascinated with editing. I never knew that when I never did so. So the book will help you figure out where you fit in. If you're a new filmmaker doing low budget, the book will help you through those low budget films where you don't necessarily have all the people around you that the expensive studio films might have.
Alex Ferrari 27:55
Now, real quickly, you were you were talking about professionals and amateurs and I know amateurs a lot of times are people starting out when they're writing screenwriting and writing screenplays, they get caught up so much in the in the the minutiae of the period has to be here that has to be there all these rules in the formatting, not even the structure or story, just the formatting. And it is important to format and like I always tell people, I'm like when you're Shane Black. They're gonna let a spelling error go by they're gonna let some grammatical stuff go by because you're shooting black or you're Aaron Sorkin. And that's going to fly and you have to be so much more perfect when you're starting out. But I think they get caught up so much. I'm exam when I started writing my screenplays, I did the same thing. I was just like, literally periods and this and that. What's your opinion on that?
Linda Seger 28:45
Well, there's so many good formatting programs to help you. But if you're writing the first script First, it doesn't matter. And then you'll after you write it, you'll go in, you'll reformat it, what you want to do is to start getting it down and have the experience of writing 100 pages. It's scary. The first time I I wrote my first book, making a good script. Great. I was terrified until the last chapter. And what I learned was you can type when you are terrified, your your hands might be shaking, but you can still type. And pretty soon you take a deep breath and it's like, okay, and on many of my books, I've reached those points of sheer terror, said, Oh my gosh, I have to do this chapter or what am I talking about? And is this good enough? And then you go back into it and you get feedback. That's extremely important in writing. And you go through the process and, you know, somewhere around my sixth book, it occurred to me I was an author. I used to say I write books, and someone said, You're an author. I said, Oh, yes, I guess I'm an author.
Alex Ferrari 29:59
We'll be right back. After a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Linda Seger 30:10
And as you write, I mean, I feel like I have a handle on writing now. And it goes more easily in many ways because I don't get frustrated, I don't get upset. If I'm running into a problem, I go for help I go for feedback, I can hire a researcher, I mean, I do whatever is needed in order to do it. But terror is part of that, and especially at the beginning. And, and knowing that you're having trouble with something, say, I don't know how to do this. I had a literary consultant for my first seven books. And sometimes I needed him for the whole book. And so the first couple books he did, he worked on the whole book, and my editor at the publisher, say, why are you having that? That's what I do. And I said, Well, you actually do something somewhat different. And he helps me present to you a good draft. So you don't have to do as much, but people have different talents. And then, as I got more, you know, farther along, when I ran into problems, I would go back to him. And sometimes I'd go back to him with a page. The one my one of my books is, he said, you know what you're, you're actually first chapter actually starts on page to move that paragraph up with these three paragraphs that were here, said, Oh, talk works really well. And I couldn't see it. So we need we need those people.
Alex Ferrari 31:46
Yeah, I understand your point of after six books, you think of yourself as an author and took me a long time before I consider myself a director or I consider myself a writer of any sort. After after, or even a podcaster at this point, like, I guess I guess I'm up like, I would literally turn people like, oh, you're a podcaster. I'm like, I guess after three 400 episodes, I think I guess I am. I don't?
Linda Seger 32:08
Yeah, I don't know, this is interesting how long it takes for us to acknowledge Yeah, on the other hand, some people acknowledge it so fast, that they say I'm a writer, director, producer, and you say what have you done? So I have a couple ideas.
Alex Ferrari 32:24
No, I'm a business card and a business card that quite yet, and they have a business card, don't forget to have that they have the business card. So that's all they need. Now, I wanted to also because there's so I mean, I could talk to you for hours. So I'm going to try to get a little bit more in because I wanted to also touch on a few of your other books and some of these concepts in your other books. I was fascinated about the concept of competitive being competitive against being collaborative. You know, there's so many so many NFL only filmmakers screenwriters out there, who have this kind of dog eat dog mentality when they're trying to just like, I got to undercut that guy, or That girl is gonna, you know, I'm like, I mean, come like I'm in competition with with Aaron Sorkin. I'm like, No, you're not stop. You're not? What do you have to say about that? What advice? Can you give screenwriters and filmmakers? Who are this kind of doggy dog competition,
Linda Seger 33:15
and amazing collaborative business? And if you have that sense of competition, work at getting over it. Now, when I started, I had that sense. And anytime someone came along, or someone's a tree, they're just a great seminar leader. And I go, oh, oh, are they better than me for that was a great script consultant. And every time that happened to say, I don't want to do this, I do not want to spend my life feeling competitive with people. So I don't have competitors. I have colleagues. And we have worked really hard. So I'd say the late 1980s to come together. So most of my colleagues, I know them I have good relationships with them. Some of them I'm very dear friends with but the thing when you're collaborative is that you feed each other with simply opens up your business. So I endorse other people's books, they endorsed my book, my certain colleagues get me jobs, I get them jobs. We you know, we really and we talk about things. Sometimes we have to talk about a contract. Sometimes we'll talk about maybe a problem we're having with the client and you call and you say how do I handle this and, and I have, I have well one of one of mine, when you know if I ever get sort of caught up in that junky stuff, you know that junky stuff that we sometimes get caught up in. And Pamela j Smith is a mythologist script consultant. Also she says, Honey, don't get none of that. Yeah, that's great. And sometimes, you know, she'll say, leave this one alone. And other times she says, No, this has to be addressed. And let's work together on the email or how we're going to address this. Because it's it's important for the industry to address certain things. So I think that's another thing I have, what I call my confidence. And when I'm not sure about something, I say, Okay, how do I handle this, I don't think I'm either I'm not handling it well, or I have a feeling I'm not going to handle it. Well, if I talk to you. So we need we really need each other. And that begins to feed everything out and ripple outwards. I wrote a book about this. It's an it's not a screenwriting book, it is what is called the better way to win, the better way to win, connecting, not competing for success. And I did it as a master's degree in a I have an MA in feminist theology, among other degrees. And so I was interested, how do you move from one model of thinking to another when you've grown up and thinking of other people in your field as competition and, and it took me a long time to get over that. But then my intention was, I do not want to live my life this way. It just eats you away. And, you know, you can't appreciate other people and why like, Who's number one in the world? Oh, forget it.
Alex Ferrari 36:37
I mean, but don't you agree that I mean, I always because I even in my world where I'm online being an online influencer, if you will, in the filmmaking and screenwriting space with indie film, hustle, and bulletproof screenplay, I get, I get colleagues of mine who are also in this space. who think of me a lot of times it's a competition and I always tell people, I don't have competition, because there is nobody that can compete with me, because it's like me, it's like me trying to compete with Chris Nolan. Like, yeah, Chris Nolan is Chris Nolan. I he has a flavor in his movies. I have a flavor of mine. You know, maybe that's not a good example because he's at a different level than I am. But no, but it just even colleagues is like, there's only one Linda Seeger like, you know, there's a Michael Haig, there's a Chris Vogler. There's a john Truby. You know, all these guys have very different flavors, and are presenting ideas just in their own through their own filter. And it's just you can't really compete at that point. And some people
Linda Seger 37:34
like you, good. Yeah, because you want to be authentic, not only as a human being, but in your work. And you say my work is an expression of me. And so there isn't anyone else that does things, the way that I do it. But I have teamed up I even do team consulting at times where just recently, someone had a very mythic oriented script. And so I did my work. And then they went to Pamela Smith. And she did them at her mythology work on it. And then Pamela and I had a phone conversation to just make sure we were in tune because we said we don't want to contradict each other. We want to expand on each other. And, and you know, it's so much fun to work with good colleagues. So we used to be part of a screenwriting summit where it was Syd field and Chris Vogler and john Truby, and Michael Hagen, me, and we went to Tel Aviv, we went to Mexico City together, we went to Toronto, you know, this various places. And we had such a good time together. And it was such a wonderful way to get to know each other in a much better way. And so we feel, I think we all felt very warmly toward each other, and we feel very supportive of each other. And what a joy. I mean, we're, we're supposed to have fun in our work, we're supposed to enjoy what we do and enjoy the people around us and who wants to go around every day feeling miserable and competitive with a pit in your stomach. That's not a good way to live. I don't want to live that way. So we and there are people of course, that will be competitive. And that will not be as close to you and you think well, I just don't want to rile them up. I always want to be respectful and kind and wet regardless of what they do. I don't one of the things I had was I don't want to give other people a reason to have trouble with me because I don't want to cause anyone trouble. I want people you know, I mean, I want everyone to be happy and fulfilled. That's my goal in life because
Alex Ferrari 39:54
why not? Absolutely. Mmm, it makes life a lot easier. We're here for a short time on this. On this rock I mean it should be it we should have some fun while we're here and and that kind of energy is excellent one thing you also mentioned I want to touch upon is mindset I'm a very big proponent of mindset and and how it literally can crucify us and stop us from doing anything and and also opens up doors and accelerates your your Crete not only creative process but your life in general. Yes, what is your you've worked with probably 1000s of screenwriters now, close of your career. I'm assuming you've run into some interesting mindsets along the way, whether it be at the very high levels of Oscar winning screenwriters to the the amateur just starting out? What are some of the biggest obstacles you see that screenwriters put in front of themselves? to stop them? And I'm sure you've met super talented screenwriters who are just like, why aren't you doing more? Why'd stop thinking that way? What are some of those things?
Linda Seger 40:54
Well, one thing is people who don't want to learn. And they really think that they know everything, in which case, there's no reason for them to come to me. But sometimes they do anyway, I think they hope I'm going to write 20 pages about how wonderful they are. And so you're getting no matter what you're going to get a critique. I mean, that's what I do. But I think that's the hardest thing is people who push things away that can help them and say, you know, I or people like me, are not there to tell them what to do. We're there to show them how they can get more out of their script. And we don't just say, well do the same this way. We say look, you want more movement in this scene, or, you know, we talk conceptually. So I think there's, there's kind of the sense about everyone being open. Another thing and I say this in a lot of my seminars, say learn to say yes, instead of No. Now have your characters say yes, because no stops the story. And yes, opens it up. So if the guy says to the girl, you want to go out with me Saturday night to dinner? And she says no, we don't have a story. And when I'm invited to places, I just generally say Yes, a lot. Now, I don't say yes to dangerous situations. But I'm going to be going and teaching in nine countries this fall. So I've been saying yes to kazakstan and to Kiev and to Warsaw and Latvia and all this. But I also now in my case, I also check things out in terms of the safety side and I did say no to Tehran, I said no to Kurdistan, I said no to Nigeria, as you should,
Alex Ferrari 42:43
as you should.
Linda Seger 42:44
And I have a group of consultants, I actually they're made up of generals and colonels who know the world and I save his Latvia safe, basically. Yep. But don't go to Russia right now. Or don't go to Tehran right now. And so I I take them more seriously than the State Department. So but one of the things I found in my seminars last fall. So many people came up to me after and said, that is such a great concept for life, is to say yes. And what I see is screenwriters sabotaging their careers. So somebody says, you know, we'd like you to write the script, but we don't have much money. Is it? Oh, no, I don't want to do it. It's the first opportunity said your first opportunity. You say, yes. I mean, you want to keep the ripple effect going? And if you don't say yes, you have no narrative line about you as a screenwriter. So, you know, later down the line, you're going to say no to some stuff, and yes to others, but even in my work now, I generally don't say no to things because I, I want things to keep opening up. And so, you know, I say I have the whole spectrum of writers and sometimes people say, Well, do you only work with studio films? No, of course not. I work with people to set to contact me.
Alex Ferrari 44:11
Exactly. And I think there was a book by Shonda Rhimes, the year of saying Yes. Where she literally said, Yes, she literally said yes to everything. And she's like, I'm gonna do an experiment. And anything that I get asked, no one knew that she was doing this. But for a year, she said yes to everything. And she said her world changed. Oh, yeah. Because her opportunities just opened up. And she just started going to places and doing things that she would have never done, because of her own mindsets, or because of her own things that she said noted. So
Linda Seger 44:40
and I think the other thing is look for places where you can be kind and generous, and that there's a lot of time even if people email me, I do try to respond. I mean, I don't necessarily respond with a fork at gmail, but I do try To recognize, you know, people are reaching out for help. And I think sometimes you see people in this industry, who just are not generous. And then you see the people who are. And one of the loveliest things I heard was, I have a friend who's has produced and put together some very, very big film festivals. And she says, you know, one of the nicest guys I ever met was Liam Neeson he got off the plane, he says, What can I do to help you? She says, Oh, my gosh, this is the nicest things, versus someone getting off the plane with their entourage, and they're stuck up nose, and, you know, do this, do that. And so I think all of all of us, it doesn't matter where we are in the world is to say I, you know, I'm here I want to, I want to do good things. And my sense is we was kind of like writing, if somebody says, Why do you write says, The only reason to write is to change the world as we know it? So without without question, yeah. So
Alex Ferrari 46:12
do you believe also, I mean, I have to believe at this point that you, you would agree with what I'm about to say. But I've discovered it recently, in the last few years is once you become of service to other people in whatever shape that might be, it might be something small, it might be something big, the world changes for you, and opportunities, open up the doors open. And I can't even tell you how many opportunities have presented me because of me being of service to a community of filmmakers and screenwriters out there, I get them, I literally get to sit down and have a conversation with a legend like yourself, and have this connection that, you know, if I would have called Jeff, I would just drop an email to him like, Hey, can I just talk to you for an hour and a half? probably not gonna happen. For D. But do you agree that just being of service really does open up a lot of opportunities with with people in their lives and their careers,
Linda Seger 47:01
and you have to believe that things ripple out in that even when they don't come back to you directly? They come back indirectly. And so you want to keep the ripple? You know, you want to keep that ripple going.
Alex Ferrari 47:16
Now, you also, you also have written you know, many books on screenwriting, but you've also written books on spirituality. And I know when sometimes sometimes when you say that word I know right now, the second I said the word spirituality, I know, at least 20 30% of the audience just said, Wait a minute, what's going on? Whoa, Everyone calm down. My audience is a little used to me talking about a little deeper subjects. I wanted to touch a touch upon not only spirituality, but you know, because obviously, you have a very unique pedigree, with writing and theology, and where you come from, in regards to spirituality in regards to your own journey in life as a creative, let's say, let's say with a creative and a screenwriting. Yes. How can that that concept of spirituality, whether you believe it or not, I always like I use the term universe a lot. It's like the universe does this and the energies of coming in and out? What is your advice to screenwriters, and filmmakers, for that matter? In regards to getting in touch with themselves? You know, I meditate a lot. And I teach meditations. And I wanted to kind of bring that to my audience as well. And it's done so much for me, what do you what do you feelings on this?
Linda Seger 48:28
Well, I wrote a book called spiritual steps on the road to success. And the subtitle is gaining the goal without losing your soul. And what interested me was the spiritual issues that go along with success. And I was mainly interested, because as I moved from failure, things not working for years to becoming successful, I realized the issues become very different. And I think it's really easy. When you get successful you think you don't need to be spiritual anymore, because you have everything you were praying about before, of course, why and what I discovered was just a whole new set of issues. And so I got interested in those issues, although the book begins with a chapter on what it means to feel called and all, you know, or guided, or, say, the way you opened up, or I just found my way, and I love what I'm doing or, you know, however you define that. And so the first chapter is about that. But then as it moves on, it talks about some of the other issues. And there and I think there is a commitment what, when I started out, I kind of made a commitment that I would try to do my business with spiritual principles and with spirituality. And I figured that I sort of figured I would make it I didn't expect to do really well, but I said, You know, I don't think I'm going to fall through the cracks. Another word times I did think I was going to fall through the cracks, but and what I discovered instead what I mean, things have gone far bigger and better than I had expected when I started out. But I think I was willing, when I started out to say, I just want to actualize myself, I want to use my talents, I want to nurture people's creativity. And so then things open up, and then not saying no to how they open up, because we often put those gates down like I saw myself, Oh, I bet all the studios are going to hire me. And Won't that be great. And I'll get my names in the paper and maybe get thanked for an Academy Award. Well, that's not how my career went. I do work with experienced writers, but the studio's don't hire people like me. And what I realized was where the path is evolving, that's the path, you walk down. And you don't just say, Oh, I'm sorry, you're fine. I have to put my nose. And so there, there is a lot about moving down, and then realizing the issues, you have to deal with change. And I don't think in anything, we do things alone, I think our lives are collaborative. And that means if you need a therapist, go to a therapist. When I was starting my business, I went to the young Center in Los Angeles, and they had a sliding scale, I was at the bottom of it because I had no money. And but I worked with the Union as Karl yune. Union therapists for really several years. And it really helped because every time an issue came up in my business, I had someplace to go. I work with a spiritual director at times, and I'm going on this long trip for two months teaching in nine countries. And when I taught them was gone for two months last fall, I worked with her throughout the summer. And I really think I'm going to go back. Because I think I want to be ready for the opportunities, the challenges of that much travel, meeting lots of people you know, want to make sure I don't get too tired, it can't get sick in others. Because people say, Oh, that's so glamorous is Yeah, I mean, it's, it's wonderful for people who love to travel, which I do. But there's a lot of challenges, and saying, I'm going to be in 10 countries in two months. And, you know, I expect everything will be fine. But I don't know what causes tennis, like
Alex Ferrari 52:43
if this time a year.
Linda Seger 52:48
So you know, you really try to cover everything and say, the generals told me they said, don't go out in the countries in you know any of these more neutral places, but the city will be safe, and they'll be fine. And when I went to Columbia, that's what they said, Do not go in the country, but stay in the city, and always have someone with you from that country. And so, you know, we will do that and follow safety procedures. But I was told no, is that you are fine in Kansas, Stan, you should not have any trouble. And we approve your trip to Kansas that. So? No, so so there's kid, I think keeping in touch and I think the other thing is centering down, like when you're working on a screenplay or your writing, is this times you just have to take a breath and kind of sit with something. And I when I write my books, there are times I will reread a chapter and I say it's not good enough. It's not deep enough. It's not saying anything new, it's not emotional. And I sit down. I said, Let me get into my gut. What is it? I want to say that maybe somebody hasn't said before? And how do I get in touch with that, and then have the courage to say it, and and you know to be upright. But there is another thing I have noticed in my writing. I have been more willing to do personal stories, and also to be funny. And I will say this, even though we're writing a book and dialogue and my assistant does some of my typing, and I do some of the dictating and we'll just sit here we'll sit That is so funny. I hope my readers just burst out laughing when they read that paragraph. So letting all those different parts of you out and saying Yeah, sometimes you have to sit down and think about what what do I have to say that's fresh and new benefit don't have anything to say well, you know, there's other jobs. You can get
Alex Ferrari 55:01
now. I mean, did you agree that a lot of a lot of screenwriters specifically will go into this business, first of all, thinking they're going to be rich and famous, which, generally, generally speaking, that not the greatest business plan I've ever heard in my life. But if you're going into it to screenwriting, and you're writing, and you're putting all your energy and things, thinking of the market only, and only thinking of making money or getting out there, that generally doesn't work. Often, you know, it's a lottery ticket, if there are outliers that have that works. But anytime I've heard of anyone writing something that really came from inside really with something personal, in touch with something else that know a story that no one else can tell, or a message that really resonates within a fictional story that comes from you, and you open yourself up and are exposing your, your soft underbelly, if you will. Yeah, that is where the that's where the magic is, isn't it? That's where the stuff is, right?
Linda Seger 56:03
Yes, yes, is to pull it out and not be thinking about the market, down the road, you know, say your template 15 script, you might develop that sense of more of a commercial sense is going to go along, or you have an idea that someone doesn't think is commercial, and you say, How do I make this resonate with other people, and you work on it, and you get feedback from other people. And they say, I'm, I'm really bored the first 15 pages, but then you get into something really interesting, say, Oh, that's where I need to go, I need to build up on that. And so you do think, you know, I mean, I get feedback. When I write a book, I usually have six or eight readers give me feedback. And then I ventually have the editor, of course, but I wouldn't, I can't imagine turning a book into some, even to a publisher, even after all these books, without having readers that are going to give me feedback and say, yeah, this is fascinating, or I don't understand this part, or this is repetitive or, and mean, you want to get the filters. So you know, I sometimes I just pour a lot of things out and have other people help me filter through. So this is it. There's a balance on anything, you know, even a balance on the humor.
Alex Ferrari 57:32
Yeah, without question. And but even with those commercial projects, you know, some, a lot of times, the writer needs to dig deep to even make something like a beautiful mind. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I forgot who the writer was that go? Who's that chemicals? Give us what exactly? He I'm sure when he was writing that story. There was something deep in him that he put on that paper through through that amazing story. And then Ron and Mr. Howard actually took it to another place and his team. But But,
Linda Seger 58:03
but he Akiva had to really work to get that job, because he was known to the Batman stuff and that kind of very entertaining thing. But he grew up in a house that brought in autistic children. And so his mother was a psychologist, and he knew he had something to offer. And he went after that he was not in the shortlist of possible writers. But he heard about this and he went and he just picked fuzz Lou his heart out. Then he also took that chance of making that jump into more serious work, in the same way that Steven Spielberg did it with color purple, and I have so much respect for people who take that chance they think about Sally Field from the Flying Nun to Sibyl or Farrah Fawcett majors, you know, that made that jump in? A number of
Alex Ferrari 58:58
rabbit Robin Williams, Jim Carrey.
Linda Seger 59:00
Yeah, Dead Poets Society, you said that it is so risky, and it's so easy to not do that. And it's very, it's very difficult because you have built an audience on one area, and then you make a jump into another. So when I started doing some spiritual books, everyone thought what you're nuts. I mean, I've adopted and I have two master's degrees in theology, and in focusing mainly on religion, the arts, but I thought I really want to, I have some things to say in this subject. And I have the background, to be able to say things, but you know, making that leap, you don't have a built in audience and people say, Well, I know you one way I don't want to know you the other way around. So your heart has to guide you and say it's not an easy path.
Alex Ferrari 59:58
We'll be right back out. After a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah, either Yeah, it's like, Look, I'm going this direction as an artist and as as a soul and a human being in this world. If you guys want to come along with me great, but I'm going down this path. And if you don't, that's fine, too. I'll come back and do something that you might like, again, but
Linda Seger 1:00:25
this is where I have to go. That's why my, my website has the writing part. And then you can click on the spirituality part if you so choose. And you don't have to choose that.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:35
Exactly. And then you also touched upon something earlier. And this is another one of your great books about subtext. Yes, writing subtext, subtext is such an art form. And it's something that so many early or young screenwriters will just write on the nose dialogue and on the nose, like his scenes, and subtext is what makes honestly I think, what makes a good script. Great. Yeah, so what are some advice or some tips you could give us about writing good subtext?
Linda Seger 1:01:05
Well, one of the things is you want to start tuning into the subtext in your life. And when this was an assignment, Michael weezy, said, we'd really like to have a book on subtext, would you like to write it? And I thought, Oh, that sounds interesting. But I don't, I haven't thought about this. And so I started by tuning in, where do I see subtext? Where have I seen it in my past? Where, where do people say things where I think I wonder what that really means? You know, when the guy says, I'll call you, as you leave this man. I wonder what that means. Now, if he calls me tomorrow, I'll know what it means. But if he doesn't, is he dead? Did he go to prison? Did he get in an accident? Or Wasn't he really interested in that was just a line. So you, you, you know, or when you say, how does this look on me? And person says, fine, it looks fine. And he's like, No, you don't think I look to fat? No, it's okay. I don't think I'm going to buy this. Because that's not there's something going on here that I don't quite interpret. And one of the things was subtext when you come across it, you usually don't know what it means. And so going into that, and then what I found when I wrote that book is I thought, what are the movies where I absolutely know, there's a lot of subtext. And one was ordinary people, and one was Hitchcock's shadow of doubt. And so I studied those, and I began to look for the patterns. Where am I seeing subtexts? How is this? similar to this? Oh, I see. subtext can be in words, it can be in gestures, it can be an action, it can even be in the genre. And so I began to see all the different layers of that. And I had to I kind of had to learn how to talk about this, because there wasn't another book on subtexts out there. I there were a few books that maybe had a section. I don't even think a chapter I think more like a mention. And since then, I think there's just been maybe three books since that. And then we're writing a book on dialogues. So there, I actually was working this morning on the chapter on subtext, which will go in and trying to make sure I didn't say the same thing I said in the subtext. And so so far, so far, I haven't So
Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
far, so good. But, but on the nose dialogue is one of the biggest notes I've ever seen coming back from from screenwriters. It's just like, I'm going to walk over there. Or, you know, or let's not even talk about putting in history of a character like, Yeah, no, like, when you were beaten back? Yeah. They had a terrible childhood. You know, like, when you're when your dad beat you, like, no, look, look, you'd be much more and I always I'm very keen of that when I watch a movie now, how they slip in that kind of muscle word, it's free. I'm completely losing like
Linda Seger 1:04:15
a resonance, you know, it's Yeah, or the little comment of this thing. You say, oh, that either means the opposite. Or it carries layers of meaning. And that means that the writer needs to really love words, and say, that's not the right word. It doesn't have the right resonance. It's like when you sing there's a thing called the overtones. And you say it's that extra ring, almost like you almost hear that octave above or the octave below, and you say, That's what we're looking for, or, you know, marine biology, the undertows they were looking for the undertow that you see something and you sense that underneath. You know what lies beneath. So and that takes a lot of work from a writer because usually the first or second draft is going to be more on the nose. And then you start working to say I want to get is just too flat. It's too obvious. So and then what is that? What was his gonna say one of the things that I love about the book, I'm co writing the dialogue book with john Winston Rainey. And the end we're having a case study where we take a little section of, of a client script with their permission. And then we do notes on it, and john does a rewrite. And a lot of the notes are, okay, we want to resonance here we want to get get a little deeper with what we're doing. And so people can actually see how do you rewrite dialogue? How do you think through it? To make it richer?
Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
Now, what is a? If you I'm sure you have at least an example. Is there a scene in film history that just like oh, that's really great subtext just so that people really understand?
Linda Seger 1:06:09
Yeah, well, there's, there's a scene and there's a scene and Well, I'll tell you what, what might be really famous. The photography scene in ordinary people. It's around Christmas, and the father is trying to take a picture of the mother and the son Conrad and and the son in the mother son really is uncomfortable with the mother. And he keeps crossing his arms and turning his back and they're they want to get the two of them together, we'll show how, you know get together and he doesn't want to and, and they're having all sorts of trouble getting the camera to work. I mean, it's just absolutely saturated with you say, Oh, my gosh, this family is so problematical. And all they want is everything to be normal. And this this is not normal. This is they're struggling, so hard to be normal. And the therapist says you know normal is not all it's cracked up to be. But But I would look at and look at ordinary people. It's just filled. It's it was anyway, it's it's to his was written by Alvin Sargent, an elven and I have a little email relationship. And we've occasionally met when we're in LA for breakfast. He's absolutely adorable. He's had one of the longest histories of a screenwriter way back paper, moon and all that up to Spider Man two. Just,
Alex Ferrari 1:07:44
Linda Seger 1:07:45
he's an amazing writer. And he's the most, I actually think he's the most adorable man I've ever met. It's like I to him. And I write it when I tell him that you know, and then he says on cue a beauty. Just the sweetest little emails at times back and forth.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:06
Now you also talk a lot about in your work of the rewriting process. And how how just insanely important is the rewriting process? Like you were saying earlier, a professional rewrite to 22 times the amateur will write it two or three times like, Oh, it's good, we're good. Yeah, what are some methods x screenwriters can do in the rewriting and rewriting process to make it more effective in their work? Well,
Linda Seger 1:08:27
the first thing is you is that it's really good for you to get it out. So don't do too much evaluation too early in the process. You don't want the mother to come in and nag at you, when you've just written the essay that stuff. So you, there's times you just have to get it out. And what I do is when I'm not sure about a word or a phrase, I put brackets around it. And I might write it three different ways. And then I let it sit. And I might sit there for a month until I say, Oh, wait. Now Now it's clear about how I do it. But the first rewrite is really, you going back to what you've rewritten. And I suggest you circle what is good. Don't Don't get upset with what's bad. You might only find three lines or three sections that are good, great. That's, that's your guide for the rest. And then you rewrite and then you start getting feedback. And sometimes I think it's good to be in a writers group. If the writers group is positive, and to you know, you have your group of friends, other writers that to send it to listen to their feedback, but that doesn't mean you have to follow it. It just means listen. And then down the road, you might want to go to a script consultant or if you don't have that group of friends who are writers who can give you initial feedback, then you can go to script consultant earlier but but this time idea of getting the help along the line. And training yourself to say, I am willing to go back into this, this is flat. Now, I'm gonna have to think a bit about what I want to do about it. But nevertheless, I know this is where I want to approach it. And this is, and in some ways, it's a little bit like, practicing anything I've gone back to piano in the last two years, was it, I get up in the morning, and there's three measures that are really, really hard, I get up in the morning, and I play him three times before I start my day. And you know what, they sound a whole lot better now than two months ago. And it's the same thing is you get up in the morning and you say, right now, I'm only going to work with these five sentences or the scene. And I'm not going to start with page one. I'm going to go in what are those places I have to tussle with that I know aren't working. And you just, you know, break it up. And you said this is this is the process. It's the process of every single artist is you get it down to a smaller parts, you go back to the bigger parts you get to the smaller you go to the bigger and it's it's something you know, you just learn a lot is this is the art process and don't resist it does recognize the sunset.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:28
And it's a it's a tightening, it's just tightening everything up. Strengthening, tightening, broadening, deepening. Yeah, all those are great words. All those are great words. And, in your opinion, I think you were the best person to ask her this question. What makes a good writer great?
Linda Seger 1:11:48
Well, they need to it's an it's a combination of art and craft. And so your art is your voice, that somebody should be this sometimes people say, I can look at a movie. And maybe I didn't see the credits, and maybe I didn't see who wrote it. And look, you know, it's a woody allen movie. Woody Allen has a very clear, artistic voice. Or you look at Oliver Stone, oh, that's Gabriella and Oliver Stone will be
Alex Ferrari 1:12:19
Linda Seger 1:12:20
And so whatever that voice is, and it might take a number of scripts to find your voice and affirm your voice. Because sometimes people are really comedic. And they're not taking advantage of that. And so you're saying what it what makes up my voice? And how do I accentuate that and balance that. And then you need to know the craft. So you're putting your voice and your specific ideas together with I know the three act structure, I know how to express my theme. I know what visuals mean, and how to create metaphors cinematically, and I know how to round out my characters. I know how to make my characters more dimensional. I know when I'm hitting a cliche, I'm going to fix that. So you just keep learning about all these elements. And you learn I learned a lot from other movies at this point. So sometimes I'll watch a movie and say, Oh, I hadn't thought of that. Like crash, 14 plotlines all intersecting at the second turning point, like what's going on here. And I broke I wrote a book called and the Best Screenplay goes to, and I analyzed crash Shakespeare in Love and sideways, three very different movies, I spent 70 pages on each of them, interviewed the directors and the writers of both of all of them. And you begin to you know, you say these are learning movies. These are so you find those movies, you say I can learn a lot from watching this movie a number of times. And you know, so I mean, I have favorite learning movies I love as good as it gets. You know, you quoted from that one. Say, oh my gosh, you've just watched that movie over and over again and you keep understanding dialogue, transformational arcs, relationships, character contrast, every test. You learn so much, and the willingness to do a line that leaves you breathless. That line when jack Nicholson's character says, You make me want to be a better man. And you just go, oh, my goodness is and what a deep line. Somebody had, you know, James Brooks and Mark Andrus had to go deep inside themselves, to find that ability for that kind of character. To have made that kind of breakthrough to actually be kind and let some of that inner side out.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:09
Yeah, it's I was I was on a plane the other day and I watched Jerry Maguire again. I hadn't seen Oh, yes, what I just when he's, when he says, You complete me at the end, you have all you had me at hello. It's so cliche now. But even still, it still has that impact. And it's still so powerful. And it's one of those lines in a movie, it's quoted Alliance's a capital completely that one line says everything you need to know about the movie,
Linda Seger 1:15:36
yes, without the ability of the writer to write that line says you had to go to a good deep place to write that line.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:46
But you also psychologically as a screenwriter have to be willing to, to go that deep to kind of go maybe to places that you might not want to go to, to pull that out? Because there are, if I may use Joseph Campbell, the treasure that you seek is in the in the cave that you are afraid to go into?
Linda Seger 1:16:08
Yes, yeah. And we'll say I have to keep, you know, moving in that in that direction. It's it's
Alex Ferrari 1:16:17
Yeah, it is. It is. It is a it's a very fascinating, fascinating process, the screenwriting process and the filmmaking process in general.
Linda Seger 1:16:24
And I'm gonna ask you, okay, oh, I was just gonna say, and you need to know a lot of psychology to get into the different characters. And I think you need to be very careful in certain subject matters. Some people say, tread very carefully, if you decide you're going to deal with evil people. And, you know, and actors, I know, actors who have said, I'm not going to do those kind of characters anymore. Because they inhabit me, and I inhabit them. And it's hard to get rid of them after. And I have to go into that place. And do I really want to do that for the next year or four years of my life for whatever it is. I'm not talking about the perfect goody two shoes characters, but you do have to be careful about taking serious subjects too lightly. Well, I
Alex Ferrari 1:17:15
mean, well, perfect, perfect example. Just to follow up on that. I always tell people, when I see someone who's quote, unquote, evil or bad, it's just his perspective. Because from the perspective of Hannibal Lecter, He's good. He's the hero. He's the hero of his own journey. You know, he doesn't go like, you know, twisting the mustache going, Aha. You know, and that's where all bad people are evil people. It is all about perspective. And I think the best villains in it. They're all have this kind of, in their perspective, they're doing good if there's multi layered, like I'm doing something bad according to other places, but I'm doing it for a good reason. Like you have it just perfect example is banjos and Avengers. This last this last Avengers movies, he wants to destroy half of the universe, but his perspective is like, Look, we're overpopulated. This is just what I'm gonna do. So there I mean, it's weird, but it's a it's a way of his perspective. Would you agree?
Linda Seger 1:18:14
Yeah. And there's also a lot of times in security behind it. Really bad backstory? I mean, a lot of things to explore about what's really going on inside that person? What are they grappling with? What are their temptations that they have to give into? What are their obsessions? Because they don't have the good and the light, to illuminate the way or to you know, help them take another path? And so you are you are in the grasp, of, of evil? To
Alex Ferrari 1:18:49
Yeah, without question, and I'm gonna ask you the last few questions, ask all of my guests and I could talk to you for at least another four or five hours, but I want to respect your time. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?
Linda Seger 1:19:03
Well, the thing is, you have to eventually know marketing, and you have to eventually look for opportunities to be able to either sell your script or to get an assignment to do was scrapped. But I think know a lot and then get into organizations and be depending where you live. If you have women and film near you and men come join Women in Film now or you have a cinema arts organization or any kind of, you know, screenwriting groups or whatever, get involved because it has been proven that people who are in a community of some sort or collaborative in some sort, do better. You have those people who say to you, I'm let me you know, yes, I have an agent or let me refer You too, whatever that might be. So get in, get involved and learn and try to get inside the business to some extent, if somebody says, you want to come to the set, say yes, because the experience of being on a set and seeing what happens and all the waiting and all the cables that get moved around. But just to see what that is like, is a really terrific experience to have. So you're trying to broaden your experience to understand this, and you're trying to build relationships, you want to be very careful about using people that you meet. But on the other hand, you know, if you have an opportunity, have your 22nd, elevator pitch ready. You get in the elevator with Steven Spielberg, for some reason, he's going the 12th floor, you better push the 12th floor button to say I have 12 floors to say, I'm writing a story about a Jaws, squads, sharklet threads a fourth of sound and the Fourth of July weekend, and exit the elevator with me I want to talk to you. So then be prepared. That was the other thing be prepared. So when somebody says I love your idea, do you have a script? It's a good idea to have the script? Or if you have a new idea, can I see some of your writing, have some writing that you've really gotten as good as it can get? Because you don't want to be caught when you finally have an opportunity? And you're not ready to take it?
Alex Ferrari 1:21:34
Would you? Would you believe that Steven Spielberg must be terrified of going into elevators by himself at this point in his career, especially after
Linda Seger 1:21:41
I said that if he hears the podcast? No, you're not the first second floor.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:47
You're honestly I've had so many different, you know, people on the show talking about pitching and that they always use Steven Spielberg in an elevator as it exists. The Urban method or something like that. I mean, it's insane. And okay, so can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Linda Seger 1:22:09
I mean, somebody else's book? Yes. Oh, probably the power of positive thinking, by way of Norman Vincent Peale. Way back? No, I was ready go to college. I had read. I had read that. Great. And maybe it had an influence because one of the questions on the application was, what books have you read in the last six months outside of classes? And I probably had one of the best book lists I had the making of the President 1968 East of Eden, like the power of positive thinking I had just a lot of great books on what I had been reading. So maybe it kept me into college.
That's right. It's a great book, by the way. Yeah. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or life? Oh, I think the biggest lesson was learning that bliss, that life is collaborative. I entered this business thinking you're self made, and just, you know, you do it yourself. You never asked questions, you pretend to know everything. And it became clear that was not a good idea. And I literally spent about a year learning to change my thinking. And it and what was interesting was I had spent years probably 14 years of living on the edge. And once I changed my thinking, I found success within a year. So that change of thinking is really important. In mindset, mindset, better way to win, connecting that competing for success. And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.
Um, Amadeus is, is undoubtedly one, I call it the big jam. People always know I'm going to mention witness. And one of the reasons I'm a Quaker, and although we're not Amish people, sometimes mistake Amish and Quaker. And my husband proposed to me during the barn waste raising scene of witness. It was not an exact proposal, but it was. It was a sort of proposal. And then the real one came a little later. So of course, it's very special. And then I knew I knew Bill Kelly. And Pamela Wallace. Bill Kelly has died. I talked to Earl Wallace once, but I didn't know but Bill and I occasionally had lunch together. Pamela and I had PEF team taught together and she's endorsed a few of my books, so that's special. But now you want a third one, I guess probably Tootsie
Alex Ferrari 1:24:49
Oh, great. Oh, quit just an amazing three bow movies. Yeah, I'd love to see it's such a
Linda Seger 1:24:56
and see these in these films when you find a favorite film. It really stands up. So you watch it over and over and over and you say you know I don't get tired of this film. I even when I know the dial you and I know that I can know what they're gonna say is, does you keep getting the nuances and say what a brilliant piece of filmmaking is my
Alex Ferrari 1:25:19
mind's is always go I hope everyone listening to show knows what I'm about to say Shawshank Redemption, which I think is that her fairy films ever, ever, ever written, put together everything. It's fantastic. And finally, where can people find you your work your books? Everything that Linda has to offer?
Linda Seger 1:25:36
Yes. Well, if you know my name, Linda Sager and think of Sager like Bob Seger s Eg er, my website is Linda Sager calm my email is Linda Linda Sager calm, you're gonna going to easily easily find me and I'm on YouTube. And I mean, just a lot of things. And you could find some really interesting things on YouTube of me that are unexpected like me horseback riding to music.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:08
Linda, honestly, you are a national treasure in the world of screenwriting. So thank you so so much. Like I said, I can literally talk to you for at least another four or five hours comfortably. And I think everybody would be entertained listening.
Linda Seger 1:26:21
Yes. And I love talking to us. So you know, we can do this. Again. This has been great.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:26
Thank you so much again, and I again, thank you for dropping some amazing knowledge bombs on the on the tribe today. So I truly appreciate it. Good. Thank you. I want to thank Linda so much for her time and coming by the show and dropping major, major, major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So Linda, thank you, thank you so much. If you want to get links to any of Linda's work, her consulting her website, anything just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/315. And there'll be links to everything and anything that Linda does. So thanks again, Linda. And guys, today is the day my screening at the Chinese Theatre of my new film on the corner of ego and desire plus a talk and book signing of my new book shooting for the mob is happening today. For tickets, just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash screening. And I hope to see you guys there. Thank you again, so so much for the support. And that's the end of another episode of the indie film hustle podcast and the bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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- Linda Seger – Official Site
- Linda Seger – Consulting
- Linda Seger – Twitter
- The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking: From Script to Screen
- Making a Good Script Great, 3rd Ed.
- Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath
- On the Corner of Ego and Desire May 25, 2019 – Newfilmmakers LA
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Story) Book- Buy It on Amazon