BPS 079: How to Write Dialog that Pops Off the Page with Linda Seger

Today on the show we have returning champion the legendary Linda Seger. Linda and I discuss her new book You Talkin’ to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue. We do a deep dive into how to write great dialog. Here’s a bit about the book.

Unlike the chitchat of everyday life, dialogue in stories must express character, advance the story, suggest a theme, and include a few memorable lines that audiences will be quoting for decades to come. The best stories have dialogue that sparkles, but it’s easy for inexperienced writers to fall into common pitfalls like creating dialogue that’s wooden or too on the nose.

Other writers end up with exposition awkwardly inserted into conversations, actors tripping over unnatural phrases or characters who all speak exactly the same way. In You Talkin’ to Me? Linda Seger and John Winston Rainey are here to help with all your dialogue problems. In each chapter, they explore dialogue from a different angle and discuss examples of great dialogue from films and novels. To cap it all off, each chapter ends with examples of poor dialogue, which are annotated by Linda and then rewritten by John, so readers don’t just learn how to recognize when it’s done well―they also learn how to make the dialogue better. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, for the screen or for the page, this book will get your characters talking.

Ron Howard says he never starts a film without her book. 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. 

Enjoy my conversation with Linda Seger.

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Alex Ferrari 0:40
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion Linda Seger. How are you Linda?

Linda Seger 2:45
I am just fine in spite of everything.

Alex Ferrari 2:48
Yes, it is. It is a crazy, wacky world we are living in. But I think storytellers filmmakers screenwriters are more needed now than ever before.

Linda Seger 2:56
And it's a good time to do writing. Yes, we do. You know, you

Alex Ferrari 3:03
would think you would think but yeah, you're you're quarantined? Do you have no excuses anymore? Yes. You can say, Oh, I have to go out to do this. I'm like, no. So now you actually literally have to face not only the white page, but you also have to face yourself. So we're here to talk about your new book. Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me? Sorry, I have to do the whole De Niro thing. You talking to me how to write great dialogue. And I haven't really had a full episode just dedicated to dialogue. And it's such an important part of screenwriting. So that's why I was so intrigued by your book. And I wanted Of course, anytime I get a chance to talk to you, as always a wonderful, wonderful time. But so to get into it, what makes great dialogue, in your opinion,

Linda Seger 3:49
great dialogue is really very specific to the person and the context, and everything that goes around wrong with that character. So it includes the vocabulary, it includes the rhythms, it includes the backstory, sort of who is this person and how do they express it, versus how somebody else expresses it? So it's not it's not just saying the text is not just saying I have to go to Milwaukee. It's finding an interesting way. To get some more that Schlitz beer here I go.

Alex Ferrari 4:26
Right. So that that's two different so that's two very different ways of saying the exact same things that you got to go to Milwaukee, but one's a lot more interesting than Hey, I'm going to Milwaukee.

Linda Seger 4:38
Yes, yes.

Alex Ferrari 4:40
And is that what makes dialog kings like Tarantino, Mamet and Sorkin so good? I mean, because I mean that their dialogue is just so crispy and it just pops off the off the screen and off the page.

Linda Seger 4:53
Yes, and then know how to define each character. So there are different rhythms. They know how to work with subtext the underlying meanings of dialogue. I love that opening scene of Inglorious Basterds. It's just so rich with subtext is here comes these Nazis and the farm guy who's ready to bring them into the house. And he tells his daughter, you know, go into the house Don't run. Well, if you think, oh, obviously something is going on and also Why is he so nervous? What what's happening here they're just having a nice normal conversation but over something else is happening here. And it's it's literally

Alex Ferrari 5:39
under the floor. So it's like like literally it's like so he's talking about this is visual subtext. It's fascinating that

Linda Seger 5:46
we find out that Jews are hiding under the table and plus on top of the little carpet, which is under the floor and coats the Nazi guys seems to know all along. There's something here and he is going to find it out.

Alex Ferrari 6:02
It's it's fascinating because I honestly think that scene was what kind of locked him in for the Oscar when he won the Oscar for Inglorious Basterds? I mean, it's just such a it's a masterclass in dialogue.

Linda Seger 6:12
Yes, he he has a real voice as a writer, meaning that he is an artist has a specific way of doing his films. You can go to the movie theater and say, oh, what what is this movie? Who's it by? And within a couple minutes, say, Oh, I'm watching a talentino film, because he knows what he's doing. He knows his rhythms. He's just very good at what he does,

Alex Ferrari 6:43
as far as you mentioned, backstory, how important it could please can you tell the audience the importance of backstory to not only character but to dialogue, because the backstory a lot, a lot of times when I read scripts, the characters are kind of wooden, you know, almost made of cardboard, because there's no depth to them whatsoever. And then hence the dialogue isn't doesn't have any depth to it. I think what makes Tarantino and Mamet and Sorkin so good is that there's so much depth into their characters, that allows dialogue to come out so wonderfully, that makes sense to do it, as opposed to just kind of like painting an old fence, trying to make it new again, there's no depth back there. And maybe that's not a good analogy, but you know what I'm saying? So what do you think in regards to that?

Linda Seger 7:29
Well, backstory is really what went on before the character entered the movie, what, what kind of family do they come from, what kind of education, what kind of socio economic class, all what kind of religion all of this information can be used by the writer to make that character much more specific. So for instance, I'm from a little little town in northern Wisconsin named peshtigo. And if you, when I say the word about, you will hear a slight Canadian or northern Wisconsin accent. So people have these various accents that they know or dialects that they bring to it. And they also have phrases that they use, or they have a sense, for instance, if we were driving past a group of cows, and I might say those efforts. And you might say, How does she know that? Well, Wisconsin is coal country I grew up around, I wasn't on a farm. So you think about all these details of how we thread our speech with with things that tells somebody else Oh, I hear a little bit of Alabama there. Or you have a you insert a phrase in the dialogue and that says, gosh, that's so Southern, like give me a little sugar, honey, but you know, tell us to give them a sugar bowl, just to say, Oh, I know what that means, or in the sell zone as they say, God bless them, which really means he's God's The only person who could possibly bless that kind of stupidity. So we you know, various countries, various cultures have these sayings and sometimes just putting them in, they tell us the backstory, they tell us where is that person from? And I will leave in talk in a different rhythm. For instance, being a Midwestern or listen to me, I probably don't have the same hurried rhythm of a New Yorker, or the same language rhythm you might get from somebody from the south. Now I know you're going to talk to my co author leaders on Winston Rainey. JOHN has been all over the place from Oklahoma, the Michigan to New York And when you start thinking about all the accents and patterns that someone like that has picked up, versus me who stayed pretty much in peshtigo, Wisconsin till I was 18.

Alex Ferrari 10:14
So that So, so like a movie like Fargo, if you would put Fargo into Los Angeles, it's that really isn't. It's that I mean, you can have the exact same dialogue. But some of that dialogue won't even make sense because you're in Los Angeles, because it's so specific to the region. But what makes Fargo so one of his that's the kind of first time I'm in. I'm from South Florida, originally and raised in New York and South Florida now in LA. So I had no idea about Wisconsin or Montana or those kind of upper northern states. The first experience I had with it was Fargo. I was like, What is that accent? I've never heard of that before.

Linda Seger 10:53
Yes, because all those Scandinavians settled in the North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin. And so you do have these speech patterns. And it's, it's so cold.

Alex Ferrari 11:10
I mean, it's cold, it is so

Linda Seger 11:11
cold. I came from a place where sometimes 50 degrees below zero and I could identify with Fargo and where they were all that snow

Alex Ferrari 11:21
all the time.

Linda Seger 11:25
And then when March at the end says, you know, how could you have killed someone it's such a beautiful day, and it's nothing but a whiteout, snow and you say yeah, that's somebody who's been around snow and cold. They'll see the beauty.

Alex Ferrari 11:40
So that's another thing you were saying about tempo. That's something very interesting. That's that's something I hear very often when this when people are discussing dialogue, tempo of dialogue based on region based on dialect of the character is so important. So you just kind of touched upon that. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Linda Seger 12:00
Yes. So tempo and I'm going to actually read a touch the dialogue, okay, go for so when you have a number of different kinds of writers who use different rhythms and tempo. So for instance, Harold Pinter is known for his pauses, and everything is slowed down. So, Emma says, You know what I found out last night, he's betrayed me for years. Now, you can see how the writing forces you into that. And then you have a movie like network, he says, I'm going to leave you alone, I want you to get mad, I don't want you to protest, I don't want you to write, I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do. And at the ends, he says, you've got to say I'm a human being goddamnit My life has value. Now you cannot read that slowly. It is it is written with that sense. And a good great dialogue means that anyone can read it and sound relatively good. So when I read that, it probably wasn't awful, right? I mean, there was I was getting in the rhythm it now I'm a terrible actress, I, I got a C and actually, in graduate school, I was not allowed to go to the next class because you had to get a B to go to the next class. So I mean, that's we're talking about pretty bad. But when you have this kind of great dialogue, do it it starts the actor in that rhythm and then you hope there's a great actor who's going to go further and start getting nuances, you know, as well. And when you get into accents and dialogues, and dialects, then you have different rhythms like the Irish rhythm, we have a quote from riders, the SeaWorld together now Miko, and Seamus tonight, and you get this Irish lilt, or the Cockney as a song. There's a room somewhere far away from the cold night app is Ed resting on my knee and the all these details when are the H's dropped when do people not say the IMG When did they say gunna instead of going to which tells us educational level tells us informal versus formal speech. So the writer needs to be aware of all those layers and sometimes that means the research you you go someplace you say I just got to listen for a while and then I have to repeat those rhythms to myself and get them inside me. So when I write I am waiting for that person in that particular rhythm. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 15:05
realized, even in my own writing, but when I've read other people's scripts that a lot of times when it comes to dialogue, sometimes they'll just go, Oh, it's gonna go there. Or they'll use a slang but there's no there's no basis for it. They're just kind of like on the on the whim. It's kind of like just your jet. It's like jazz. They're improvising as they go along. with certain that's, that's where you start seeing like, Oh, that's, that's not working that character. And then there's when you don't feel that connect, that that straight line from the beginning to the end of the movie with that character, from that character's point of view. So if Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction, all of a sudden starts talking in a Cockney tempo, or, or in an extremely educated, not, you know, you know, Harvard level Professor authorial dialogue, like dialogue, it doesn't work at all for that character. But sometimes that's where writers make a lot of mistakes. You agree?

Linda Seger 16:03
Yes. And they just think that in order to have informal, vocals, audio speech, as opposed to what's written, they have to put them in the gunners in the one as an insult, but it doesn't fit that character, because you're trying to clarify, that's not an informal character. That's, that's the professor that was talking. And it doesn't mean a professor will never say Glenna. But it does say you want to establish that professors a different person than, let's say, the rancher who might have different than only those kind of informal speeches, but also certain patterns. And now I live in Colorado, and cowboys will say, You see what I'm saying? Now, you really can't see what they say, all the time. And in Colorado, people say cool, almost like it's spelled ke wl as opposed to cu, which might be a more jazzy way of saying it. So you, when you go into another culture, sometimes what you want to do you're not only listen, but get file folders and start saying this is my kabwe speech. This is my educators speech, this is what I heard a scientists say, so that you have that to draw on. When you're doing that kind of character. You can say, let me open my, let me open my folder. Because I have to write my children's dialogue. And I am just trying to think where to go with that. Wait a minute, I copied down children's dialogue over the last 10 years. So I can look, you know, I can look at it.

Alex Ferrari 17:58
If you look at a movie, like Shawshank, which is a movie I talk about constantly is one of my favorite scripts, and movies of all time. You see all the individual cons in the film convicts that are playing around, they each have very specific voices. You know, Andy, obviously, Andy and Morgan Freeman and read, they have their specific tone. It's always funny, I always loved the story that red was originally Irish, and set the name red. But when Morgan Freeman, he got the part, which makes that character so much where it's just thing. But these other characters have their specific tone accents, points of view even. And it's just such a wonderful collage. I think that's one of the reasons why that that works. So well, even to the old man that, you know, at the end, you know, spoiler alert, the hangs himself. He has a very specific point of view, because of the time period and his age and all of that. So, I mean, do Greer, that's a good example.

Linda Seger 19:02
Yes. And it's a good thing for writers to watch movies like that several times, then to also read the script. Usually, you can get the script pretty easily. If you can't find a go to scripts city in Los Angeles, because Dan will send you whatever, you need to have to read it and then read it to yourself and read it out loud to begin to feel the difference between these different characters. And then when somebody writes a script, decide this morning, I am only going to do Amy's dialogue. And I'm going to look at everything of Amy and make sure she's consistent and interesting. And I'm going to shade it in and new onset. Now this afternoon, I'm going to do Jim's dialogue and just work on that and then say it out loud because the other thing with dialogue, you need to be able to say it and there's a lot of tongue twisters. That writers put in that they really don't mean to. When I was in college, I was in a great play Hecuba. And I had one line of dialogue. Only one because I wasn't the connectors. And the line of dialogue was, surely no man could be so callous. And so heart of hearts that he could hear this woman's heartful heartless cry and not be touched. Wow, cannot say that line of dialogue. Well, they finally took it away from me. So I was simply an ugly person in the chorus. And the person who then was handed the line. She couldn't say that line well, either. So there are times when you why it's really important for writers read the whole script out loud, and find those places where the actor simply cannot say it no matter how good that actor is.

Alex Ferrari 21:00
Yeah, I was watching the behind the scenes of Star Wars, the original Star Wars. And Carrie Fisher was just saying, George wrote this dialogue that's so hard to you just like rattle off. Oh, General stuff, I heard your file extension. And it's just this whole thing. It's like you, you can write they say you can write this crap. But you can't say

Linda Seger 21:21
yes, yes. And, and you have to help the writer, the actor with that, which is another reason why john and i, in this book, recommend people take acting lessons that writers should have that experience to say, Now I know what it's like to think through this role, and try to get all my clues on how the character is who the character is. But I also need to know how to read a line. And I end to assess whether or not that line can be said and carries the meanings that we want it to.

Alex Ferrari 21:59
Now can you talk a little bit about how dialogue can help reveal the world of the character? Because it's something that a lot of times I think it's lost opportunities when it comes to writing dialogue?

Linda Seger 22:10
Yes, well, we all live in a context. And we have backgrounds and in different careers, for instance. So in the writing world, if I said to you, well, you know, I think the first turning point is a little late, you would know what I'm talking about. But if I said it to someone else, they might say, Wait, are you talking about ballet? There's a movie called The turning point is, no, I'm not talking about ballet. And one of the trick is to find the specific dialogue and make it clear enough that you will know what I'm talking about. So my co author john Rainey and I are both musicians, we both play piano, we would do duets, breaks. And so if I said to you, I think we should do a glissando at the end of this. Now, you might say I don't you in the audience might say what in the world is the glissando? So I might say, let's do glissando here. And then I put my fingers on the keys, and I roll all through the keys, you know, like 20 keys, this foolish and say, Oh, now I know what a glissando is, or I come out of the horseback riding world. So if I said to somebody, a character, do your flying lead change in the middle of the circle? It's a Well, a lot of people don't know what a flying lead changes on a horse. But if I had a close up of a camera and say now, and you see the horse shift its feet, like a little skip. You say, Oh, yeah, that's it. So there are times you take a word or a line of dialogue and say, I got to illustrate this, because many people won't know what it is. Other times you might have a medical person, just roll out all the dialogue with all these words you've never heard of and you think it really doesn't matter that I need to know what's going on with the person's esophagus. What I need to know is when the doctor says get this person to er fast. After saying three lines of something, I have no idea what he's talking about. I got it. I said I I don't need to know exactly what this is in this case. And what happens a lot of times this writers get so deeply into having the specific vocabulary that no one knows what they're talking about. Or they are so concerned about the clarity, that they don't get the specifics. So One of the things john and i talked about is that dialogue is communication, and expression. And you're always balancing the thing to say what is the audience need to know? How do I clarify it, while still expressing each character very, very clearly.

Alex Ferrari 25:18
Very cool. Now, one of the other things I find with dialogue, especially when I'm writing is the conversational aspect of it, it sometimes becomes a little too sterile or a little too academic, meaning that it's your writing like your your writing dialogue, as you would write, not as you would speak, what advice would you give to make dialogue a little bit more conversational?

Linda Seger 25:42
Well, one thing in screenwriting, the dialogue is like a tennis ball. You never want it to be in the other person's court for very long. So it goes, you know, we could say it goes back and forth from one character to the other. And generally, in screenwriting dialogue is about two or three sentences, before the ball gets sent back with the next piece of dialogue, the other person, so there is a flow, sometimes in novels once in a while, and films and screenwriting writing, you will see a longer speech

Alex Ferrari 26:17
turned to notes,

Linda Seger 26:18
it's pretty, you know, it's, it's pretty unusual to see that. So you're always looking for what that flow is, which makes it more conversational. And then you are looking for the words that make it more conversational. So we probably are not going to use any really, really big words in this interview. But if I'm writing, I might decide to do some big word because I think it's kind of carries a lot of levels of meaning, or it's sort of a delicious kind of word. So you're, you're always balancing this. But another thing is simply to listen to people talk, write it down, and then say, Ah, this and see if you can figure out from what they say something about the specifics. So many years ago, I interviewed one of the writers of Rain Man, and he kept using words where I said to him, Are you a Buddhist? And he said, actually says I'm a Presbyterian. But he said, I actually feel very connected with Buddhism, because words, let's, let's say a word like detachment or a word like mindfulness, you know, you start hearing these words, and you say, Oh, I'm getting hints about something about that person. So it's always saying, because dialogue is so refined, you know, you're saying what's, I can't do my eight sentences? How do I really hone this? So you start honing it for those specifics? And so much of dialogue writing is you rewrite any rewriting rewrite to you, you work for the right word, you go for the right rhythm, you say it doesn't quite sound like a Alabama person. Okay, I need to do a little more research on Alabama. And oh, now I need to do research on scientists at Alabama. So in many times, you say, Who can I talk to? Who would know about this? Or who can I have read this? To feed back to me, you are off. So for instance, in the hutterite grade dialogue book, we have a chapter on accents and dialects. So I found a acting coach in New York, who teaches people accents and dialects. And she graciously without even charging me agreed to read the chapter and give me feedback on that chapter. So you don't want to just throw something in there. In the same thing, I sent that chapter two my friends in England and said, check those few references to England. And then, you know, john was working on it and he knows all the southern stuff. And he had a friend who knew about dialects too. So you always think about how do I make sure I got it right. And how do I make sure I got it artistic.

Alex Ferrari 29:38
Now, there was a there was a it was very interesting in regards to dialect. If you remember Forrest Gump Tom Hanks, who obviously won the Oscar for that amazing dialect. Originally the dialect the director Robert Zemeckis wanted him to if wanted the kid who played little forest to follow Tom and try to earn but sounds like No, his his accents perfect. And he actually started finding that accent. But it was interesting how he just like the the tones, the beats the he wouldn't have been able to come up that without having little forest around. Yes,

Linda Seger 30:14
yes. Yeah, and that is one of the things the listening and sometimes called the flavor of the speech. So there are times when you get so deeply into the dialect, that you can't understand what the person is saying, I've seen British movies as I, I have no idea what I made they. And they are so clear about their expression, and maybe people in England understand what's going on. But I need subtext, you know, in subtitles. But that is, you know, when one of the things is sometimes said is you get the flavor of the Southern accent, because if you did Tennessee, too much, you might be like a foreign language. And, you know, the certain Southern accents has no idea what they're talking about. So you say okay, what what do I need to go after I need to go after maybe dropping the H's or I need to go Be careful of my infjs. Or, you know, or use the d sound instead of the th sound, which you might find in Huckleberry Finn, for instance.

Alex Ferrari 31:26
But do you actually when you're writing the dialogue, do you suggest dropping the H in the dialog as you're writing it? Or do you suggest that how's that work?

Linda Seger 31:34
Well, there's there's different opinions on this. But I think if it's still understandable, when you read it, then I would say yes, you know, give as much of a flavor as you can in the script itself, then you expect that the actor will then go to a coach, if it's not sure what their background is. Mary McDonald, you know, who's in Dances with Wolves? She was in another. I think it was when she did passion fish. And she said, the director said, Mary, you have just crossed from Georgia, North Carolina, your accent? So you really often need that coach to say no, no, that is not sounded that way. And think about people who are so good at doing these, like Meryl Streep, for instance. Just a master and of course, as a coach.

Alex Ferrari 32:31
Yeah, I mean, I've seen movies that have a strong Boston accent that I can't understand or in the, you know, by you, in the by you like that, that accents so strong, they just like I need subtitles, I literally will turn on closed captioning, right?

Linda Seger 32:47
Yeah, I think that standard English is actually considered from Iowa. And there are people like us from Wisconsin in the Midwest who think we don't have an accent. When I went to college, and people said, Are you from Canada? I said, why would you think that? Well, it's certain words, I say, that's kind of like Canadians came down into northern. It's like

Alex Ferrari 33:12
Canadian ish. It's like, it's like a little bit of a flavor, if you will. You're not a full aboot. But you're getting close.

Linda Seger 33:20
Yes, yeah. And one of the things they said, I think in the Full Monty is they said that the accent was actually 30 miles away from where it took place. And it cuts the size. Because it wasn't exactly i think it's a Sheffield accent. And then in Billy Elliot, they consider trying to tone down that accent when they did the New York play. And there was such an uproar. They said No, we'll just try to get the kids to enunciate well enough but these you know, all these accents, very, very specific from one, you know, one place to another.

Alex Ferrari 34:00
And it does add a tremendous amount of flavor to a character when you when you give them those accent. I mean, like we were saying with Fargo, I mean and other. What was that movie, though? The one the town with Ben Affleck.

Linda Seger 34:14
Oh, yes.

Alex Ferrari 34:15
I mean, I mean, I've heard the Boston accent before I've gone to Boston and something but in that movie, it's so it's so there. Yes,

Linda Seger 34:25
yes. And one of the things with accents and dialogues, dialects also has to do with you have to be careful about it falling into cliche, right. So for instance, Huckleberry Finn has eight different accents in it. But as the light and as the pike county and it's in the black, lower educated black and lower educator widen and it does sometimes get a critique of that. But one of the books I love looked at was this was this was Hurston classic thunders forget her per se. But it was her book about the last slave that came in the last slave ship in 1860 and died in 1927. And she interviewed him and really looked at his language. And what's interested me was his language. In many ways. It was much like Huckleberry Finn, the de dat indem. And I tried to do some research on this because this is this a stereotype? Or did they actually hear this, but the research I did said that is what happens because certain cultures can't say the same words we say in English. So green says the Japanese culture, the elves use really hard to say the LC you can't say lollygag

Alex Ferrari 35:59
Yeah, I don't know when the last time I use the word lolligag is but obviously I need to use it much more often. It's like cornucopia cornucopia, like you need to get how often do you use that word.

Linda Seger 36:10
I had a Japanese doctor and as a chiropractor, and he would actually ask me to give him some good l words. So he can practice. I'd throw off these kind of words. And I can't do a double r like for Spanish. So I guess I can do is pero which is different than the word for dog which has the rolled to ours. So that would be if I made my VC bolts in Bethel. Yes, you can do that. And the thing we also understand to some extent is that we grow up and we train our models to do certain words, because that's what we learn. We know in our culture, and then we try to do another language. And a lot of people like me, can't do it. Because I didn't grow up with another language. And there's there's certain of those tongue things that I'm not able to do. But you did. Excellent.

Alex Ferrari 37:13
Yes, well, I've been I am a Cuban man. So so it took me I lost my I lost my art when I was a kid. And then now I actually have I've picked it up later in life. But before it was barrel barrel for a long time until I finally got got that AR. It took a second but I got it. And you were talking about stereotypes. One of the most famous Cuban stereotypes of all time is not only Ricky Ricardo, but also Scarface, Tony Montana. And both of those guys. You know, Ricky spoke, Ricky Ricardo spoke like, spoke like a acumen of that time period. But then Tony Montana took it completely to the stereotypical side. I still love his performance. And even though he's an Italian man, Mr. pitino, but it was almost cartoonish. Yes, in the way. And that whole movie is very big and cartoonish, in general, with the violence in the way it was portrayed. But talking about going into, into almost parody, it was getting close to parity.

Linda Seger 38:22
And we suggest in writing great dialogue, that people don't shy away from accents and dialects that they actually take that as a challenge. And you do your research. And you listen and you say how am I going to write this to get the flavor of it? And how is the actor going to do it to actually add some other details as well. So I think what happens people get scared, but then they aren't differentiating their characters well

Alex Ferrari 38:52
enough. Exactly. Now, one of the biggest mistakes I've made when I started writing that I got called out on and that every time I read a script, or we do coverage on a script is on the nose dialogue, discuss on the nose dialogue and how the heck to avoid it.

Linda Seger 39:12
Yes, well, sometimes you need to write it on the nose to say, yes, this is what this is what I need to get across. I'm going to Milwaukee and we're going to take route 80. So say I got that. And I might have to write that in the first draft, maybe even the second or third. But now I'm going to go back and I'm going to start honing and tweaking and finding ways to do that more interesting. One of one of the chapters in your talking to me, is about the mission or the intention or the objective of the character. And one of my favorite pieces of dialogue comes from the fugitive, where Sam Jared says your fugitives name is doc Richard Kimble, go get them. Right now, what he's really saying could be the first or second or third draft is is it could have been go find him or your job is to go get him is to go find him and arrest him. Or, but go get them that's what you say to a pitbull that the you know, in so you get this immediate thing. Sam your artists a pitbull and he will not let go of the person he is after. So you could imagine someplace along the draft after writing the text, say I No need to do it that it layers. So how do I write a sentence? What do I want to say about this character? How might he say this? versus somebody else who's not like a pitfall but somebody who's maybe more intellectual? And so you, you hear all of these the Listen up. You know, a guy is someone who says guys instead of fellows who says fellows instead of Hey, you all so you're saying I might have to go through that stage of writing it on the nose. One of the people who endorse this book is prima Silverman, who was the first woman to win an Emmy Award. And she wanted for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And I asked her he Relenza said, Well, how often do you rewrite dialogue, she said, This morning, it was 22 times. Now she's a comedy writer, I honestly don't know if it was 1912, or 20 to 22 probably sounded better than that morning. But what she's saying is, you don't just write it and say there it is. You rewrite and rewrite, I often have a saying even with my writing, book writing nonfiction writing, if I have not rewritten the sentence 10 times, it's probably not good enough. And I just say you can just rewrite and rewrite because you're going to switch the rhythms and you're going to say I don't like that word. It's not rich. When john and i were writing this book, done had a tendency sometimes to use big words. And I certainly wasn't going the dictionary. And if I don't understand that, probably most people will. And so sometimes we'd say, okay, you can use the word, but you have to define it right out. Like a nice phrase that makes clarifies you know what it is? And so, I think, finally, at the end out of humor, I said, How about this, john, is, you can do one really big word in this whole book that no one will understand, but only one is that okay? Yes. So we had, we had a really good relationship, writing this book together and pulling these different ideas about writing and about dialogue and different you know, all these different techniques, etc, that you have to pull together when you co write.

Alex Ferrari 43:30
Yeah, and I agree with you, when I was writing my books, as well, I, I will, I'll write one just to get so there on that night, there was the fiction what there was a kind of autobiography. And then there was the nonfiction book. And with the nonfiction you just write off, just get it all out, get everything out first, and then go back and you start, you get start, you know, you add it, I like to say you, you're laying down the foundation, you putting up the framing of the house, and then and the walls and then slowly you go back and you start painting the walls, you start decorating, you start putting things where you want it to go, but but the base is there for you to kind of go go and do that work. And it is super important. And I think that is one of the mistakes of especially screenwriters make don't write their first draft. I'm like, Okay, that was easy.

Linda Seger 44:13
For me to say no, you're just set the beginning stage now. 50, the very,

Alex Ferrari 44:16
very, very beginning. Now, what are some other things you should avoid when writing dialogue?

Linda Seger 44:24
Actually, the last chapter is about what we call the red flags. And a red flag is sorry, or Yes. It is I've read Yes, in a in a script with an exclamation point. So yeah, and so all these kind of cliches that are saying you know very much on the nose. Sometimes people write screaming in the parentheses Next, the character's name when it is very clear. But if you see if the dialogue is get out of here, you're probably not going to see it.

Alex Ferrari 45:11
Or, or could depending on the performance choice. And if it works, it might be much more terrified to say,

Linda Seger 45:17
Yeah, yes. The actor might then approach that line and say, What am I going to do with that? So it's all of or the one that says, you're going to be okay, you're lying on the ground, you've just been shot and ready to do your last breath was for that or the person? be okay. The best thing to say is, you are ready to die. Last, not, not last phrase. Is there one last word you want to say, at that moment? So you it's really avoiding a lot of a lot of cliches. I think the other thing in writing one has to be careful about something I said in many, many of the scripts I consulted on, be careful of indefinite pronouns. So What'd he do? Well, no, wait, there's three. He's in the room, which he are we talking to? And so there's that unclarity of writing that people sometimes do and say, I don't know what you're talking about. Go for clarity and communication, if needed, and then find interesting way to maybe repeat that he or his name, whatever. Another thing is introductions. JOHN, this is Mary. Mary. This is john John's from Chicago. Oh, I've been to Chicago. What do you do there? Well, I, I call it date chat. You know, first day chat is say, Oh, no, no. You know, we played john and i would play around with things like, you know, I'm going to Chicago and the woman says, Why would you want to go to Chicago when there's so much fun here? There's like have fun with your dialog and say, How do I get these layers? Under I get all the you know, what do we see what's what's beneath? Was was me that, I guess, you know, I have a book I'll call writing great subtext, you know, writing subtext. And so subtext is that underlying meaning, and then you talking to me is we have a whole chapter on subtext and getting the rumblings and undercurrents that go into what are you really trying to say here?

Alex Ferrari 47:50
Now, there was a chapter that in your book that absolutely intrigued me and I have never even thought about this, but I think it's something we should definitely talk about. How do you write dialogue for animals, aliens and other critters? Yes. Oh, that

Linda Seger 48:04
was such a fun chapter. So one. Because it is true. People say, I'm never going to write dialogue for animals you say you probably will. You might have a dog in your movie. At least give them a wolfin out Worf enough. Bow Wow. And figure out when they say one sound versus another it because dialogue is the is a communication of sound, it does not have to be a word. If you say to your dog, will you go get the paper and the dog goes woof, woof and then goes get the paper and is he's ready to put it down. He grows, there is communication. And I'm always surprised how many times there are animals in a movie. And the animal doesn't have the dialogue. Like for instance, in both c Seabiscuit and Secretary it was animals. The owners kept talking about how wonderful those horses were. There was no communication, there was none of the little thing or the or the snorting or all the things that animals do. So when john and i started talking about that factor, we started going back to what do we know? fuzzy Oh, because I had horses for 13 years. I went to my horse trainer, I said, let's talk about all the different sounds like a horse will actually squeal sometime. It's all sounds like a pig. Well, it usually means you're hurting them really stepped on his long tail or a splitter or something like that. And I had a course where the first time he isn't a horse show trainer rode him, he got to the middle of the arena. And he lit up this plane tip May, that it was like, Where are my friends, I'm all alone in the middle gear. And you knew exactly what was going on with that horse that at that moment of uncertainty. So one of the things people need to do is to actually analyze, what do I know? And if you don't know a lot about that animal, go and talk to people who know those animals. I worked on a dragon script one time when the dragon didn't do anything. And so I applied my horse knowledge to say, Well, here's a number of different things because the dragon is sort of like a horse, but not sure

Alex Ferrari 50:49
why not. That's

Linda Seger 50:53
another thing I did before writing that chapters when my cat would purr, I would, I would, I would actually vocalize with the cat. And then I go the piano to see what note is he purring on. And it was the eight below middle C and said okay, if you wrote a cat, you want to get that? It's perfect. I mean, babe is so great. Let me see if I can quickly find the bin here. Because one of the things that's so fabulous about babe, is that the like the sheep, goat Ma, yeah. Talk about the one sheep is the MA. And you have this animals chapter so? Yes. So so like, for instance, and babe. Ma says a heart a gold and the sheep respond hard gold. And the kopecks. The cat says pigs don't have a purpose. Just like ducks don't have a PR. That's that. I mean, what a justice. It's such a marvelous movie to look at to hear how every animal is differentiated and thinks what are the sounds that that animals vocal cords make? The little vocal cords is a big, you know, then arrival. The aliens have this very particular. It's not only a deeper sound, it's almost like a fluttering sound of the vocal cords.

Alex Ferrari 52:40
Yeah, like a predator too. I mean, the predator has those those things, even aliens and those kind of characters. Now are you specific? So baby, something specific, obviously, because the animals talk in that. So obviously, you would need dialogue there. But when you're writing an average, not average, but a normal script that has an animal that has an animal being an animal, like a dog or a cat or horse, are you suggesting you'd like horse or whatever the character of that that animal's name is and you put by or wolf?

Linda Seger 53:08
Well, there's two ways of doing it. One has to do it in the description and say the dog rolls. And then the owner. JACK says, Stop it. It's okay. Good, quiet down. You know, another one is that jack that the dog you have dog flicker the dog Fido. And under, there's girl. And then jack says quiet down. And it's, I think it's okay both ways. And some of them it has to do with whether or not you're trying to get a flow of dialogue, right, back and forth. Because the page will give more of a sense of the flow of you write it like dialogue. And, and also to be aware of how many different animals have far more ways of communicating than we, you know, we think we do. I mean, I'm surprised with the cat. I could literally as we were unlocking the door, the cat would meow and I'd say Here we are. And cat would meow. And I mean literally there was a back and forth with meow. And and then you tune into what kind of reality do at any one time? Because they do have different kinds of meals as well?

Alex Ferrari 54:24
Yes, they do. Yes, they do.

Linda Seger 54:26
But if you I think that part of what we're saying is if you are going to have an animal in your script, use the animal is to actually use it as part of the dialogue and the richness of what you're writing. And you just have to turn on the TV to see how many animals are advertising things these days from a pig so the L's two boxes two.

Alex Ferrari 54:53
I always tell people if you want to make a successful movie, just have a dog save Christmas and it's gonna get sold.

Linda Seger 54:59
Oh yes. As they say, in Shakespeare love the bit with the dog. Don't forget the bit.

Alex Ferrari 55:08
Exactly. And I wanted to ask you, you also talked about something in your book called visual dialogue, creating a visual with a dialogue. Can you kind of touch upon that a little bit? Yes, think

Linda Seger 55:18
of how often we use sensory words to say something like, it's a great day, or I am in the pink today, or I slept like a log, or, you know, we, we use a lot of sensory language. And one good thing to do is to start thinking of that because it makes the line of dialogue pop. It's one thing to say, well, well, I mean, I can say I'm a little down. That's a sensory, but I can say I'm a bit blue. And blue is low. Is is sort of different. What you get is that image that goes with it, and is Oh, yeah, I'm getting a little more information. I loved and ordinary people when the the boys said, it's a great day. So much better than saying, Oh, I'm not doing or how are you doing today? I'm not too good. But if you say it's a great day, Oh, my gosh, this is so rich. No, so interesting. And so a good exercise is to write down all those sensory words that we tend to say Anyway, you know, it all handed on a high note. Or, you know, whatever my husband's favorite phrase is, it's not over till the fat lady sings. Right?

Alex Ferrari 56:47
These are all cliches, and you have to be careful not to be cliche about some of this as well.

Linda Seger 56:51
And sometimes what you do is you play with the cliche and you twist it in a slightly I think in Steel Magnolias is a line about, you know, his feet are planted firmly on the quicksand

Alex Ferrari 57:10
and they're different Absolutely. And it pops it pops a lot I was thinking of and I mean, I've Tarantino has he writes so visually, but he uses pop references to kind of help along with those visual things. So like, I'm going to walk the earth like came and kung fu like Yes, yes, you're you're there so quickly in your head. And there was all it was gonna be cool little Fonzie are all gonna be cool little Fonz. He's like, everybody got that right away. It was pretty amazing. But yes, something along those lines is just talk about being visual.

Linda Seger 57:43
I love James Brooks. movie as good as it gets. Yeah. And how they take the cliche, like there's a line where Simon instead of saying Do you know how lucky you are? He says, Do you know where you're lucky? Interesting. It's kinda like I like the same but it's a little twist on it. And there's a lot of we have stuff in the book from Steel Magnolias considers Just so you know, it's just so rich. Even weezy says I can't get enough grease in my diet.

Alex Ferrari 58:26
I mean, that's, that's general for everybody. I'm assuming. It's like, um, Martha's not Martha Stewart. I'm Julia Child's like, everything's better with butter. Well, yes, me You could put shoe shoes and base it in butter and fry it. It's gonna taste better. Right, right. Um, so So what are you up to now, Linda, after this book? What's the next thing for you?

Linda Seger 58:51
Well, I officially retired on June 1 from consulting and seminars. So the focus is now on books. One of and I'm going to show you first what we're doing. You see, these are called sacred notes. We will remember the cliff notes that we all read. Yes. So these are coming out the first of every month and this is the third one which will be out July 1. So we've done African Queen, and sideways in this third one is Shakespeare in Love your $5.25 online and they're generally pretty close to 5000 words. So they're Wow, there's actually no like books. Oh, yeah. So they're not a book or anything. There's, and they're written in order for people interested in film, to say, what are the things that that film does that I can learn from? What was the challenge of writing that script? And how did they solve that because I want to learn from the masters. So everyone is is what I would call a A great example of something specific. So my next one is going to be Jojo rabbit. Yeah. And I will be starting to work on that because I have to have them done by the 15th. And then I send them to the publisher with some toasts, and the woman publishers legwear Houston, who's the daughter of john Houston. And she is just great. She's, I've really been enjoying working with her. So first of every month, and yeah, you can find them either by going on my website, Linda sager.com, or going on to remember, exactly, it's the

Alex Ferrari 1:00:48
cash. I'll put it in the show notes

Linda Seger 1:00:50
on my website, Linda seger.com. I'll, and you can also just look up Sager notes, but just go on Linda sager.com. And you'll see the informational Sager notes. And then of course, the dialogue book. Yes. And so I'm turning my attention to some other books as well. I want to, I want to write about creativity and spirituality, which has been leading for 30 years. And I'm going to write another book for Allegra. On her company on the doing a thing called the things the stuff they never teach you. And so I'm going to write a book on how to teach a class in a seminar. And, and so, you know, but the sacred notes are, are out as of June 1, so we did to June 1, then we're doing one a month.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:49
Nice. Well, it seems like you're busy. Seems like you're busy.

Linda Seger 1:01:52
Yes. Yeah. I'm not without anything to do. And I'm playing a lot of piano.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:58
And one last question, I try to ask all of my guests, and you haven't had this one before? What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Linda Seger 1:02:09
Ah, yes. Um, that's a very good question. I tend to always end up putting witness on that list. Because it's such a perfect structure. And it is so good at kind of getting into another culture and you know, community. And I think I'm a deus I call Amadeus, the, the big diamond of the Emerald. I call stand by me the little little diamond. And then I think it's an interesting thing for people to say what scripts spoke to me? And was, was there ever a movie that changed my life or impacted me or taught me something new that change? You know, attitudes, and maybe just read that one? And to better understand how it affected two people sometimes asked me, they said, was there ever a movie that changed your life? And I said, Oh, yes. City Slickers city. This city slickers got me back to riding, horseback riding, and I went on a cattle drive up to city slickers. And then that got me into riding around the world. I mean, I wrote in France and Italy and Spain, and you know, lots of Wyoming, I took riding vacations I entered or shows, I mean, I just did that for quite some time. And so any of those movies where you say, they're just great movies, I would put one more on the list, because we have a whole chapter on theme. And we use the movie, The Defiant Ones, and trace how the theme keeps changing and transforming through that whole film. It's a really in depth analysis of how you can work with the theme through dialogue. And that's a great movie to watch this great movie is great script to read.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:14
Linda, it is always a pleasure having you on the show. Anytime. You're always welcome back. It is I learned so much every time I talk to you. So thank you so much for coming on the show and and dropping the knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So thanks again.

Linda Seger 1:04:27
Yes, thank you. It's always a pleasure for me as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:31
I want to thank Linda for coming back on the show and helping us write some amazing dialogue that pops off the page. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including a link to the book, please head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/079. Thank you so much for listening guys. I hope this episode was of help to you on your screenwriting journey. Thanks again, as Always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 044: The Art of Writing the GREAT Screenplay with Linda Seger (CROSSOVER EVENT)

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 TheLong 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.

Right-click here to download the MP3


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Alex Ferrari 0:38
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 4:17
Oh, thank you.

Alex Ferrari 4:18
You have been you were one of 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 4:42
I was the first Yes.

Alex Ferrari 4:44
So you actually started the whole consulting helping screenwriters writing.

Linda Seger 4:51
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, so

Alex Ferrari 5:06
So tell us a little bit about tell everybody a little bit about your background, they don't know who you are.

Linda Seger 5:10
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 applied it 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 6:14
Now, I want to, I want to, 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 was the conversation like when you have an Oscar winning screenwriter, who's obviously very capable and very seasoned? What is the conversation like that you're like, when they call you for help? Where's their block? What's What's stopping me from writing something?

Linda Seger 6:46
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 their own work, you need a professional outside eye. But what I noticed with the experience 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 act going in the nod? And I, I don't have to say more, because I don't have to explain it. 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 in most of the time, experienced people are also very respectful of me. And there is that mutual sense of 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 professor now. All 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 8:30
That's, that's amazing. Yeah, cuz I know a lot of times, screenwriters, especially when they get up, up and up at 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, for advice.

Linda Seger 8:52
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. No, 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 get that last five or 10 or 20% Out of my scripts, like no problem.

Alex Ferrari 9:21
That's amazing. Because I mean, because a lot of times screenwriters, especially young screenwriters, they just they don't they don't think square consultants can bring a lot of value to them, because they're like, Oh, if, if they can do it, 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 have always looked at as like, you're looking at it, you're like a technician, you're going to come in and do things and see things that they just are not gonna see, no matter how talented they might be. Michael Jordan had a coach. I mean, he was one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Linda Seger 9:56
Well, the other thing is consulting was a totally different town. 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 into some 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 people will say, I just don't want to do that I really want to write and so that's great. You should need writers. Now your new book? Well, one of the many, I mean, you've written like 13 or 5000 books. Well, I didn't know for 15 and, but nine on screenwriting, and I'm writing my 10th on screenwriting right now.

Alex Ferrari 11:13
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. 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 kind of collaboration?

Linda Seger 11:42
Well, the first thing is that film used to be think thought of as the directors, the true artists, so it was called the otter 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 artist 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 first, 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 of research as well. And now it isn't really exactly an interview. But what it is, is that all these different artists, talk about ideas, so that so I will discuss an idea, let's 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 as 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 Ron said, it doesn't matter what I do. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are not going to talk to you so there was so much read Nightline, 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 me I had lunch with Ron Howard. I went to Hans Zimmer's student music studio, who's the composer and was on actually I sat with Bill Conti, the composer, when he was recording the music, he invited us to come in, listen to a recording session. So and we were in Leonard Nimoy boy's home sipping cappuccino and Lawrence chasms home. And I mean, it was, it was just, you know, it's tough, it's a tough game, it's really tough to get 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 16:03
Now, I mean, if you can imagine Steven Spielberg's work without John Williams, or out or without Janice Kandinsky as his cinematographer, I mean, look,

Linda Seger 16:12
Kathleen Kennedy, Catholic,

Alex Ferrari 16:14
I mean, you know, his amazing collaborators he has, and 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 cult. 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 worth his first ad, like, they will stop. We can't even that can't go until the first ad is.

Linda Seger 17:02
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, they 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 as far as the assistant director, and I mean, Lauren's cast and did so many movies with Carol, little tin as the editor. Do so you, you just say yeah, when you work well with people, you want to keep working with them.

Alex Ferrari 17:43
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.

Linda Seger 17:49
Yes, yes. That's, that's the best.

Alex Ferrari 17:52
Yeah. 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. Like, 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 18:24
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 look, 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 19:32
Now if you're able to write if you're able to write something like you're saying that, you know can addressed 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 it over the top is that or the producer will do the same thing.

Linda Seger 19:57
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 are 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 found so interesting was the different personalities. Because the 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 while 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 22:05
That is what we like to call being professional. Yes, professional, which is, unfortunately, lacking in many ways in the business.

Linda Seger 22:15
In this business, there is a tendency to think that everyone can do everything. Everyone thinks they can, right 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 in 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 to motet here. Let me play you what that 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 composers, I guess so I guess we can't do that.

Alex Ferrari 23:12
No, it's kind of like, because I've worked with many composers in my career. And it is like I've once or twice tried to talk in their talk. And I've been in 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 emotion, what do you want to feel? I'll get that's my, um, 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 23:43
Yes. And in that moment, when composers say, I got it, you know, or I I'm they play a little tune. They said that's it. They play a little tune to say, No, not even close.

Alex Ferrari 23:58
Like, like I would love to sit in a room with John Williams and Steven Spielberg just for like 15 minutes and 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 24:15
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 ask a mathematician how many possible combinations are there and I think it was something like 34,000 and John Williams that I think maybe a 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 proof. The difference between a professional and an amateur is the professional works harder.

Alex Ferrari 25:08
You'll make good.

Linda Seger 25:10
Yeah, they will they keep working to get it right. And they have they have trained themselves to sort of know that A ha moment says 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 25:46
That's, that's great.

Linda Seger 25:48
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 encountered. So we all have that place where we have to figure out where we fit. And what's nice what 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 done so. So it was 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 27:16
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 screenwriter and when they're writing screenplays really 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 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 Shane 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 excited. 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 28:05
Well, there's so many good formatting programs to help you. But if you're writing the first group, first script, 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 said, Oh, yes, I guess I'm an author. And, 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 problems. 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 I needed him for the whole book. And so the first couple of 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 go back to him with a page, though on my one of my books is, he said, you know, what your your actually first chapter actually starts on page two, move that paragraph up with these three paragraphs over here. Oh, oh, it works really? Well, like couldn't see it.

Alex Ferrari 30:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Linda Seger 31:03
So we need we need those people.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
Yeah, I understand your point of after six books, you think of yourself as an author, I, it 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. I guess I guess I'm like, I'd 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? Yeah,

Linda Seger 31:29
I don't know. 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. No, and the business card and a business card helps that quite yet.

Alex Ferrari 31:47
And they have a business card Don't forget to have that has a 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 competitiveness being competitive against being collaborative. You know, there's so many so many not only filmmakers but screenwriters out there who have this kind of dog eat dog mentality when they're trying to just like I got an undercut that guy or that girl is gonna you know, I'm like, I mean come like me competition with with Aaron Sorkin. I'm like, No, you're not. So 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 32:35
This is an 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 since 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 endorse 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 a client and you call and you say how do I handle this? And, and I have, I have Well, one of my when you know if I ever get sort of caught up and that junky stuff, you know that chunky stuff that we sometimes get caught up in? And Pamela J Smith is a mythologise cook script and salt. And also she says, Honey, don't get none of that on Yeah. He'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 unless 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 is 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 is competition and it took me a long time to get over that. But the 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 oil like who's number one in the world? Oh, forget it

Alex Ferrari 35:59
Don't you agree that I mean I always because it 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 this is 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, Chris Nolan is Chris Nolan. i He has a flavor and his movies I have a flavor of mine. You know, maybe that's not 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 like you, good.

Linda Seger 36:55
Yep. 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 their midterm 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, just 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 everyday 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 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 was

Alex Ferrari 39:14
Why not? Absolutely 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 also opens up doors and accelerates your your create 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's 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 were just like, why aren't you doing more? Why'd stop thinking that way? What are some of those things?

Linda Seger 40:14
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, AI, 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 scene this way we see look, you want more movement in this scene? Or, you know, we talk conceptually. So I think there's this 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, 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 Kazakhstan, and to Kiev, and to Warsaw and Latvia and all this. But I also know 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,

Alex Ferrari 42:03
As you should, as you should.

Linda Seger 42:04
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. They say, Yeah, 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 all? 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 just have to contact me.

Alex Ferrari 43:31
Exactly. And I think there was a book by Shonda Rhimes, the year of saying yes. Where she literally says, yes, she literally said yes to everything. And she's like, I'm going to do an experiment and anything like 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. She said no to so.

Linda Seger 44:00
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. I mean, when if people email me, I do try to respond. I mean, I don't necessarily respond with a fork as email. 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 with 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, it's 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?

Alex Ferrari 45:29
Without question, yeah, so 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 you, if I would just drop an email to you, I'm like, Hey, can I just talk to you for an hour and a half? Probably not going to happen. But But do you agree that just being of service really does open up a lot of opportunities with with people and in their lives and careers.

Linda Seger 46:21
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 46:37
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 some sometimes when you say that word I know right now the second I said the word spirituality I know of at least 20 to 30% of the audience just said, Wait a minute, what's going on? Well, everyone calm down. My audience is a little used to me talking about 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 in theology, and where you come from, in regards to spirituality 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 used 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 47:48
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, that 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're 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 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 it. And so the first chapter is about that. But then as it moves on, and talks about some of the other issues. And then 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. Now, there were 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 there. Paper and maybe get thanked for an Academy Award. Well, that's not how my career went. I do work with experience 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 in the air. 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 have no money. And but I worked with the union as Carl Jung, NOONIEN 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. You know, there's because people say, Oh, they're so glamorous. He said, 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 I expect everything will be fine. But I don't know what causes tennis like

Alex Ferrari 52:05
This time of the year.

Linda Seger 52:08
So you know, you really try to cover everything and say, and 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 it'll be fine. And when I went to Colombia, that's what they said, Do not go to 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 Kazakhstan, you should not have any trouble. And we approve your trip to Kansas that. So? No, so So there's kick, I think keeping in touch and I think the other thing is centering down, like when you're working on a screenplay or you're writing is there's 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. So 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 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 when we're writing a book on dialogue, and my assistant does some of my typing, and I do some of the dictating. And we'll just sit here will 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. NFL don't have anything to say, well, you know, there's other jobs you can get.

Alex Ferrari 54:21
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, yes, generally, generally speaking, not not the greatest business plan I've ever heard of in my life. But if you're going into it to screenwriting, and you're writing and you're putting all your energy in 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 they're 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 in exposing your, your soft underbelly, if you will. Yeah, that is where that's where the magic is, isn't it? That's where the stuff is, right?

Linda Seger 55:23
Yes, yes, is to pull it out and not be thinking about the market, down the road, you know, say your 10th or 15th, scrapped, you might develop that sense of more of a commercial sense is gonna 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 where and when 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 it through. So there's a balance on anything, you know, even a balance on the humor,

Alex Ferrari 56:52
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 had cubicles gave us was exactly. He, I'm sure when he was writing that story. There was something deep in him that he put on the paper through through that amazing story. And then Ron and Mr. Howard actually took it to another place and his team. But But, but he

Linda Seger 57:23
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 pitched his loot as hard 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 Sybil, or Farrah Fawcett majors, you know, that made that jump in a number of

Alex Ferrari 58:18
Robert Robin Williams, Jim Carrey.

Linda Seger 58:21
Yeah,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 a built in 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. But 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. And so your heart has to guide you and say, it's not an easy path,

Alex Ferrari 59:18
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 this is where I have to go.

Linda Seger 59:34
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 59:43
Exactly. Now, you also touched upon something earlier and this is another one of your great books about subtext.

Linda Seger 59:49
Yes, writing subtext

Alex Ferrari 59:53
Subtext is such an art form. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. 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 can give us about writing good subtext?

Linda Seger 1:00:25
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 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 it's like, no, you don't think I look too 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, when I found when I wrote that book, as 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 subtext? 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 dialogue. 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 have

Alex Ferrari 1:02:58
So far, so good. But yeah, but on the nose dialog is one of the biggest notes I've ever seen coming back from from screenwriters is 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, you know, like, when you were beaten

Linda Seger 1:03:18
Back, is that they had a terrible child.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:21
You know, like, when you're when your dad beats you, like, no, look, look, don't be much more. And I always am very keen that when I watch a movie now, how they slip in that kind of, what's the word, it's, I'm completely losing, like a resonance,

Linda Seger 1:03:35
You know, it's 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, and you say, it's that extra ring, almost like you almost hear that octave above or the octave below and say, that's what we're looking for, or, you know, marine biology, the undertone, they were looking for the undertow that you see something and you sense that underneath, you know, what lies beneath. And 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, it's just too flat. It's too obvious. So now what is it? Well, I was just 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 a client's script with their permission, and then we do know Senator 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 1:05:19
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 you see people really understand?

Linda Seger 1:05:29
Yeah, well, there's, there's a scene and there's a scene and Well, I'll tell you 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 the son in the mother, the 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 Gosh. Anyway, it's it's his was written by Alvin Sargent, and Elvin 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. Wow. Just, he's, 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 did. And I write him when I tell him that, you know, and then he says on cue of beauty. Just the sweetest little emails at times back and forth.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:25
Now you also talk a lot about in your work, the rewriting process, and how how just insanely important is the rewriting process? Like you were saying earlier, a professional rewrites at 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, and they're well,

Linda Seger 1:07:47
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, say 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 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, is 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 in You know what, they sound a whole lot better now than two months ago. And it's the same thing as 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 its 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. Just recognize the sunset.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:48
And this is a tightening. It's just tightening everything up.

Linda Seger 1:10:52
Strengthening, tightening, broadening, deepening.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:55
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 1:11:08
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, or maybe I didn't see who wrote it. I look at 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 gotta be all and Oliver Stone will be very much. 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 up 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 learn 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 analyze 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 where 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 and Love movie, you know, you quoted from that one, and say, oh my gosh, you've just watched that movie over and over again and you keep understanding dialogue transformational arcs, relationships, character contrasts, every twist. They 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 1:14:30
Yeah, it's I was I was on a plane the other day and I had to watch Jerry Maguire again. I hadn't seen Oh, yes, what I just said when he's when he says, You complete me at the LA usually you have or you had me at hello. So cliche now, but even still, it still has that impact. And it's still so powerful. And that's one of those lines. In a movie. It's quoted slices, egg capitals, completely that one line says everything you need to know about the movie, yes, without

Linda Seger 1:14:58
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 1:15:06
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 1:15:28
Yes, yeah. And we'll say I have to keep, you know, moving in that in that direction.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:36
It's, it's Yeah, it is. It is. It is a it's a very fascinating, fascinating process, the screenwriting process in the filmmaking process in general. And I'm going to ask you,

Linda Seger 1:15:45
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 kinds of characters anymore, because they inhabit me, and I inhabit them in is 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.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:34
Well, I 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, is it 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 all have this kind of, in their perspective, they're doing good if there's multilayered, 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 Fanus in Avengers, this last this last Avengers movies, he wants to destroy half of the universe, but his perspective is it's 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 it's a perspective, would you agree?

Linda Seger 1:17:34
Yeah. And there's also a lot of times insecurity 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 grass of evil, too.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:10
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 1:18:23
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, to do with script. But I think know a lot and then get into organizations may depending where you live, if you have women in 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 to 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 in 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 joint strike that threatens the fourth of sound and the Fourth of July weekend. And it Oh, 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? In you're not ready to take it?

Alex Ferrari 1:20:54
Would you? Would you believe that Steven Spielberg must be terrified of going into elevators by himself at this point in his career,

Linda Seger 1:21:00
Especially after I said that if he hears the podcast? No, you're not the second floor.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:07
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 an example of

Linda Seger 1:21:20
The urban myth or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:21
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 1:21:30
You mean somebody else's work? Yes. Oh, probably the power positive thinking, by the way, Norman Vincent Peale. Way back. You know, I was ready to 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 like the making of the President 1968, East of Eden, lack of the power of positive thinking I had just a lot of great books and what I had been reading, so maybe it kept me into college.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:11
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 in life?

Linda Seger 1:22:19
Oh, I think the biggest lesson was learning that this that life is collaborative. I entered this business thinking yourself 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 is your mindset. Mindset matters later when collecting that competing for success.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:06
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Linda Seger 1:23:11
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 commerce and Quaker, and my husband proposed to me during the barn ways 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 him. 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 1:24:10
Oh, great. Oh, what's this an amazing three bar movies. Yeah, I'd love to see it's such a

Linda Seger 1:24:16
Yeah. 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 even when I like to say is just you keep getting the nuances and say What a brilliant piece of filmmaking is

Alex Ferrari 1:24:38
My mind's is always go I hope and everyone listen to this show knows what I'm about to say Shawshank Redemption, which I think is well yeah, 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 1:24:56
Yes. Well if you know my name, Linda Sager and think of sacre like Bob Seger s Eg er, my website is Linda sager.com. 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 1:25:28
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 1:25:41
I love talking to you. So you know, we can do this. Again, this has been great.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:46
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 it will 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 indiefilmhustle.com/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 on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 008: 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 SoldierThe Neverending Story IILutherThe 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: What Lies Beneath(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

Ron Howard has endorsed Making a Good Script Great, saying he uses the book when making all of his movies beginning with Apollo 13

Not a bad recommendation. Take a listen to this masterclass on screenwriting with Linda Seger and get ready to take notes!

Right-click here to download the MP3


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Alex Ferrari 0:46
So for for those of you for those of us in the audience who are unfamiliar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your history and what you do.

Linda Seger 3:16
I am a script consultant. And I was actually the first script consultant I made up the name I made up the job in 1981. I've worked on over 2000 projects from since then. Then I started writing books, I have 13 books out and nine of them are in screenwriting, and I do seminars on screenwriting around the world. So I've been to I believe, 34 countries now on six continents. And I usually do those one to three day seminars, but occasionally longer. I'm going to Norway in November for five days and do a seminar in Oslo fun, so, so they're kind of exciting. It's all related around screenwriting.

Alex Ferrari 4:02
Fantastic. So since you were one of the first people if you were actually the first person to do this, can you explain to me, in your opinion, what the craft of screenwriting is, as you see it?

Linda Seger 4:14
Well, the craft of screenwriting has to do with understanding the structure of a story and being able to create beginning middles and ends. It's an understanding that a story has a plot line that has direction, and it has subplot lines that have dimension and that feed in and intersect and integrate with that plotline. So for instance, if you were doing a crime story, the plot line or the directional story is I got to solve the crime that the detective has a sweetheart and maybe a relationship with a parent and maybe problems with a 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 is, there is something that this movie is about an idea we might say it's about the human condition and who we are and what our identity is. And so the writer has to know how to integrate the theme. Then of course, there are characters you have your major and your supporting and your minor. The writer needs to know how to give dimension to a character, but also direction. So if the detective is solving the crime, they gotta keep on that narrative track and keep solving the crime and not just decide to take a little vacation, right? And then then drama. You know, movies are cinematic. So they have to understand how do you create images? How do you make those images cinematic, visually, exciting, original, unique? So I always say that screenwriting is an art, the craft, and it takes creativity. And the art 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.

Alex Ferrari 6:37
And so since you've been teaching for so long, and what in your opinion, what is what can really be taught and what can't be taught and I think a lot of people have this assumption that they go to someone like you and they'd like you're gonna write, you're gonna help them write the the great, you know, the great American screenplay, if you will, or the Oscar winning screenplay. I want people to understand what what can actually be taught and what needs to come from the actual writer themselves.

Linda Seger 7:00
The craft can be taught, you can actually learn how to structure a story. And it will immediately improve the script. The artists something you keep having to hone and learn and to have the courage to show your voice because a lot of times people say, Well, I'm going to write a script, kind of like that last big hit 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 the artistic side and the originality was not at that same level, and we couldn't figure it out. We then discovered they had all come to you, as a script consultant. And we understood what you did that I said, I can only bring the craft, I can bring the craft up to a very high professional level as a consultant. And people can do that reading my books, or reading any books on screenwriting, go into classes, but the art has to then be raised up and said, I can't make the art get up to that professional level. But I can encourage and nurture the art. In many times learning the craft helps nurturing the art

Alex Ferrari 8:46
very much like I don't know if there's a good analogy or not like a chef you can you can teach someone how to scrambled eggs but too, and and anyone could scrambled eggs but at a certain point. It's that artistic aspect. I mean, I'm sure you've had some amazing scrambled eggs in your life. And probably some bad scrambled eggs in your life. And it's similar. It's like the person who, who understands that craft and, and really gets it and then also throws in themselves into it. As an artist. That's when magic happens.

Linda Seger 9:13
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, not 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've worked on more and more scripts, I look more at things like seeing Transitions. How does that writer move from one scene to the next? Are they overusing flashbacks? Are they overusing voiceovers? Or do they need more voiceovers do have they not set up their style? How do they set up their genre? And so I'm always learning. And of course, when it's whether they come to me with the class or come to me with the script, we're all in a sense, I have continued to learn about the craft and the art of screenwriting all these years. And it's a lot easier of course, for me to do my work I have a lot more to draw on. But there's so much to the art and craft of screenwriting. Some people think it just flows, you say no, the best writers, they write, and they rewrite and they hone their craft and they become more confident in their art. It's it's a continual process. And it isn't that it just rolls off of you. And suddenly you have an Academy Award winner.

Alex Ferrari 11:12
Right? There's, there's so many people who just watch a movie, and go, I can do that. I can write a script, that's easy. It's similar. Like I just listened to Mozart symphony. I'm gonna write this if it's the same concept like you can'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?

Linda Seger 11:38
Well, when I first started, most of the mistakes are structural, that they didn't get their story going, they didn't get it focus. Sometimes the first turning point was actually at the midpoint. And they just did not have that clear sense of beginning middles names. As the years have gone on, I have found that even the beginning, screenwriters are at a higher level, because they have usually read books and maybe taken a seminar or two, before perhaps like they come to me with their scripts. So one of the problems is always originality. How yet, how do you have? How are you able to be unique and different, and learn to put that out there. Sometimes it's a problem of development, that the writer is not developing the characters developing the conflict, developing the storyline, they're just sort of doing a lot of things, but it's not really happening there on the page. So I think development is a huge, you know, is a huge thing as well.

Alex Ferrari 12:56
Now what, um, over the years, oh, I 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 doesn't, and what their point is,

Linda Seger 13:11
right? A reader who is sometimes called a story analyst, and I did that for several years when I first entered the business. They are the people that read the scripts, and they might be handed Tim scripts a week. And they go home, they read the script, they write a synopsis, usually a page or two, then they write a paragraph or two that says, I recommend this or I don't recommend it for the following reasons. So let me just give you a couple for instances. I was the reader on the bodyguard. And remember that the

Alex Ferrari 13:50
the original the original bodyguard, yes with Kevin Costner, but that was originally with Steve McQueen. Right. It was an older script, if I'm not mistaken.

Linda Seger 13:58
Oh, I don't know about that. It was it was Lawrence Kasdan. Right again. Okay. Go ahead. Yeah. And it's the one that was made with Whitney. We use of course, of course, when I read it, it was about a feminist comedian. And I recommended it. But because I said, I think it's very commercial. I think it's, you know, quite a good script, but it's got a big story hole in the middle of it. So in a rewrite, this has to be addressed. The person I read it read for at that time, was Jane Fonda's company, okay, and that their executive says, Oh, we think this script has problems and I said that's what I said. And it was I was reading is a tryout for an ongoing job with the company and they didn't hire me. They just decided they don't think that script was that good. Well, then the script got made. Huge, huge money maker huge. A theater piece I felt somewhat vindicated. Sure. And so my job, in a sense was in that one paragraph to be able to say, this is what is good about the script. This is where the problem is in a rewrite fix the problem, but they didn't. I was also the reader for the Christmas story,

Alex Ferrari 15:18
a great movie that plays.

Linda Seger 15:21
And there were two of us who were readers that EMI films, and we just thought it was fabulous. The two of us talked about it before we went into the meeting with the Vice President. And we both agreed, it was just terrific. We went into the meeting, and he was lukewarm. And we pushed up that. So a story analyst or reader is not a decision maker. And they're really not there with the authority to solve problems. They can just point the way, they're really there to do this synopsis that somebody can read this, who's the next person up the totem pole? And can say, Oh, yes, this sounds good. Or no, this reader has turned it down, we're not even going to bother. It doesn't have to be read by anyone else. So

Alex Ferrari 16:13
they're basically a gatekeeper.

Linda Seger 16:15
Yes. And the authority that they have is that when I, when I would be a reader, if I highly recommended something, somebody else had to read it. And if I turned it down, probably it would never get read again. So that's the only authority they have. And it's a different job than the script consultant whose job is to analyze and self assess, and help solve the problems in the script.

Alex Ferrari 16:45
Right, but they're pretty powerful gatekeepers, because if they don't let you through the door, you're not going to get any farther they might not have the power to make the movie but

Linda Seger 16:53
yes, they already go through the door and one when I read for HBO films many years ago, one of the things I would try to do is to follow what happened to the script that I recommended because if the next person disagreed with me and passed on it that really said I had not made a good decision. And most the time that script went up at least two levels above me that said I was sorting them out and most as a reader I would say I recommended one out of 25 but I knew another professional reader who said hers was maybe one out of 75 She was a great reader but somebody else said to me that's that's being a little bit too much of a filter that right you're not letting some stuff in Yeah, because you might be missing some things that are going to be terrific with the rewrite

Alex Ferrari 17:52
like like the bodyguard Yes. So um there is some unspoken rules in regards to how you present a screenplay to be seen by a reader is a general statement or by to be read by producer something like that. Things like formatting obviously. I know the the guy came in remember the way the little gold tassel things on the side of the screenplay please forgive me.

Linda Seger 18:17
Oh gold tassels things.

Alex Ferrari 18:19
Do you know the things that go into the the things that hold the script together when you Thank you.

Linda Seger 18:26
But yes,

Alex Ferrari 18:27
yeah, there's like unspoken rules of like, if you put three in there never gonna look nice remove

Linda Seger 18:31
the Brad's first thing I said don't even send me the Brad's that just gets thrown away. But yes, that is the correct and you have a title page. That's the name all your contact information on there and usually, like a colored you know, front and back. And the script is generally going to be less than 120 pages. And many times similar 95 105 that is very workable, and certain margins. Most people will use final draft or a screenwriting formatting program to make it look the correct font, all that so and then you hope it's it's what's called a page turner. Read it, but keep turning the pages. Dialogue tends to be short 123 lines and then the next person has their dialogue. And description tends to be fairly short and concise. There is a saying with readers, you want to see a lot

Alex Ferrari 19:35
of white, right I've heard that I've heard that don't have a

Linda Seger 19:38
big block of dialogue don't have three paragraphs of

Alex Ferrari 19:41
description unless it has Quinn Tarantino's name on it. Yes.

Linda Seger 19:45
Whatever they want. Exactly that idea for people getting into screenwriting, to read scripts in New York genre. So if you're a romantic comedy writer, read and study that Harry Met Sally are, you know, these I twits these probably my favorite dealer that one, those are great with a proposal. I mean, whatever it is that you that has done well, maybe even a company that's been up for some awards, read them, watch the movies, see the similarity between the two, read early drafts if you can. And if you can read the shooting draft.

Alex Ferrari 20:27
Now, let me let me ask you a question that with you, you said a movie like Tootsie. And this leads into another bigger, larger question. Do you think a film like Tootsie would even be made in today's Hollywood system?

Linda Seger 20:38
I would certainly hope so. I

Alex Ferrari 20:40
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 now new Star Wars movie or, or anything that's already been based on something in the past? Do you see even Hollywood being open to like I rarely ever see originality coming out of Hollywood as much anymore?

Linda Seger 21:00
Yeah, what happens is they get into the sequels and they get into reboots was good last year. And they have become, as I understand it, more and more closed to new writers. So what they do is, they come up, they want to do an adaptation or whatever, they go through their academy award list, right. And a lot of times, and things get rewritten. But the difficulty, particularly with studios, studios feel they always have to bring in another writer, no matter how good the script is. And I've been working with the script that I've been, actually, I've been sort of helping set it up. Because I happen to know, some producers I thought who would be interested who are. And they were saying, Let's go 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 Shandra, then that writers not going to work. And I said it is going to be in development health for the next three or four Are Forever yours, it would be much better let the studio come in when you have the picture made. And I think that's what they are going to do with this. So one of my favorite scripts I ever worked on out of 2500 scripts, probably the best script. And then has been in development hell at a studio for three years now. Yeah. And it was, it was I thought it was ready to shoot, you know, now, things do go through rewrites, you get the director on board to get the producers on board. And so they say, Well, okay, that's the process, no matter how good the script is, it is going to go through this process. But okay,

Alex Ferrari 22:50
enough is enough. Yeah.

Linda Seger 22:53
But with a production company, the writer is more apt to be part of that process. And even sometimes, as a script consultant, I'm part of that process as well. So we we meet and we're a team and you're able to listen to what the producer says and say, I see what you want to do. Okay, here's where we could do it. And then I'm talking to the writer and we're all together working it out together, rather than simply taking a script and handing it to somebody else.

Alex Ferrari 23:26
Now, can you explain the concept of on the nose dialogue, which I think it is, and cliche dialogue is, which is I think when some of the worst offenders in screenwriting today,

Linda Seger 23:36
let's say dialogue, is those things we always hear? Which is yes. I can't tell you how many times as the someone says, yes. It's, it's overused. And on the nose dialogue is say, Oh, I see you're at this party. You're also eating shrimp like I see you. Right. We have so much in common we both have gone for this trip. Are you attracted to me?

Alex Ferrari 24:06
Like normal human being spotted speak,

Linda Seger 24:08
as opposed to the subtext is, you might have two people talking about the strep and saying, Well, it's very, you know, it's very juicy, I love to say, and all of a sudden they say this is really a love scene. One of the loveliest scenes to watch for subtext where it's not on the nose isn't sideways, my mile sit down with a glass of wine and she says, Why are you so into Pinot Noir? And he says, Hi, well Pinot Noir, and he says, you know, it's so brilliant and it is subtle, and you have to coax it and I think Myles is talking about himself every scene. 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 when I say The scene in a class I tell the class, well, you're watching the scene. Keep in mind, they are not talking about wine. It's the love scene. They're talking about each other. And it's so cute because you suddenly start hearing the giggles. Right? You get it? Yeah. Let's see what's going on under the surface. So you're trying and one of my books is called Writing subtext as the subtitle is what lies beneath. And the whole idea of how do you get resonance. Just to give you another example, which is going to be used in the new edition of writing subtext is that if you're doing a movie, like the proposal, and somebody like Sandra Bullock with her handsome young assistant, says, I'm preparing him for this important meeting. It's a that's on the nose. But if she were to say, I'm grooming him for this meeting, now you have another level of meaning going on, because of course, they are going to end up as bride and groom, right? So that the writer keeps working with the better choice of word that has resonance or that has an underlying meaning without just saying it.

Alex Ferrari 26:20
Right, right. Now, there's an there's also writers that actually make a living just coming into the cleanup dialog for subs and adding subtext where there was a lot of on the nose stuff.

Linda Seger 26:30
Yes, yes. And they're the rewrite that many the uncredited rewrite in many cases. And many times that person is given a very specific assignment. You remember Romancing the Stone years ago, or one of my friends triva Silverman, who was for many years, the executive story consultant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was called in to make Joe more likable. And so they said, you know, like her. And so she started going out it was her job to go through the script. She was a great comedy writer. And just to go through the script and say, Why do I start adding of course, Joan became more likable with the cat and giving her the food when she finished her book to help celebrate. And just those little tidbits

Alex Ferrari 27:22
and adds a lot those little little, little things that you add to a character is his massive over the course of of the storyline. Now, can you can you paint a picture for me of what a working writer is in Hollywood today? Not the million dollar Shane Black's and Aaron Sorkin's of the world, but like the rest of the WGI 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 think they're gonna go to Sundance and make, you know, get get win the award and Harvey Weinstein's gonna write him a check for, you know, 5 million bucks, and the rest is history. And I think I want to kind of break that notion of the million dollar lottery ticket kind of writers, and what the rest, because there's a lot more at the bottom of the mountain than there is at the top. But there but there are working like people who make a living doing that. So what can you paint a picture of what an actual working writer is in Hollywood?

Linda Seger 28:18
First of all, a lot of writers who gain some kind of a reputation are called in either because let's say an independent producer, has option to book. And let's say for instance, they can't afford a Writers Guild writer, who might start at 65,000. And then thinking I could afford 25,000 30,000. I can't afford that bigger price. And so they optioned a book, maybe for very little money, depending, and now they're looking for a writer. Now what happens sometimes with inexperience, 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 a writer, let's get them and maybe their drama writer, action writer, but they need to find a writer. And so there are many experienced writers in the room Hollywood or around the country, who are very good at what they've done. They've probably written five scripts, maybe they've had one movie made, maybe they've had something optioned and they are hired to turn that book into a script, or somebody is written a script and it needs a rewrite from somebody more experience. So the writer gets hired. Now they can get right hired by a production company, maybe a small one. course they can get hired by a studio if they're well known, but they are hired specifically to write For those people who say, Well, I want to write my life story, I want to have a screenplay based on me, I've had this happen, a lot of money,

Alex Ferrari 30:10
right? Those are always wonderful scripts, I'm sure. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor.

And now back to the show.

Linda Seger 30:25
Yeah. And what happens though, is that the writer is in a bind, because this person who wants their life story told, doesn't know what a script is. And they're trying to satisfy that person, because that's the person paying them knowing that probably, it will either never get made, or it will get made low budget and never see the light of day or never get any place to get a release or anything. So what? So writers, there's lots and lots of experience, people out there, love these writing jobs. Now, sometimes, they don't get these writing jobs in Hollywood. Let me just give you a few examples. I had a client who moved to Florida, we had worked on a adorable script that took place in the south 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 be thinking about I shouldn't go with the Hollywood Game, I don't think I'm going to get any place, right, or the writer director that does a movie, very low budget, gets it into film festivals, and maybe gets a job out of that. I had a writer director that I worked with who did a film for $7,000. And I'll tell you that film looked really good. I mean, it took place on a desert. It's called far from ascension, and I don't disclose anything I work on. But once the film is made, it's to everyone's advantage, right? It was the title of it, sure, and very limited sets. But sometimes people can get movies made for very little, or for 100,000, or for half a million. I know a producer director that I've worked on some scripts she's given to me, and I think I've recommended some and she's gotten them made. And she said I'm very good at raising money for these, you know, small budget movies, and we get them into screenwriting festival, you know, various film festivals. And she said, we get a release. In certain places. It's never going to be the release like studio film. But they get made. And actually a movie I worked on with that she did is she said we won the award for Best inspirational film, and we beat out Warner Brothers.

Alex Ferrari 33:09
That's always nice.

Linda Seger 33:11
For the award. That's pretty cool.

Alex Ferrari 33:14
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, stuff that stuff to get a script, a screenplay or even read, but like festivals or contests or groups, what would you suggest? Yes, well,

Linda Seger 33:29
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, and is going to demoralize you. There are people that will demoralize a writer, and they won't write for years. And I know some of those, right, of course, 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 analysts. And they're going to just do a couple pages of notes. And, you know, they'll give you some feedback. And that can be helpful to know how will a story analysts. Look at this. I know some people who are wonderful story analysts, so anyone ever wanted a recommendation or see ads all over I mean, that can be 50 or $100. For that. Then the next level is the script consultant. And that's the people like me whose job it is to really analyze the script to look at the strengths, look at the weaknesses, figure out how to make the weaknesses become strengths. So very and I have all sorts of levels of services from extremely detailed to one or two Two pages that really give writer a sense, this is what you have? Is this worth investing a lot of money in? Because maybe the story is not good enough anyway? Or you really have something here, right? No, no guarantees, and whether it'll get made, then then after you've gone through some steps to get professional feedback, entering screenwriting contests and see what happens that it would if you can get a one of the top three, like a third place, second first winner, whatever. And there are loads of screenwriting contest. So you want to try to make something happen with that. Because if you get a first place, now, when you show that to a producer, you can say by the way, it won first place that recently one of scripts script I'd worked on won first place at the WorldFest Houston Film Festival for screenwriting. And I mean, that's worth a lot that's sure full award to get. So you want to have something that if you write to a production company, they have a reason to read your script.

Alex Ferrari 36:15
Yeah, anything, anything that could give a little cachet to the script? Yes.

Linda Seger 36:19
And if you can add to say, I've been writing for several years, I've written five scripts, this one, I think fits your company. By the way, it's it's also one of the screenwriting awards, was chosen as me something that can help make them want to read it.

Alex Ferrari 36:39
Now, you touched a little bit about this earlier about other markets besides Hollywood, which a lot of people always focus us on Hollywood or just the American market. But there's so many emerging film markets around the world, you know, that are just embracing filmmaking, and just blowing up as far as the market is concerned. So how can screenwriters leverage those markets and helping them get their screenplays made?

Linda Seger 37:01
Well, the first thing is, if somebody's 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. 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 1215 years ago. He said not one of my US colleagues at Columbia Film School have gotten filming was that shows the US market is really

Alex Ferrari 37:36
tough. Oh, no, they made they made it in their own countries. Yes. And

Linda Seger 37:41
so right. And so when the US market is the toughest, so when people from Germany or England or wherever, say, Well, I want to get a film in Hollywood said don't even bother to try to get it made in your own market, because you have a better chance in that market. And then Hollywood will come after you. Because they've seen this film, and they think it's great. And well, let's get that you know, that writer. So now the other thing is somebody who is from the US can always go to another market and say what are some markets where I actually could get my script into somebody who's doing work or doing co 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've got scenes in England, goat England, producers, and this sad kind of bypass, or if you don't bypass the US market, go to a production company, not a studio, it's hard to get your script into a studio anyway. Right? And maybe don't go to the biggest production company. Don't start with Ron Howard's company, where you probably won't give it read any way or get in the door. Try to find what those smaller companies are. Look at the credits of movies that you love, and don't look for a universal production. Look for that fourth name down that those producers and of course sometimes with smaller, you know, smaller producers are trying to find that writer who's just wonderful, but less expensive.

Alex Ferrari 39:31
Well, you're like, like, um, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Reese Witherspoon, she actually created her own production company and started taking in scripts and she got some really great scripts out of that out of that and she also produced Gone Girl, she she actually got that you got the rights the Gone Girl.

Linda Seger 39:51
And look for those actors. If you want to go after an actor look for the actors that have production companies, because you have a better chance with that. Then some other way. And then you know the thing with agents, people say, Well, can I get an agent or manager and say, well, it'll take you years, you might do better getting a deal. And then you can go to an agent, because you have proven something about yourself. It's really, really hard to get an agent. And it's very, very hard to get your agent as a new writer to work for you and make anything happen.

Alex Ferrari 40:28
Yeah, I know many writers in LA, that have that problem with their agents and managers. Oh, yeah. Cuz they just want to look, they're in the business to make money. And it's much easier to sell someone who has an Academy Award, or has a proven track record than to hustle, a new guy

Linda Seger 40:45
coming up? Yes.

Alex Ferrari 40:47
Now, do you? Do you suggest screenwriters write a short films or short screenplays to see if they can get that produced in a way to build a track record up?

Linda Seger 40:56
Well, especially if they're directors themselves, and want to do a short film short films, the raid opportunities at film festivals, and short films can prove who you are, they show your ability, I work on quite a few. I say quite a few. I mean, I work on short films. And one of the things I always look for, is to find out something in that short film that makes the writer director known. So don't just do another car chase, they can get Michael Mann to do the car chase, they don't need you do something interesting, whether it's in the writing of it, or the approach to it. So that you can start getting awards with a short film and someone looking at it says, Oh, that directors that are naturally good at what they're doing. But wonderful script, you know, great job of directing. So again, you have something to show. And it doesn't have to be a 30 minute film. There's a lot of fabulous films of six minutes or 10 Film this. In fact, years ago, I worked on a short film, it was called there is no APR. And the two characters were named May and June. Nice, too. It was six minutes, it was two women on their way to Las Vegas, where one was going to get a quickie before us. And the the writer said I want to do this little film and then I'm going to do a feature. And she was sort of dismissing that little film and I say her name was 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 in the film on audience favorite award at the Alberni Film Festival. And she then went on to do an adorable little romantic comedy called duty dating. And she might have done a film since then. But it was interesting to say everything you do you do with the same professionalism, as when you finally get the opportunity to do the feature, right. Don't ever dismiss anything. Now, the structure of

Alex Ferrari 43:17
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?

Linda Seger 43:27
Yeah, I still structured in the 3x structure. They're beginning, middle and end. And even with this little there is no April, I looked very carefully at the structure. She had her turning point she had her development, she had our conflict. Everything was in there, but you only have six minutes to do it.

Alex Ferrari 43:48
So it's a much it's even tougher to a chore than doing a 90 minute script. At that point.

Linda Seger 43:53
Well, I don't know if it's tougher differently, you know, tough and it is interesting to see how well many of these do I think every short film I've won I've worked on has won awards. And and sometimes I remember one one writer early on many years ago said you were the only person who believed in this. And he said and that kept me going and I did my little short and it won these five awards. And you know, what a what a nice thing is to start to see and get some kind of success because you can write for years and years and years. And that get any feedback that tells you Oh, you did a good job on that.

Alex Ferrari 44:40
Right and that does help as a as an artist. You want that reinforcement? reassurance, if you will, like hey, I'm on the right track. I'm actually good at what I'm doing. Maybe I can keep I should keep trying to do this because it's a it's not a it's not a sprint. This is definitely a marathon

Linda Seger 44:58
to figure it out. is going to take you years. So unless you love doing doing it unless you love the writing, don't even bother. No one is waiting for you. That is going to keep you going as you feel inside yourself passionate about what you're doing. And you are keep going through the learning curve.

Alex Ferrari 45:20
Yeah, absolutely not 111 thing i I've when I've been when I went to started studying screenplay writing and, and all the books and obviously yours your books on the top of that list. The one book that really kind of, or the concept, I guess was Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, which that kind of changed the game for for storytelling in the last 3040. When did that come out? He When did he release that?

Linda Seger 45:49
Well, I know that it was in the early to mid 80s after Star Wars came out, which I think was more like 77 or say right guess 97. But when Star Wars came out in Dota and George Lucas started to talk about how he had used Joseph Campbell's theories. Then people started to look at Joseph Campbell. And then Christopher Vogel wrote the book called The writer right knee which deals with the hero's journey, and I did some parts in my making a good script grade on the hero's journey in the first two editions. And I actually told Christopher, I said, you need to write a book on this. And if you don't, in two years, I'm going to that's not the book I want to write. You should write then once in a while, Chris, thanks me. He said, I really glad you pushed me because that book has been extremely well received and done extremely well.

Alex Ferrari 46:51
I've read that book. A lot of times. Yeah.

Linda Seger 46:53
Yeah. Like I do with doing seminars on that so one can get Joseph Campbell kind of put down into screenplay form by reading Chris's book.

Alex Ferrari 47:03
Right it kind of like Yeah, cuz the Joseph Campbell's is more mythology. It's not focused specifically on filmmaking. Well, Chris Chris's book is that's what I loved about his. His book as well. Now, what when they're when is there's writing a screenplay, and then there's also marketing a screenplay and getting your voice out there as a screenwriter. Do you have any tips on how you can get that script that they finally made out there until the world like, actually get seen? Yes, well, that's,

Linda Seger 47:31
that's the golden ticket. That's a whole world in itself. But one thing people can do. They can go to conference screenwriting conferences that have pitched fast. One of the best is those the great American pitch Fest in Los Angeles. That's usually in June, it is put on by a woman from Canada in Calgary, named Cigna, who is just fabulous, it is so well organized, she gets so many people there to receive pitches, hundreds and hundreds of people go. And so you have an opportunity to do that five minute pitch in front of people who actually have the ability to buy your your scout, then story Expo in September has a pitch fest, which is getting bigger and bigger. And it's the same thing. You go there you have your one sheet, plus you have your screenplay in your briefcase. And when they say I'm interested, you give them the one sheet in the next day, you send them the script, if they say they're willing to read it, get it there really quickly, very quickly. And there's been a lot of successes with something like these pitch fest. There's one, I think there is one in Canada. And I would even suggest that some of the Americans go up to Canada and do that with Canadian producers. And again, you might have a better chance.

Alex Ferrari 49:01
Just this competition is less competent, and there is a cachet. Maybe not in Canada, but other parts of the world that like oh, this is a US I'm an American Screenwriter, a Hollywood screenwriter, it might have some more cache might have more pull in a marketing.

Linda Seger 49:16
Yes, yeah. There are some things where people put their Synopsys online and you have to be kind of careful about that because it's easier to steal that and I do know some people have done well with that. I think there are some of those sponsors of those kind of Synopsys that actually say they can get it into producers and giving him 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 this overall what Senate desire they're probably quite low but then everything is quite low.

Alex Ferrari 50:00
No, can you 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?

Linda Seger 50:07
Oh, yeah, log lines are that one line that immediately capsulate your story. For instance, if I said a shark threatens a tourist town on a Fourth of July weekend, yes, JAWS

Alex Ferrari 50:22
I loved et et was fantastic. No joke.

Linda Seger 50:28
And something withdraws. As you listen, that log line, it has conflict on it, you use the word threatens it has high stakes is the Fourth of July weekend, which says this is the tourist dollars, as he says, and it's a shark. So it's the man against monster story in one line, you have so much information. And so a writer works and works on that logline. Because if you go to a pitch fast, you might want to have that log line to pull the person in immediately that you're pitching to. The other thing that you work on is what's called the elevator pitch, which is the 22nd pitch. So you get into an elevator and you press the 12th floor and you turn around as Steven Spielberg is standing behind you. That's when you go into your I have a script, Shark crap, and

Alex Ferrari 51:23
probably don't pitch that story to him. I think he knows that what

Linda Seger 51:26
that pitch to say. I had to say that because I just happened to have this opportunity. Yeah, let me see what that person says. And you, again, make it very, very concise. Michael Haig has written a book called I think it's selling the selling your script to 60 seconds or something like that it is about pitching and as about treatments, and you know, these these log lines, and it's that whole idea, you have to be able to get that script very, very concise that somebody immediately gets, what's the genre? What's the stakes, what's the conflict, give me something about you know, my, maybe my main character might be in there. Give me lots of information.

Alex Ferrari 52:14
So, um, I want to just to kind of close off our interview with two movies that I wanted you to kind of talk about a little bit and two of them are considered to have the great great screenplays ever written. But one and they're very different from each other. One movie is Shawshank Redemption, which is considered probably one of the greatest films ever made, at least by IMDb standards. What makes that movie so ridiculously amazing. And from NF talked to every, every scope of life, you know, for every 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 this thing about it. Can you kind of break that down? And then the other movie? Story? Sure. I'll tell you about the other movie afterwards, which was you think about? Oh, then I'll go to the Okay. The other one is Pulp Fiction. Like how that magic of what that is?

Linda Seger 53:19
The greatest movies of all time? I'm not sure I would know what

Alex Ferrari 53:23
some of them I didn't say most but some of them say

Linda Seger 53:25
they are both. You know, they're both very good. They're both excellent. And say, Well, what is it about them? Shawshank I think and the feeling for the characters, and their situation in their context is so strong when you match it with Morgan Freeman, he just pulls you into that storm so beautifully. And Robins and memorable scenes. One of the things to look for in a movie is what are the scenes 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. Sure. When I think of Shawshank and I think of that scene where Tim Robbins goes into the room and locks the door and plays a piece of classical music, it's an opera and he puts it on the intercom and it just floods the prism everybody just as brought to halt by the beauty to bring beauty in that and oh my gosh, that feeling of that scene. So sometimes in movies when you analyze them you for instance structurally Shawshank I think the resolution is too long in that movie. And so from just a purely structural craft viewpoint And I think it could have been tighter. But from an artistic viewpoint, just a story that pulls you in and the twists and turns of the story, the fact that this guy kept getting his Rita Hayworth so he could dig 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 acceptable roles that really bring great actors to the table. It's a theme that is expressed. And it has, in that case, the twists and turns. Whole fiction is such an original piece, you have very little money to shoot it with low budget, lots of fascinating things that mean the guy has just shot the person. And he starts quoting from the Bible. Like, gosh, what is and the sure hand, I think the thing was Quentin Tarantino. By the time he did Pulp Fiction, he knew what he was doing. He said he had spent 10 years doing a movie that couldn't even be released. It was so awful. Sure, and he did Reservoir Dogs then he did Pulp Fiction. And I remember in that opening scene in the cafe, that when he stopped that, he starts the credit in his belly dancing music. I mean, it happened. Years ago, I started surfing music, took belly dance to that Sure. Killer piece of music, starts the movie again, in a totally different place. And I totally trusted Quentin Tarantino knew what he was doing. He was not going to drop that scene where we're going to come back to it. And to feel that sense of a writer director who knows what they're doing and has a sure and confident hand.

Alex Ferrari 56:59
Right? That's a great analogy. That's

Linda Seger 57:02
how he just interwove all of this.

Alex Ferrari 57:06
And still hitting the beats still hitting that? Yes, he hit. He hit that hero's journey, oddly enough within that structure,

Linda Seger 57:15
say and he also I analyze Pulp Fiction in terms of its structure, and it's beautifully structured, I think, right at the midpoint is the story of the watch, which acts as kind of a fulcrum for the first half. And the second half does and the interweaving is really fast. And because he'll drop something for a while. But then you know, he's going to come back to it.

Alex Ferrari 57:42
You know, the funny the funny, I'll tell you real quick, funny story about Pulp Fiction is I was listening to an interview with Robert Rodriguez. And he was talking about he was he was, you know, they're best friends. And they've been and they were doing the movie at the time. And just like George Lucas had that screening of Star Wars for, you know, the Paloma and Coppola and all that and everyone said, Oh, poor George. Poor Poor George. He just Yeah, well, maybe next one, George Spielberg was the only one that kind of like, you might have something here. Quentin did the same similar thing with with Pulp Fiction. He brought in all his his his friends, which for filmmakers and writers and stuff, and Robert was the only one that wasn't there. He was off shooting somewhere. But after the screening, he talked to some people and one of the one of the directors who will remain nameless because no one knows who it is. Because quitting won't say who it is. He's like, you know, I'm gonna have a stern talking to about with Quinton 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 Putin was over in France with a can so after he won the Palme d'Or is free calls him up it goes I was gonna give you a stern talking to but what the hell do I know?

Linda Seger 58:58
Well in Pulp Fiction has what I call the loop structure is that you loop it back and Quinton, who quotes some, somebody else says a story has a beginning middle of end but not necessarily in that order. Correct. And in my book advanced screenwriting, I talk about different non traditional structures and use Pulp Fiction as the example of loop and just an unusual structure but he knew what he was doing

Alex Ferrari 59:30
that confident hand is something that that I it's a great it's a great description of Quentin Tarantino was a filmmaker he he's gonna go down his route no matter what, what you think about it, but he knows he's gonna take you in this journey. It's kind of like when I saw Birdman last year, and, and I was like, Oh, I forgot what a real director's

Linda Seger 59:52
Yes, somebody knows what they're doing. And they this is not their first rodeo. Right? Just like took you through this. First time. I have done this

Alex Ferrari 1:00:00
and it's so I just still remember watching Birdman and going this is what a director is like you like you watch it when you watch a Scorsese movie or one of the you know the big but I hadn't seen a movie so original and completely him he took you in that journey and you trusted him the entire time. And it was it was a one and I'm so glad I won the Oscar was like such an odd choice for you know, for the for the Academy, but I thought it was a wonderful choice. So last question, my dear is the toughest question of the mall. So prepare yourself. I asked this of all of my all my guests. What are your top three films of all time?

Linda Seger 1:00:36
Oh, okay. The best for your there's so many. But let me just mention a couple I particularly find is gems. One is always Amadeus.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:50
Yeah, you're not the I just had someone say Amadeus is a wonderful,

Linda Seger 1:00:54
big diamond. A really big one. You know, like Gone With the Wind. Those are the big diamonds. You know, who say the top three films, I wouldn't know how to answer that. I could answer it in terms of movies that I am incredibly fond.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:13
Yeah, no rules, no rules.

Linda Seger 1:01:14
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 and telling the story. Because I have a special feeling for witness. My husband who at that time was the guy was dating sorta kind of proposed to me in the middle of the barn raising same sort of kind. And then the proposal became specific. And now we've been married for it'll be 29 years next year. Congratulations.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51

Linda Seger 1:01:52
I have a real feeling comedies I put Tootsie shine of the top very thematic, very strong. Just a wonderful acting wonderful characters, great idea behind it. So those are three and then I'll just mention what I call a little gem, the little diamond stand by me, I love cranes are made to me as a great example of a very small film of 12 year old boys, and how a film can be about that and pull somebody in who ordinarily would not be pulled into that film. If somebody said what is one of the least interesting things to you, is I would say 12 year old boys because they make me so nervous that they walk on railroad tracks and trains are ready to come. You know, all of that. And I said, I love that film. I just think it's a great example of dimensionality and heart and having a this little directional line. Let's go find a dead body. Now all stuff about friendship. It's just, I call that the little diamond. absolute gem of a little movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:10
Wonderful list. Wonderful list. So Linda, where can people find you?

Linda Seger 1:03:15
Linda sager.com is my website. My email Linda at Linda Sager comm s Eg er, thank you, Bob Seger if you're not sure how to how to find me. And it's the same spelling. And they got a full website. There's a whole lot of stuff on there. So people will probably find interesting.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:37
And you have many even 13 books, correct? Yes, there's nine of them on screen writing. Okay. And then you also do court you also do consulting as well as workshops every once in a while? Yes.

Linda Seger 1:03:50
Well, most of my work is script consulting. And then I do seminars. So my next one is Norway. And I was in Europe all summer long doing Vienna, in Germany and England and Paris and tough life stuff. Listen, yeah, I did seven in nine weeks, and I just went from one country to the other with little vacation time in there. So, but then pretty easy to find.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
Okay, fantastic. Linda, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We really appreciate it.

Linda Seger 1:04:20
Okay, and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and also sign up for my newsletter.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:27
Absolutely. Thanks again, Linda.

Linda Seger 1:04:29
Thanks so much.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:30
It was an absolute pleasure talking to Linda she really dropped some 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, hustle comm forward slash BPS 008 That's bulletproof screenplay, BPS 008. And guys, if you have not signed up and subscribed for this podcast on iTunes, please do so go over there. Leave a A good review, give us a hopefully a five star review. It really helps us out, especially in these first few weeks that we're out because it's going to help us rank on iTunes and get this information out to as many screenwriters as humanly possible. So just head over to screenwriting podcast.com. And as always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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