BILL LUNDY INTERVIEW
My intention for this page was for it to be part blog, part interviews. But technology has failed me. So, this page will now be just for
Any blog will be separate.
So, the maiden voyage interview will be with Bill Lundy, a graduate of USC Film School, Bill has written two original films for the Sci-Fi Channel, Silent Warnings (2003) and Alien Siege (2005). In 1997, Bill sold two (unproduced) stories to Star Trek: Voyager. He served as Chairman of the non-profit Scriptwriters Network from 1997-2004, and currently serves on their board as Chairman Emeritus and Industry Liaison. A top script consultant and teacher, Bill has taught classes every year at Creative Screenwriting’s annual Screenwriting Expo, and has been awarded “Star Instructor” status at some of their events. In addition, he has taught classes or appeared on panels at Sherwood Oaks College, the Newport Beach Film Festival, Learning Tree University, the Scriptwriters Network, Scriptwriters Showcase, Flash Forward, ScreenplayLab, and The Writers Store. Known as “The Log Line Doctor,” Bill has assisted numerous writers in improving their craft and developing killer log lines and synopses to help them sell their scripts. For his full biography, click here: www.scifiscreenwriter.com. Bill can also be seen in this YouTube video talking about The Scriptwriters Network.
Okay, here we go with the first question. Bill, if an alien from a far-away galaxy came to earth and took over Warner Bros. and was now interviewing you for whatever job you wanted, what would be the first thing you'd tell him/her/it regarding your experience in the film industry?
Well, my first response would be “Eep Op Ork A-Ah.” Oh wait, that means “I love you.” Never mind. (Sorry, old “Jetsons” joke).
Let's hope for your sake, there's no alien equivalent to the casting couch, or that joke could get you in trouble.
Depends on if it's a female alien.
Yes, but still possibly sketchy. For example, has anyone ever determined definitively if ET was a male alien? I mean, what if ET was a she, and considered a beauty queen at that, on her home planet? It's possible the male sounding "Phone home" voice might be considered lilting and lovely on that planet. As someone looking out for you, I just want to make sure you've given this full thought in case you're ever actually interviewing for a job with a real alien... And after my nonsense, I guess I should let you actually answer the question.
Seriously, my response would be that, in my opinion, this is probably the most fun, interesting, and certainly most challenging industry there is, and I’m proud to be a part of it. A long time ago in a USC film class far, far away, I stated that my ultimate goal was to be the next Steven Spielberg. And it still is, for the most part. I definitely see myself writing and directing movies
at some point in the hopefully near future. I’ve got too much love for the art and craft of movies to ever give up that dream. And I’ve been toughened up by my experiences over the years so that I’ll never let a “no”, or even a series of “no’s” stop me from moving forward. Regarding those past experiences, the thought that comes to mind is something I tell students in any class I teach: “Enjoy the journey.” My journey has been an interesting one, filled with ups, downs, twists and turns, happy accidents and sheer luck. Many more ups than downs, at least from my perspective. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two films produced, “Alien Siege” and “Silent Warnings,” both done on assignment. I’ve had several spec scripts optioned, with a couple of them coming very close to getting made. I’ve grown as an artist and writer, met many incredibly
wonderful people, and had tremendous fun running the Scriptwriters Network for a number of years.
Very good. I hope the alien understands English, though, otherwise you just wasted a mouthful... Now for our readers, can you give a quick explanation of what the Scriptwriters Network is?
The Scriptwriters Network is a non-profit, volunteer-based networking and a support organization for screenwriters at all levels. The group was founded in 1986, and over the years has helped many writers, including myself, improve their craft, make contacts, and take major steps forward in their writing careers. Network members have gone on to become Oscar nominees (Iris Yamashita for "Letters from Iwo Jima"), write blockbusters (Doug Eboch, "Sweet Home Alabama"), create critically acclaimed TV shows (Daniel Knauf, "Carnivale"), and forge solid, steady careers in the industry.
I wasn't aware of that. That's impressive. Give us a few specific examples of how you feel your involvement with the network made you a better writer, and/or how it prepared you to work in and succeed in this tough industry.
Well, I'll try to be briefer than usual on this subject. First off, thanks to the Network's monthly Speaker and Seminar Series, I've been able to tap into the wisdom of dozens of screenwriters, producers, directors, a few actors, consultants, gurus, authors and teachers. I can honestly say I've learned something at every single event I've attended. Next, there's the incredibly valuable written feedback on my scripts that I received through the Network's Producers Outreach and Hollywood Outreach Programs, which helped me improve those scripts tremendously. Then of course there's the experience I got reading for those programs and the Carl Sautter Memorial Scriptwriting Competition (which I ran for 12 years). As I always tell the students in the periodic Script Analysis classes I teach, one of the best ways to become a better writer is by reading other people's scripts. Probably the single greatest thing I've gotten out of the Network is all the wonderful contacts and friendships I've made around town. And last but not least, there's the honesty. The Network is a reality-based organization. They don't sugarcoat things and tell you what a great writer you are - unless you really are, that is. All of their programs are designed to help people learn the REAL rules of screenwriting and the industry, and provide them the tools to make it. The rest is up to the individual writer, and how much they actually want to succeed.
Okay, very good. Since I get a lot of questions here from aspiring writers and filmmakers, let's see if we can't give them a little direction. What movie do you think every aspiring screenwriter should watch, and is the answer "Deuce Bigalow: Eurpoean Gigalo"? -- and if not, is it a close second?
Well, "Deuce" is certainly up there of course, along with "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" (which we were reminded recently opened #1 at the box office in September 2002. Never count out those David Spade groupies!). But actually I can't quite limit it to one movie, so I'm going to recommend two. First is a somewhat obvious choice, since it's the movie that made me and a whole generation of kids want to make movies in the first place - "Star Wars." There, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy - oh, sorry, couldn't help myself there. What I meant to say was that you will never find a more perfect example of the three-act structure, not to mention the quintessential Hero's Journey. These are, in my opinion, the two key foundations of screenwriting, at least the Major Studio variety, and every screenwriter should be well-versed in them. The other movie I'd recommend would be "L.A. Confidential," which I think is the best-written American film of the past 15 years. It's a textbook of how to create compelling, fleshed-out characters and a complicated plot with lots of good twists and turns, all of which keep the audience guessing but are completely logical and set up incredibly well. Just studying those two films alone can help any emerging writer improve their craft considerably. But I'd also suggest seeing as many movies as possible, to learn other tricks and see what the current trends are.
Here's another one for aspiring writers, and it's a pet peeve of mine. There's so many services out there (of which several are good) that charge writers (and filmmakers and actors, etc.) to help them improve their craft. But seeing as how most aspiring writers don't have loads of cash pouring out of their pockets, give me something they can do for FREE to become a better writer (besides just writing every day, or recreating Jessica Simpson movies shot by shot in their living rooms).
You're right, there's a whole industry out there just salivating at the prospect of separating aspiring/emerging writers from their meager funds. But there are still ways writers can get better, without spending an arm, a leg, or a firstborn. The best suggestion I can make is to join a writers group. There are literally hundreds of them around town, and even online ones who
correspond via e-mail around the world. The Scriptwriters Network oversees quite a few, with more coming online all the time (a list of current ones can be found on the Network's website at: Http://www.scriptwritersnetwork.org/swn/index.php?page=writers-groups).
Mostly what these groups do is read and critique each other's scripts, and provide a (usually) friendly environment for writers to get peer feedback and support. The ones with staying power are those which are made up of people with similar tastes and at similar levels of expertise. If you can't find a group that suits you, you can always start one - just advertise on craigslist or
something like that. The other thing I recommend is reading some of the better books on screenwriting, which you can check out of the library for free or buy cheap on Amazon.com or www.writersstore.com.
Since I have no interviewing skills, I'm trying to channel my inner Larry King. So let's take a call from Poughkeepsie. Go ahead, Poughkeepsie, ask your question. Yes, you're on the air Poughkeepsie -- ask your question already!! Poughkeepsie wants to know why a slug line is called a slug line (by the way, neither I nor Larry King knows the answer to this)? If you have no idea either pretend this is an SAT question and take your best guess.
Ooh, finally, a question I've never been asked before! My best guess is that maybe it stems from an incident where an irate director (John Ford or Howard Hawks?) slugged a screenwriter for not telling them where to shoot a scene and they wound up trying to film a massive fight scene in a closet. Or something along those lines. Actually, I have no idea. Most of the screenwriting softwares don't even call them that - they list them as "Scene Headings." But I've always liked "Slug Line" myself. It sounds so "insider"and Daily Variety-ish.
Sorry for the delay. I thought I’d try to solve the country’s financial crisis by visiting 700 billion people and asking them each to donate $1. Well, after the first two people said, “No,” I kinda’ got bored and gave up. So I’m back… You mentioned the last question was something you’ve never been asked. I’d prefer to stick with questions you’re asked often. So, with that in mind: What do you look for in a sock?
Good elastic! I hate socks that slide down your leg as you walk. Drives me crazy. Why can't they make socks that stay up?
In reviewing my last question, I came to the realization that what someone looks for in a sock actually doesn't have a whole lot to do with writing screenplays. Unless it's a movie about socks, and then it would be very pertinent. But assuming most people aren't writing that movie, this may be a better question: On average, how many rewrites do you do per script?
These days I average 3-4 drafts before I deem something ready to send out. Each draft gets read by two or three fellow writers, who give me feedback on what's working and what's not. When I get to the point that the readers all think it's pretty much ready to go, I give it to my manager and tell him to go sell the thing. Well, sort of - it's not quite that easy, but you get the idea.
Okay, I think we can bring this interview to a close. People have learned about writing, writer’s groups, good movies to study, slug lines, sock choice and Jetsons jokes. That pretty much covers life. So, let’s end this puppy with whatever you want to plug. Have at it.
Well, thanks for the interview! This has been fun. I've learned a lot about myself, and my choice of socks. The main thing I want to plug is my new website, www.scifiscreenwriter.com. I've got some helpful articles on screenwriting and the entertainment industry on there, info about my consulting services, and a few other goodies. For the Scriptwriters Network, I'll be interviewing writer Stephen Susco ("The Grudge") at their December Speaker Series event on Saturday, December 13. And in November they'll be doing a panel of development executives, which people can find out more about at www.scriptwritersnetwork.org. Finally, if you're looking for a good book that is full of great advice on screenwriting, check out "Q & A: The Working Screenwriter" by Jim Vines. It's available at The Writers Store, Amazon.com and other industry-related bookstores/websites. I was one of the writers privileged to be featured in the book, and I can honestly say it's one of the most informative screenwriting books I've seen. Otherwise, to everyone reading this - KEEP ON WRITING!