(Nat Segaloff: *Credit: Liane Brandon)
Today, Bookpleasures is excited to have as our guest Nat Segaloff. Nat has worn many hats including TV writer-producer, journalist, studio publicist, college teacher, entertainment critic, and many more. He is the author of nine books including his most recently published book Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors.
Good day Nat and thanks for participating in our interview. Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background. As a follow up, how did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
fortunate to be the product of a public school system in a county
that valued literacy. I was also fortunate that our family didn’t
have a TV in the house until I was six or seven, so I had the chance
to learn to read first and think for myself.
The writing, though, didn’t take hold until I was a college freshman where I had teachers who read papers and graded them intelligently, and their feedback was both empowering and encouraging -- traits I tried to give my students when I took up the chalk many years later. As for motivation, I started as a movie publicist and had to grind out 20 press releases a week, each of them different from the week before. Then I became a print, radio, and TV movie critic with the same requirement and workload.
There is nothing like a deadline to teach one how to write - either learn or get out of the business to make room for someone who can. I don’t know what keeps me writing because you can’t earn a living at it any more, except that I see history slipping away and I am compelled to write in order to slow the flow.
Which of the many hats that you have worn has proven to be the most challenging and why?
Somewhere Neil Simon said that the hardest writing he ever had to do was a 15-second introduction for a guest on “The Garry Moore Show.” What he was saying was that the most challenging kind of writing is exposition. In journalism it’s writing the lede that makes ‘em want to keep reading. In drama it’s the first thing that your main characters say that defines them for the audience. And in pitches it’s getting the buyer to say, “What happens next?”
How do you approach the work of writing?
The ass to the chair. I write at the same time every day, and it sometimes takes an hour before the juices start flowing. Then, as soon as they do, that’s God’s signal to make the phone ring. The great Larry Gelbart once offered another tip: “The first secret of writing,” he said, “is to take solitaire off your computer.” I might add that Facebook should also be deleted.
What motivated you to write Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors and can you share a little of your current work with us?
It took me five years
to find a publisher bright enough to publish Final Cuts the way I
wanted to write it, which is director by director, rather than crunch
them together into a treatise on age, artistry, and commerce. As a
film critic I remember having discussions with my colleagues about
why so many of our cinematic gods made such disappointing movies as
they got older, where you’d think that artists would get better
when they hit their 60s and 70s.
I made a list of directors I admired, and their last films, and realized that about half of them turned out some pretty good work on the way to Forest Lawn. Final Cuts also gave me the chance to eulogize some directors whose work I admired, or whom I knew personally, or both. That’s why the TOC is so eclectic.
How much research went into the writing of Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors and where did it come from? As a follow up, what will you be doing for promotion and how much of it is your doing?
The research came from private collections at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, UCLA’s Performing Arts Special Collections, a few books, and, in many cases, my interviews with directors (while they were still living, obviously).
What do you think of the new Internet market for writers?
The same thing I think of the old internet market for writers: pay us. This is our craft, not our hobby, and just because you can’t do it, doesn’t mean our work should be free..
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre, owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?
Writers owe readers the respect to deliver the goods. Spelling and grammar are also important.
Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
I am currently working on two books. One, for BearManor Media, like Final Cuts, is the first biography of Stirling Silliphant, the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of In the Heat of the Night as well as TV’s Naked City, Route 66, and literally hundreds of others.
Stirling was a friend and, on his deathbed, asked his wife to make sure I wrote the book about him. It took 16 years to find a publisher. The other is the biography of one of the world’s major living writers of speculative fiction. We are still looking for a publisher. You’d be surprised how hard it is to get a serious book published for enough of an advance to live on while writing it. Maybe I should do it about a cat that write speculative fiction. That would probably sell. I am also in the middle of recording the audiobook version of Final Cuts for BearManor Audio.
Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Google me. Funny, isn’t it, that, for a former publicist, I don’t have my own website.
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Where can I buy
Final Cuts: The Last Films of 40 Great Directors?
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers.