In Conversation With Author& Producer Developing Screenplays, Burt Weissbourd.
Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.
He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.
To read more about Norm Follow Here
Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest author, producer developing screenplays, Burt Weissbourd.
Burt is the author of the Corey Logan Trilogy and his latest tome, MINOS is the thrilling conclusion to the trilogy.
He began his career producing movies, working closely with screenwriters, then writing his own screenplays.
A newcomer to Hollywood, he approached writers whose movies he loved — movies such as Klute, Two for the Road, and Ordinary People— and worked with those writers and others, including working with Ross Macdonald, a legend in crime fiction, on his only screenplay.
This was the “New Hollywood” (1967 – 1980), and he found writers whose work grabbed viewers viscerally, not with explosions but with multi-dimensional characters who would draw you into a deeply moving story.
Savvy actors wanted to play finely drawn characters in compelling stories, and before long, Burt was developing screenplays, working directly with Robert Redford, Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Sally Field, and Jill Clayburg, among others.
As a producer developing a screenplay, you look for stories with strong, complex characters and a “rich stew” — that is to say, a situation with conflict, emotional intensity, and the potential to evolve in unexpected ways. This is exactly what he tries to create for the books he writes.
Burt has spent much of his adult life in three places that require unique skill sets and strong instincts to navigate gracefully: Hollywood, Wall Street (he has run an investment business for the past 20 years), and what he calls “wild country,” places in nature that are off the beaten path. He spends 30 to 50 days per year fly fishing in Montana.
Burt grew up in Chicago and graduated from Yale University with honors in psychology. He volunteered at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and taught English to college students in Thailand. He has lived in Los Angeles, Bainbridge Island, WA, and Seattle.
Burt produced movies
including Ghost Story, starring Fred Astaire, and Raggedy
Man, starring Sissy Spacek. He is a voting member of the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
He currently lives in New York City with his wife, Dorothy, and has three adult children and a grandson.
Norm: Good day Burt and thanks for participating in our interview.
What was your training for developing screenplays and what was exactly your role as a producer?
Burt: As a producer, I worked with writers developing screenplays. Together, we’d work out plot, characters, and then review drafts as they were written. Before coming to Hollywood, I wrote, produced and edited educational films. Other than that I had no training. The writers I worked with, however, kept coming back to do more screenplays and that was an affirmation that I was doing something right.
Norm: What are the skills, you most value in actors such as Robert Redford, Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Sally Field, and Jill Clayburg whom who have worked with?
Burt: They are all interested in playing , and able to portray, complex characters.
Norm: What was your most challenging screenplay?
Burt: This reminds me of when I was asked after a reading which of my books is my favorite? I answered that it’s a little bit like asking which of my children is my favorite child. To get any screenplay right is always very challenging.
Norm: What role do you play as a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?
Burt: As a member of the producers branch, I nominate for best picture, than I vote in every category for one of the nominees.
Norm: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of the Corey Logan Trilogy and could you tell us a little about the trilogy?
Burt: I left Hollywood and moved to Bainbridge Island WA. I became interested in the women who fished on seiners in Alaska. Demanding, rough work. I wanted to pair a tough woman character who was very able in the outdoors with an equally strong man who was very able in dealing with people’s interior, emotional lives, but not so able in the world.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in writing the trilogy, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Burt: I wanted to follow two very strong, very different people, an unlikely couple indeed, who meet, misunderstand each other, and eventually, fall in love. In the second book they’re married. By the third they’ve developed a mature, enviable relationship. I think that I succeeded in creating an intense, loving, ever-evolving relationship.
Norm: What are some of the references that you used while researching the trilogy?
Burt: Research about the Inside Passage, homeless youth in Seattle, Seattle private schools, foster care, sentencing laws, Greek mythology, etc.
Norm: What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Burt: It’s character driven. I really try to make all of my characters believable, and hope that their behavior is consistent or “true” in the way a carpenter uses that word.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing the trilogy and what did you enjoy most about writing it?
Burt: The most difficult part was writing the ending for Minos. I enjoyed writing Abe and Corey, especially the tender moments between them and with their son, Billy.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Burt: I love writing and when I’m not distracted by other work obligations, I have no trouble focusing. I like reading my own work, so far.
Norm: Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Burt: Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, Ross Thomas, Stieg Larsson, Scott Turow. They all write character driven thrillers or mysteries.
Norm: Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
Burt: I try to create a “rich stew”—interesting complex characters, intense conflict, complicated relationships, and see where it takes me.
Norm: In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?
Burt: Even when I create fictional places, like the Blue City Café, I try to remain true to the city or the neighborhood. It would be too much to put a NY Deli, say Katz’s, in Seattle.
Norm: Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?
Burt: Yes. I think a writer has to make a pact with—a promise to—the reader early on and deliver on that promise. You can’t promise a tender love story and then deliver an intensely violent gang war piece.
Norm: What advice can you give aspiring writers that you wished you had gotten, or that you wished you would have listened to?
Burt: Keep writing. You only get better.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Burt: MY WEBSITE
Norm: What are you upcoming projects?
Burt: The Bronze Pig, a standalone thriller set in Seattle and New York.
Norm; As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Burt: Do you see your novels as potential movie or television? Yes, I think the Corey Logan Trilogy would make an excellent multi-episode HBO series, like The Wire, or Game of Thrones.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors