interview by Douglas Eby
Linda Seger found writing her book "When Women Call the Shots.." to be a very positive experience. "It empowered me to speak out more," she says. "A lot of women want approval; we do want to be nice. And coming from the Midwest, I've not considered myself a political person or social activist, or a strident person, or angry or some of these things.
"So when I was doing a book on women, it raises all those issues about, 'Oh, I must not get angry about this' - but, of course, you are dealing with things that are worthy of being angry about.
"There have been really bad things done to women that never should have been, and one thing I became conscious of was that I was in a unique position to do something about it. And I became more conscious of my responsibility.
"Some of that came about because I was meeting so many women from all over the world, and hearing so many of the same stories and same concerns, and I began to see myself as a bridge.
"When someone in Germany talked about something, I could say, 'Well, you know, what you're doing is so much like what so-and-so in New Zealand is doing, and this is how she's doing it.' I became the connecting link between a whole lot of people...
"And that brings along a lot of responsibility, which became even more clear when I wrote the section on global and social responsibility; everything we do does ripple out. People say it doesn't matter what you put on screen. But, you bet it matters. Whatever those images are matters a great deal."
In talking to powerful women, who are "encountering similar problems," she discovered, helps you "find your own voice. I found so many women were saying things they were beginning to do more of, and sometimes at first I would think, 'I don't do that' - but then I'd realize that I really do. Sometimes our transformations are very subtle. When women say we are more emotional than men, I've tended to say, well I'm not.
"I always thought of myself as a more non-emotional woman, but what I began to discover in a subtle way in the last few years is that I spend more time on emotions in a script when I consult, and I began to see that I may not do it the same way as every woman does, but it's true that in finding my voice, my emotional side is coming more to the fore. Hearing other women talk about that reinforced my process.
"I have listened to women who have really taken stands, but also women who have refused to take a stand, and that really surprised me. The fear of some women made me begin to recognize that if you have power but don't use it, don't speak out, then you don't have power anymore. Power is only power by rippling out, and by taking advantage of it, like doing things to help other people advance.
Empowering someone else helps them become bigger, she finds, "but you become bigger also. And I began to sense I could say what I had to say in a kind, diplomatic way that didn't raise defenses but still told the truth. And I sensed I had a skill at that because my Midwestern roots, which make me try to be real nice, also has an advantage."
When Seger first started her business, she recalls, she was afraid to be successful: "I thought people would be jealous of me, and would somehow resent that and therefore wouldn't like me. But I thought about it, and figured I'd just handle it when it happened. And I had a good therapist and a good career consultant.
"What I did was make sure that there were people I could go to, so in a sense I created my relationships to say I'm not going to keep from being successful, but I'm going to make sure there will be people who can help me handle success well.
"There may be someone out there who is jealous or whatever, but I've never heard about it; I've never gotten the backlash that I expected. And one of the reasons is that my career consultant has been very clear about the ethics of business.
"She said you must never desert the people who helped you get where you are. She says a lot of people become 'famous' - whatever that means - and cut out the people from their past, the people who believed in them when nobody else would."
Seger considers "collaborative thinking" or "web thinking" to be a model for the future. "It's the idea that no one is better than someone else, nobody's life should be considered better than someone else's because they have more money or status or title or education or whatever," she explains.
"Lives should not be determined by that. But I do admit that, because of my background in drama, I'm very comfortable with being noticed, and I think some people are not, somebody who's more of an introvert. I love to wear bright colors, dramatic clothes, I just like dramatic things, so in a way I fit very well into my job - being in film and television and being a speaker.
"But there's a tendency for people, when they see someone who's sort of out there, to think that that's all natural. I remember when I started out in business, I was very shy, very unsure of myself and unsure of what to say. And this is where web thinking comes in. I want to actualize myself, and I want to make a contribution. Probably the first thing a woman has to decide is what do you want to do.
"And the second thing is to recognize that there's some distance you have to go between what the desire is and where you are now. I think what happens to a lot of women is they think that somehow we're born into being a good speaker, or being able to speak out, or knowing how to negotiate or whatever - they look at other people, and say 'That's really neat, but I can't be there because I'm not that kind of person.' Well, I wasn't that kind of person before I got help.
"If someone sees a place they want to go, and they have trouble getting there, then they have to get help. I don't think we do anything alone. And we can all be very talented in certain areas. I was very talented in terms of scripts, but I had to learn about business and sales.
"There might be a few people out there who are comfortable with selling, but most of us are not. And there are so many aspects of my business where I had to constantly say 'This is a stretch' and 'This is difficult.'"
Seger acknowledges getting a lot of help in her work: "I could not have done this book about when women call the shots without a tremendous support network, at every level. You have to learn how to be in scary areas, make those comfortable, then go to the next scary area and make it comfortable.
"If we want to be in a little cocoon, well, that's where we're going to be. But the nature of moving out of your little cocoon into another area is that it is scary, and it's not just a matter of saying you have to have courage, because you learn courage.
"If a woman is saying she's having trouble being heard, the question is why. Now it's true there are external circumstances, but if you're not being heard where you are, why are you knocking on that door a hundred times, because the door isn't going to open for you.
"What you have to do is figure out where you are, and where you can get through. I spent ten years trying to get a studio door to open, and finally one day hung up the phone on the the last studio executive, and said to myself, 'You know, I think the message is clear; consulting for studios is not what I'm about.'
"It's not to say it automatically happens. People say, 'You're so lucky, you get to travel internationally' - but it isn't luck. I do think there are some people who are lucky, but I'm not one of them. My slogan is 'There's luck, and there's erosion'; I've gone every place through just keeping at it, and usually five or ten years later than I thought I should have. In order to find your way, while you are going through that process, you are developing resources that make it possible for your to find your way further.
"There are some things that happened in the process of writing this book that might have stopped me, but because I have had all those other setbacks, I see it as just another one, that 'I've seen this a hundred times before', or 'This one came in a little different form, but we're used to that.' And back to the web: if I'm really feeling badly about it, I have to talk to someone who can support me emotionally, or tell me how to handle that situation."
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Linda Seger is an acclaimed script consultant and the author of multiple books on screenwriting and women in entertainment.
Th.D. in Theology and masters degrees in theater arts, religion and
and feminist theology.
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site : lindaseger.com
**books by Linda Seger:
From Script to Screen: The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking
Thinking : Connecting, Not Competing, for Success
Making a Good Writer Great: A Creativity Workbook for ScreenwritersWhen Women Call the Shots: The Developing Power and Influence of Women in Television and Film
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