In the Spotlight: Les Zig
Screenwriting is an opportunity. It allows us to weave a story which can inspire hope or even challenge other peoples view of the world. Les Zig understands this as it is part of his core and he knows what needs to be done to tell a powerful story. This is why I am excited to introduce you to him.
This is Les Zig...
As I writer, I’ve had three published novels, and written a number of scripts. Now I’m pushing to direct one of my own feature screenplays.
For me, there’s nothing more magical than stepping into some world and experiencing whatever the characters experience, be it some gritty contemporary tale, a fantastical adventure, or something extraordinary.
We relate to good stories, although our circumstances might differ. I’m not a young Jedi helping to fight the tyranny of an evil empire, but I can relate to Luke Skywalker’s journey to improve himself, to the way he stumbles but perseveres, learns, and tries to get somewhere better. That’s the beauty of storytelling.
We can find ourselves in stories, relate, live vicariously through the characters, but also divine something to take back into the real world. -Les Zig
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I took a drama course when I was 20. One of the teachers was a director. I asked him if he’d look at a screenplay. He said if I put it in his hand, he’d read it.
I knew nothing about screenwriting. All my writing had been prose. This was also pre-internet. So I went off to the library to find books on screenwriting and took a crash course. The director didn’t particularly like the two screenplays I gave him, but he felt they showed that I could write. He commissioned me to write an action feature. It never went anywhere, but it was validation that I was heading in the right direction.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
As a kid, I wanted to be a games programmer (as home computers were just emerging), then a musician (as music videos were becoming the thing). Then, when I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t those industries I was primarily interested in, but story behind the game, and the story behind the music video. I was already writing lots of stories throughout high school, so it belatedly gelled that I wanted to be a writer.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
My Year 7 English teacher, Brian Crocker, who helped me sort out some of my awkward expression, and indulged the obscenely huge stories I would turn in as homework. One assignment was to write a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I wrote something that was a cross between James Bond and Rambo with over one hundred entries, which was insane for a 12-year-old.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
The 1970s and 1980s had so many groundbreaking films – Jaws, The Godfather and The Godfather II, the Star Wars trilogy, Star Trek, Back to the Future, E.T., Indiana Jones … well, this is a big list. There wasn’t a single movie that was my aha moment. It was a gradual process of losing myself in the magic of storytelling and discovering that’s what I wanted to do in one form or another.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
Now that I’m older, wiser (well, wiser’ish), I’ve redefined what success means to me. While I’d love films made from my screenplays, or to direct my own screenplays, I just want to tell a good story. The act of writing and finishing something is a success.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
As an adult, I’ve had always had difficulty sleeping – the result of an overactive mind and imagination, so I’m not a morning person. Everything is loosely uniform throughout the day: meals, usually a walk, and all those little things in-between. But I make sure I write every day – even if it’s just to sit at the keyboard and write two sentences. I always want to keep a foothold in whatever world I’m visiting.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
When I was a young writer, I was cocky. I think that’s a rite of passage for a lot of writers – being inexperienced and believing you know everything (and if people don’t like your work, it’s because they don’t get it!), to becoming more experienced and learning that there’s a whole host of things that mightn’t be working. One of my creeds now is, “I don’t know anything”, because I there is always something new to learn.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
The 3,857,549 times I’ve wanted to give up because my writing hit a wall in some way. And feeling that just because I desperately want it and am putting in lots of hard work, that it’ll just happen. There are lots of talented people in the world. Things mightn’t happen for lots of reasons – and you won’t have control over a lot of them. So it’s been learning to redefine what I expect, and to enjoy the process of creation.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
Like a lot of writers, I’ve had mental health challenges. I think writers feel more. They have to – it’s how they can empathize with a 90-year-old war vet on one page, a 40-something socialite on another, a punk kid on another, a frightened child on another, and a dog on another. But in the actual practice of writing, there is a contentment and satisfaction that I don’t experience elsewhere. I’m sure everybody has their “thing”. But with writing, it’s gratifying to create a world in which your characters function and your story unfolds.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
At school, I was always the odd one out, reading, writing, getting lost in stories as everybody lived in the world. When I studied writing years later, I was with like-minded people. The best thing about a community of peers is they get “it”, where “it” can be anything – planning a story, writing, getting stuck, the frustrations of getting it made, etc. When you’re in a like-minded community, they don’t need big explanations, and they can empathize immediately.
The Successful Screenwriter Podcast - (Episodes)