In the Spotlight: Paul Zeidman

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I recently had the opportunity to chat screenwriting with Paul. Aside from being incredibly laidback, personable, & witty. There was one more thing that hit me about him. This guy gets it. He understands exactly what it takes to be a successful screenwriter. He has the will and discipline to go all the way. This can be proven by the fact that Paul's blog MaximumZ, is listed in the top 50 Screenwriting blogs to follow. That is no small feat. Let's get to know this talented and dedicated writer:

Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?

I don’t know if I’d say I “stumbled” into it. I’ve always loved writing and watching movies. I originally started out wanting to write books, but it wasn’t until after college that my focus shifted to screenplays. I like to think I’ll eventually be able to make a living at this.


Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?

I always like to say I’m a child of the 80s, so well-crafted tales of thrilling adventure (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, etc) really struck a nerve with me. The feelings and emotions that those kind of stories evoke and how they’re told are what I strive to deliver in my scripts.


Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?

Since I didn’t really have any formal screenwriting education, there are three teachers I had who were the biggest influence on me as a writer. Two were high school English teachers; Mr. Fisher, who had a book published and encouraged me to pursue writing, and Mr. Truitt, who taught the film appreciation class where I was really exposed to films beyond what I’d usually watch. The third teacher, John Groch, taught film analysis in college, where I learned about story structure, character arcs, plot development, etc. All these things that are now second-nature when I write.

But when it comes to the person who really believed in me, it’s always been and still is my wife Kris. She has been a true Rock of Gibraltar when it comes to support and encouragement. She’s also my most prominent editor/critic. She’ll read something and doesn’t hesitate to let me know what she thinks, good or bad. FYI - we’ll have been married 24 years this September.


Q: What was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?

Forgive the roundabout manner of this story, but it’s necessary. San Francisco is a great city in which to take walks. My wife and I were walking in the Presidio (former Army base turned national park; where the Golden Gate Bridge is). I was still early in the process of learning how to write a screenplay. Part of our discussion during this walk was me saying how I really wanted to dedicate myself to becoming a screenwriter full-time, no matter how long it took. Fortunately for me, she went along with it (and still does).


Q: How do you define success for yourself?

The ultimate win would be selling a script and seeing “Written by Paul E. Zeidman” on the big screen, it really comes down to just being able to write and get paid for it. Rewrites, assignment work, whatever. I’m not picky. The idea of a big paycheck is nice, but I’d much rather be able to call myself a working writer.


Q: Give us a typical day in your life.

-My day job is radio traffic reporter (and no, I don’t fly in the plane - everybody always asks). I get up at 3:15am and am out the door at 4. If the weather’s cooperative, I ride my bike to work (about 6 miles. Luckily, it involves the flatter parts of SF). I’m on the air from 5 to 9am, and then produce (putting traffic info on the screen for our client stations and other reporters) from 9am to noon. If the roads are relatively quiet over the course of the morning, that gives me a lot of spare time which I try to use for scripts or something related - working on my own, reading somebody else’s, research for query letters, networking, etc. At noon, I head home. With factors like the dog, my daughter’s soccer schedule and general household tasks, each afternoon and evening is different. No matter what, I try to work on my scripts for at least an hour, or write 3 pages or more, whichever comes first. I’m usually exhausted by about 9, so that’s when I’ll go to bed. I always have a stack of books to read, so I’ll try to stay awake and work my way through a chapter before calling it a night. Then it’s light out until the whole process starts all over again.


Thursday evenings/Friday mornings are a little different in that that's when I'll work on the blogpost for that week. A lot of the time those are updates about how my latest project is going, plus what kind of helpful screenwriting info it offers, or even something that happened to me. I try to make the subject material as relatable as I can; something I'd be interested in reading. I've been doing it for about 9 years, and when 2018 started, went from a twice-a-week to a once-a-week posting schedule. It's helped, at least from a "less stress" perspective.


Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path?

There are actually several: To treat this like an actual job and write every day (since that’s what I want to do anyway). Try to make the current draft as good as it can be, and then figure out how to make the next one better. Not taking criticism or rejection personally, and to learn from both. Connecting with and maintaining professional relationships with other writers. But probably the biggest one is to not stop trying, especially on days when it seems like nothing’s working out. Patience is absolutely vital. Cliched as it sounds, it really is a marathon, not a sprint.


Q: What’s been your greatest challenge in your writing so far?

For writing - trying to make the story as solidly put-together as it can be. For after the script’s done - finding a rep or production company willing to read it.


Q: What’s been your greatest reward in the choices you've made?

I’ve been very fortunate to have had some moderate contest successes, and hope one of those eventually helps me transition to being a working writer. I’m also extremely glad to have connected and interacted with so many quality writers. My writing is definitely better for it.


Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?

As I mentioned, I’ve always found networking with other writers to be incredibly helpful for both sides. Many times I’ll ask somebody for advice or feedback, and just as often I’ll be asked. I’m always open to helping somebody out if I can.


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