Jeffrey Berman is a mover and a shaker. When he’s not writing feature films for the likes of Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, or The Walt Disney Studio, he’s interviewing writers for his series entitled, “The Write Environment .” Jeff also works as a producer.
I’ve worked with Jeff quite a bit over the last few years, and I must say, it’s a real joy to collaborate with him. I asked Jeff if he’d be a part of this blog series, and he said he was game.
1. Jeff, thanks for being a part of this project. You’ve been writing and producing in Hollywood for years. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a couple of your projects. What is the most challenging thing about putting together a production team, and what do you look for in the people you choose?
I look for great people who work well together. A great crew is like a good barbershop quartet. When they are in sync, it’s smooth as silk. But if one member of the group goes off key, he can throw the whole quartet off their mark. Most productions are very intense, underfunded, understaffed, and under gun, so you really need a harmonious crew if you’re going to pull off something magical.
2. One of the projects you have in development is an adaptation of a novel. Is it harder or easier to start from a story that’s been written in one form?
It’s easier in the sense that I don’t need to spend as much time in the development phase of the project figuring out the plot twists, character nuances, and story beats, but the flip side to that coin is that books are usually very dense with plot twists, character nuances, and story beats, which makes me more of an editor in the development phase. When adapting books, you are always burdened by the limitation of time.
3. As a professional writer, what’s the number one tip you’d offer to those who want to make a career of writing?
Write. Don’t talk about it, just do it.
4. You had a writing partner for a long time. What’s the biggest advantage of co-creating with a partner? What’s the biggest challenge?
Actually, I’ve had multiple partners over the years, and I’ve been fortunate to have sold projects with each of them. The best part of writing in tandem with a partner is you always have someone to bounce ideas of off.
The hardest thing about writing is doing it in a vacuum. Some writers excel at it, while others work best as part of a team or one of many in a writers’ room.
The most difficult part of writing with a partner is that in many ways it’s like being in a marriage. The ties that bind are very tight, and it can be most challenging when you’re butting heads or not seeing eye to eye. It’s why many writing teams end up in therapy together.
5. When working in feature films, what is your involvement after the script is finished and approved? Are you involved once production begins?
That varies from project to project. It really depends on what I was hired to do, and whether nor not I’m a producer on the project. As a writer I am always at the whim of the producers and directors. It’s by their grace that I am allowed on set or to participate in the project post-writing. If it’s a project that I’m producing, I’m involved in every aspect from start to finish, as you know from the projects we’ve worked on together.
6. How do you deal with creative dry spells? What do you do to get re-inspired?
I drink a lot. No, not really. I’m kidding. I find jogging is great for me when it comes to clearing my head or working out story points. Some challenges you need to push through, while others, it’s usually a case of putting down the pen and getting out into the real world for however long it takes to rekindle inspiration.
Thanks for your time, Jeff. Here’s to hoping all of the things you’re working on come to fruition!
Read part 1 of the Hollywood Writers’ Series with Carol Barbee here .
Read part 2 of the Hollywood Writers’ Series with Jonathan E. Steinberg here .
Read part 3 of the Hollywood Writers’ Series with Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia here.