Scott Leger is an independent filmmaker living in Los Angeles. His newest project, “Neither and Both,” is a short film about a female anti-hero. Upstream Ideas interviewed Scott about his creative process, his motivation to make films, and what is so unique about his latest undertaking. You can like his film page on Facebook or financially support the project.
In our constant effort to find solutions to modern problems through creative communication, Upstream Ideas is a strong supporter of independent films. As unique voices such as Scott’s find new and innovative ways to bring their ideas into reality, Upstream will be there to raise awareness of their work, and do our part to financially support them. Here is our Q & A with Scott:
Tell us about why you decided to get into screenwriting.
“This is an incredibly difficult question for me to answer, because quite honestly, I don’t know exactly. I can point to the major moments: watching the original Star Wars over and over again at daycare when I was seven, seeing Fight Club and The Matrix for the first time at age 13 and realizing what a director actually did, or even writing and directing my first short film in college at age 18. I’m 27 years old now and I recently finished writing my fourth feature-length film. I’ve been at it for a decade and I can safely say I have absolutely no idea when or why I started being a screenwriter. I think I just loved movies and wanted to have a say in how they played out. I was lucky to have a lot of great teachers in the humanities who inspired and encouraged me. My mother was a teacher, and she and I saw a lot of movies as I was growing up. I loved to talk to her about them on the walk to the car, and sometimes in the car on the drive home, and even sometimes back at our house for hours. And naturally my father worked in finance and business, so maybe along the way I subconsciously decided that being an artist was the best revenge.”
What kinds of films do you most enjoy?
“I’m all over the place, really. Stark and tense films like The Social Network, Drive, and Apocalypse Now are some of my favorites but I really got a kick out of Fast Five and I find Tree of Life to be a profound exploration of the human condition. I love big blockbuster films like Inception and Skyfall but find the stylistic nuance of films like Shame and No Country for Old Men to be endlessly exciting. The Graduate makes me laugh every time but then again so does Ghostbusters, Duck Soup, and Jackass Number Two. I loved the flourishes of historical imagination in Inglorious Basterds just as much as I loved the streamlined restraint of the historically obsessed Zodiac. I can dig art films and pulpy B-movies in equal measure. I love seeing blockbusters in the summer and awards fare in the winter. If I had to choose a favorite, I’d go with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for the very reason that it blends content and aesthetic in ways I had never before seen and haven’t seen since. I like movies that hold up to repeat viewings; the ones that keep showing me things, the deeper I look. It’s one thing to have great content, it’s quite another to understand how to support it. So, for me, I can enjoy a movie about anything…depending on how it’s about it.”
Do any films that you don’t enjoy inspire you?
“Absolutely. The worst films are almost always the best teachers. Not everyone can put their finger on what makes a great film great. Anybody can tell you the problems with a movie that sucks. A lot of the time learning what not to do from a bad movie spares you the learning the lesson yourself. I’ll watch anything that takes a few chances. I’ve always felt that great stories need a few good surprises along the way. Predictability is the worst sin to commit as an author. And besides, what was it that Einstein said? ‘Genius has its limitations but stupidity doesn’t?’ I feel the same way about movies.”
Describe the rough plot of “Neither and Both”.
“‘Neither and Both’ is a about what happens to us when pride and desperation dictate our choices. Rachel Hunter, the female anti-hero at the core of this story, is a cross between a private investigator and a call girl. She gets in over her head when a high level businesswoman hires Rachel to sabotage her CEO’s marriage, thus earning her a promotion. Once Rachel begins the process of seducing this married man, she quickly realizes that nothing is as simple as it seems, and that her own weaknesses might be her downfall. So ultimately, this story has a bit of a Michael Mann angle in that it’s a character study about a person torn between professionalism and their own personal happiness.”
When writing it, how did your characters shape your plot and how did your plot shape your characters?
“It’s interesting, when I’m coming up with ideas for projects, I almost always have the story before I have the characters. I tend to know what it is before I know who it’s about. This project is the first time that the reverse has been true. As soon as I had the idea for a female character who used her sexuality and vulnerability and maybe even her innocence as weapons to use against men for the benefit of women…I felt like I knew exactly who Rachel Hunter was, inside and out. The challenge then became giving her an interesting arena and worthy opponents to test her skills. So this time around, the protagonist really dictated the circumstances of the story. And I think it turned out well enough that I should probably consider taking that approach in the future! But who knows. This was a story that was born out of its protagonist, I can certainly say that.”
What kinds of stories do you think are most lacking in today’s film industry?
“Earlier this year we heard the two greatest Stevens in filmmaking, Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh, talk separately about the current state of studio films in Hollywood. And they both reached more or less the same conclusion- we’ve lost the middle. Movies being made today are either dirt cheap or wildly expensive, with very little in-between. Now, I for one always loved those middle movies! They seemed to have just enough of a budget to let a filmmaker indulge in a set piece or two, but were still cheap enough that their makers had to rely on their story and characters before they could rely on stunts and special effects. I think we’re seeing an overall decline in the quality of big budget films because they’ve lost any sense of personality. And that’s exactly how they’re engineered. Big films necessarily have to be safe films.
On that topic, I for one am completely worn out over superhero and comic book movies. I’m done with them. I think Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is as good as it’s ever going to get and everyone should just stop trying and move onto the next thing. I’ve been working on a screenplay that revolves around a washed up 80s action star trying to reclaim his glory days against a backdrop of present day Hollywood. And in one scene this guy takes a script that’s basically ‘Die Hard in the alps’ to his agent and his agent tells him “We don’t make these movies anymore!” And we really don’t. It bums me out.
Think of it this way: For every one Avengers, we could make about five Argo’s.
We’ve lost the middle, and until the industry implodes like Spielberg says it will, the middle ain’t coming back.”
Are independent films possibly a remedy to that?
“Absolutely. I’m especially excited to watch crowdfunding continue to grow as a viable alternative to the old media gatekeepers. I think in the near future we’re going to see a hybrid of crowdfunding mixed with the studio system. So say, filmmakers will raise $3 million from fans on Kickstarter and in exchange a studio will give them another $10 million. The definition of an independent film has never been more vague than it is now, but I do think it’s great news for creators and audiences that we now have a system in which any story can make its case to the public, and be rewarded or condemned from there. It’s almost the ultimate pass/fail grade for your work: either people want to see it, or they don’t. If they do, great, go make it and tell us where we can see it when you’re done. If people weren’t interested this time around, no worries, head back to the drawing board and give them something better. I think crowdfunding ultimately leaves independent filmmakers fresh out of excuses. The worst thing anyone can say to your campaign is ‘no,’ and then you’re right back where you started anyway.”
What’s different about this story?
“I think ‘Neither and Both’ is unique in that it is telling a complex and layered story from the perspective of a female anti-hero. We’re exploring some very interesting moral ambiguity through the decisions Rachel Hunter makes in this story. We’ve seen audiences fall in love with male anti-heroes such as Don Draper and Walter White. I’m as excited as anyone to see how they will react to similar traits in a woman.”
Does the pressure to entertain limit certain themes that you want to write about?
“No, because I think good stories are naturally entertaining. If the story is driving at something, be it an idea or question, an audience feels that. I think one of the reasons Breaking Bad resonated so strongly is that each episode is a thrilling mix of the elements found in the show, but that the show overall was interested in larger concepts of power, family, greed, and the consequences of manipulation. Now, were we thinking about all that stuff when watching the show? Hell no. But it was there lurking under the surface and maybe we felt it or maybe we didn’t, but we sure couldn’t pull our eyes away. I think storytelling should engage, not entertain. An engaged audience will follow you to the ends of the Earth and back. An entertained audience will start texting if you spend too much time in-between explosions. I think it’s clear which kind of audience I’m interested in courting.”
How can people support the project?
“Give our Kickstarter page a quick look, and if you’re really buying what we’re selling, then throw a few bucks our way! If your heart is with us but your wallet is currently unavailable, share our project with friends and family and help us spread word to as many folks as possible. Every individual who shares this project connects us with an entirely new group of potential allies, and for that we will be deeply thankful. On behalf of the entire “Neither and Both” team, we thank you for all your support!”