Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview With Hollywood Screenwriter Bill Hillman

1.      Bill, you have had an interesting career in film, TV and writing.  What are some of your acting credits? While I have had a bunch of acting roles, most notably was a 2-year run on Day of our Lives on NBC, a great role in Ice Station Zebra with Rock Hudson and Ernie Borgnine, and several fun TV shows like Bewitched. Along the way I had the pleasure of meeting many great stars like Robert Redford, Shelley Long, Dustin Hoffman, Lawrence Harvey, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sly Stallone, and Clint Eastwood.

2.      Which studio did you like to work for the best -- Universal, Fox, MGM or Warner Bros? Why?  As for studios, I had a ball working at the old MGM when Ice Station Zebra was produced. I worked on the stages and in the editorial buildings and had an office in the great white Irving G. Thalberg Building, but I spent more time at Universal Studios as a staff writer, associate producer and an actor. I cut my teeth at Universal, worked behind Alfred Hitchcock and with Tony Curtis. I got to work for some of the great filmmakers like Harold Hecht, Billy Wilder, Blake Edwards,  John Sturges and John Calley.

3.      And what have you written? As a screenwriter, I've written many scripts, sold over 30 of them and more than half have been produced. Some of those titles are: Quigley, Double Exposure, Loner, The Photographer, The Adventures of Ragtime, The Man From Clover Grove, Ragin Cajun, Lovelines, and  Fast and Furious. My television writing has been limited to pilot shows like Babe Lucheski and the Blue Laced Thumpers, Disco-Theque, Rage, Why Me and The Man and His Dog.

4.      How is writing for Hollywood different than writing a book? First there is no "writing for Hollywood" as you can write on spec and then shop it to studios and/or networks or get an assignment through an agent to write or re-write a specific property or story. Writing screenplays is completely different then writing a novel or short story. In a script you think and write visually, while a novel covers lots of ground from what characters think, dress and do for a living. In a screenplay if may not be important to ever discuss what a characters does for a living. It's not important. What is important is to learn how to craft visual scenes and still keep creative multi-dimentional characters. In a novel you can give the entire backstory or build from scratch. In a film property there isn't time to do much background so that description needs to be quick, short and defined if it's needed at all. A script doesn't tell a director how to direct, it gives him the blueprint to craft and build his movie. A novel stands on its' own and either works or it doesn't. I enjoy writing both and am still active doing both with little reminders here and there that tell me which it is I am writing.

5.      What advice do you have for writers today? My advice to all writers is to write and write some more. To not get hung up on one project that might become your entire lives work. Keep writing and you'll get better. Listen to your audience, your critics and your friends. Listen and accept criticism and never take the word of one person telling you its good, great or the best thing they've ever read. You work will always be a work in progress. At some point you must cut yourself free of the work and move on. All writers will find fault with their work even when loved by others. The greatest lesson is to first write from your heart for your heart and then learn to share the words. The most important thing all writers must learn is to polish the craft and talent of listening. All that you write, all the characters you create come from experience. When you meet a strange man or woman, someone who has something unusual going on with their habits, speech or movements you will want to make a note, or even write one to yourself as later, perhaps years later, you will recall that memory that person and thus he or she will find a place on the pages you create.

6.      Where do you see book publishing heading? I think there will always be an audience for paper books, but it is shrinking daily. The biggest and most lucrative market is the eBook designed for eReaders or the iPad and other tablets. I think the Amazon Kindle is here to stay and will hold a large portion of the book market now and in the future. May all writers be blessed and write a great work, one that will be remembered.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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