Interview with Writer/Director Lisanne Sartor
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012

Lisanne Sartor is a screenwriter, director, mom and sometime child/puppy tamer. Her first movie of the week, CLEAVERVILLE, aired on Lifetime in 2007. She's currently adapting a children's book into a screenplay, prepping to direct a short she wrote and trying to find time to develop various other projects as a writer and director.


Laura Brennan: What is it as a writer that you do well?


Lisanne Sartor: I understand character-based structure well.  And I’m good at pithy, quick dialogue.  If I write my dialogue well, it gives the characters distinct voices and helps them tell my story without being expositional.

I tend to like less as more in terms of writing in general.  Which doesn’t lend itself to every story, but I’m learning to tell the stories that showcase my particular abilities.  


LB: So when you’re choosing a project, you look at all your ideas and pick the one you know you’ll knock out of the park?


LS: Right.  If I can see the comedy in an idea, I know I can bring out the funny with dialogue.  The short I just wrote to direct did not start out well.  But I knew if I could find my characters’ voices and write pithy patter for them that was more about what they weren’t saying than what they were, that I would make a better movie.  Writing long gorgeous scenes is not necessarily my forte.  Writing memorable words – that, I enjoy.

It took me a while to figure out that I was good at writing fast, biting stuff.  I had been too vested in trying to write high concept scripts to know what I was good at.  Once I did, it was really freeing.  I can’t say I don’t worry anymore about writing for the marketplace.  But I worry a lot less now that I write from my strengths. I would love to start writing plays, because I think my voice would work well on stage.


LB: You’re moving into directing.  How are you translating your strengths as a writer into directing?


LS: Because I have a strong ear for dialogue, I have a pretty good understanding of whether or not a scene is working the way the actors are playing it.  And because the character voices are so loud in my head – it’s pretty noisy in there – I also have a very vivid picture of what I want from a scene.  I try to leave room for the amazing life actors bring to dialogue, stuff that I could never come up with on my own, which I love.  At least, that’s the experience I’ve had so far, but I’ve directed very little compared to how much I’ve written.

I have to say, I’m not as married to my own words once I get into rehearsals, because I feel like, if I’ve chosen my actors well, if they have suggestions, a lot of times they’re right.  Especially when they tell me, “This is hard to say.”


LB: How do you feel about pitching?


LS: I don’t enjoy it because I get so nervous.  I write a very detailed outline then I practice and practice and practice until I know it cold.  The problem is that I tend to talk quickly no matter what.  So when I pitch, I have to be very conscious of slowing down.  I try to be natural but I stick to my script.  I have to work on that.  People want to hear a good story, but I think they’d prefer to hear it in a more relaxed way.


LB: Do you develop loglines for your scripts?


LS: Yes, I’ll use loglines as a launching tool for a pitch.  Then I’ll give more of a detailed first act than anything else.  And I’ll literally say, “That’s the end of the first act,” “That’s the midpoint” to keep whoever I’m pitching to anchored in the story.  But I won’t flesh out the second and third act as much.  I’ll let them know what the climax is.  And then they can ask me questions.  You don’t want it to end up being this big, massive pitch.  You can see when their eyes glaze over!  I know when I read a script, I want to know how the protagonist solves his or her problem.  That’s what matters most, so that’s what I try to give whoever I’m pitching.


Want to watch one of Lisanne's short?  Check out Toledo on YouTube! 

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