Film Courage: Why writers should educate themselves throughout their careers? What are they using for those tools [to continually educate themselves]?
Jen Grisanti: I love that you asked that question! So the interesting thing is I have taught all over the world. I have found in countries like Israel, Australia and cities like Toronto and London that the type of writers that attend story events and ongoing education are working writers versus in the U.S. The story events that are like the bigger story events that are massive, are for usually I would say, the higher percentage of attendees are writers across the U.S. who had an idea and want to make it happen versus working writers. And I definitely believe that this holds writers back from creating longevity in their career. I believe a writer should always be educating themselves. I always say about myself that I am a teacher for a moment and a student for life and I am constantly reading every book that comes out on story and promotion and business and anything that can make me move to a higher level, spiritually, work-wise, on a personal level. Like I am all about the idea that we have to constantly…everyday I wake up and think about how can I be better than I was yesterday? And for the writer, it really is how can I expand my knowledge of story through continuous learning, as well as my observance and absorption of life and being able to communicate that story. How can I continuously do that in a way that will fuel my career?
“Everyday I wake up and think about how can I be better than I was yesterday? And for the writer, it really is how can I expand my knowledge of story through continuous learning, as well as my observance and absorption of life and being able to communicate that story. How can I continuously do that in a way that will fuel my career?”
Film Courage: Do you think it’s Western culture and the emphasis on over-confidence [that plays into this] a little bit? Whereas in other cultures it’s okay to be…
Jen Grisanti: I do. I do. I sit there and I think…I look at these story events that have all the top story people in the business, many of whom you’ve interviewed, and I think “Why would you not take the opportunity to continuously learn?” I’ve been in the business 25 years. I have seen every side to the business. And I always think why would you not take a sounding board…many of these writers…I mean when you look at Michael Hauge, you look at Chris Vogler who’ve had incredible careers…you look at John Truby and Eric Edson…there is so much that they have to say that brings value to the story process and that’s important. So ongoing education in my view, is the key to creating a writing career that will last.
Film Courage: So just to re-iterate, in the States, you’ve seen many what you call ‘Baby Writers’ (and I think you used that term and it doesn’t refer to their age. It’s in terms of experience) but then outside the States, Europe and beyond, these are working writers and they are willing to…
Jen Grisanti: I’ll ask the question at the beginning of an event “How many of you have sold a pilot?” or “How many of you are currently on staff?” And everywhere else it is mind blowing to see two-thirds of the room raise their hands versus here you’d maybe see 10 people raise their hands. And it’s a very different thing. I don’t know why that is?
Now I can say with my personal events because I’ve worked with so many working writers, I get writers of all levels show up at those events. But when I do these big story events where there are 20 or 30 speakers, (in my world) I’m like “Are you kidding me? That’s incredible!” I want to soak it up.
Another one of my favorite story people is Dara Marks, I look at it and I want to soak up everything they have learned and how they see story and how it aligns with how I see story because that makes me a better teacher. And I always love seeing how we coin things in different ways and it comes from our world view and how we teach story. And I think what we’re all trying to master is teaching story in a way that leads the writer to sell the story.
Film Courage: In terms of questions, do you see a difference in the type of question and even the tone that you get in the U.S. based groups versus…you know how there are always certain people in a class that want to debate the teacher, whereas those who have a healthy curiosity and they want to know the answer [laughs].
Jen Grisanti: Well one thing I found that’s interesting between the audiences…I definitely think the U.S. audiences absolutely have a curiosity and I think that people want to learn. I definitely think that in the U.S. we’re connected with the idea of the ‘Quick Fix.’ I have an idea. I want to sell it and make it work. And that’s definitely part of it. Where the writer in Australia does not make the type of money that the writer in the U.S. makes. Like many Australian writers end up coming here because they don’t make the kind of money but they get the foundation there and then they come here.
I think that there is a tone in the questions definitely from different countries based on the world view of how the writer is seen in that country. I mean we are very fortunate that the writer is seen in a very strong light in the TV world and the Film world, even though in the TV world the writer has more power. So I think it causes writers from around the world to want to get a foundation in their own culture and succeed there and then come here.
I definitely have noticed at a number of events I’ve done internationally that the writers who are…I mean I remember in Australia I met one writer who had like 4 shows but was still wanting to come to the U.S. and wanting to expand because they viewed the U.S. as the end all, be all because of the pay and because of the way people see writers.
Film Courage: Right…Do you think film and television writing is open to all class and education levels, whereas with the literary world (especially in the let’s say the East Coast) it’s more of a closed network?
Jen Grisanti: Yeah, definitely. I mean the literary world, it’s interesting. I have worked with several novelists, not near the about that I have with TV and feature [film] writers because that’s my background. I mean I definitely know that story is story and you’re going to benefit and learn from anyone. Certainly there are more closed off communities then how they see. But all I also see a massive trend right now for a screenwriter writing a book and then writing a screenplay. So I think that is opening up the idea and I personally love the process because I love the idea of really deeply going into an internal story in the book and then showing that in visual and action in the adaption into the screenplay.
Film Courage: So then it creates this whole new viewer which is the one who reads the book first and then they want to see it and weigh it against the novel.
Jen Grisanti: Yes. And then the writer has more power, too, when they write the book and then sell the film.
Film Courage: I’m thinking of writer Janet Fitch who wrote White Oleander. Which was a book someone recommended to me but I never read it. And then I absolutely loved the movie! And now I’m almost afraid to read the book but for me I had been recommended the book.
Jen Grisanti: And that also happens, are you an internal person? The reason I am not a screenwriter is because I am an internal writer and I know that about myself, you know?
Film Courage: …Going back to self-awareness.
Jen Grisanti: Yep…
Question for the Viewers: What have you learned the most about screenwriting?
Check out more videos with Jen Grisanti here on Youtube
BUY THE BOOK – CHANGE YOUR STORY, CHANGE YOUR LIFE: A Path to Success
ABOUT JEN GRISANTI:
As a Current Programs Executive, I was exposed to the entire creative process, which means I know what the studio wants, what the network looks for and what kind of material you need in order to get hired. I have read over 8,000 scripts and given notes on most of them, so I know how to make a script the best that it can be.
In addition to Aaron Spelling, other great mentors I’ve worked with include, Glenn Gordon Caron, Barry Schindel, E. Duke Vincent, Ira Behr, Ken Sanzel, Mara Brock Akil, John Eisendrath, Jorge Zamacona, Brad Kern, Chuck Pratt and Brenda Hampton.
Over the years, I have developed numerous industry relationships with successful writers, directors and executives who have supported me along the way. You can see some of their testimonials here.
In August of 2008, I was hired by NBC to be the Writing Instructor for their program, Writers on the Verge. This is a 10-week program focused on polishing writers’ material and readying the participants for the staff writer position on a television series. Classes concentrate on creating an exceptional spec script and understanding the dynamics of pitching oneself in the television industry.
Since I launched my company in January of 2008, I have worked with over 500 writers, made up of half TV writers and half feature writers as well as 10 novelists. Twenty of my writers have sold pilots and two have gone to series. I have helped several writers to sign with top agencies including UTA and CAA, I’ve helped over 40 writers get staffed. I also worked with a feature writer on a script that is currently being produced with huge names attached. Additionally, many of writers I am working with have made it into writing programs as well as placed at high levels in writing competitions.
In June of 2009, I was invited to be a blogger on The Huffington Post.
Most of all, I absolutely love what I do. I enjoy working with writers and approach the process with care, experience and passion. It is imperative to me that both the writer and the story are honored as a script develops. In an industry that is generally too busy to give anyone personal attention, I will give it to you. With me, you get your own Personal Executive guiding you every step of the way.
COLD LOVE – Cold Love highlights three expeditions spanning many years of Lonnie Dupre’s career — the first non-motorized circumnavigation of Greenland, the first summer expedition to the North Pole, and the first attempt of a solo January ascent of Denali. The film’s powerful footage reveals up-close the beauty and life-giving forces of these icy realms. And in seeing, we can’t help but be inspired to love and protect our earth’s frozen places. Not only are they beautiful and fragile, but they are the global engine that regulates the climate and provides a stable environment for all life on the planet.
IT’S NOT MY FAULT AND I DON’T CARE ANYWAY – A rich and famous self-help guru’s controversial philosophy of extreme selfishness is put to the ultimate test when his only daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom (featuring the late Alan Thicke)
VALLEY OF THE DITCHES – A young woman bound in the front seat of a parked car watches helpless as her captor methodically digs a grave in the desert ground. The bloody lifeless body of her boyfriend lies framed in the rear-view mirror, a fate she will fight at all costs to avoid for herself. But this is only the beginning of a brutal struggle where survival could be worse than death.
From The Film Fund – Get up to $10,000 to make your short film by writing one sentence.
The Film Fund is providing funding up to $10,000 for a short film in a way that’s a lot simpler than screenwriting contests, crowdfunding, or applying to grants – read more about Founder and CEO Thomas Verdi’s The Film Fund here via his website.
LEFT ON PURPOSE – Midway through the filming of a documentary about his life as an anti war activist, Mayer Vishner declares that his time has passed and that his last political act will be to commit suicide— and he wants it all on camera. Now the director must decide whether to turn off his camera or use it to keep his friend alive. Left on Purpose is an award winning feature length documentary that confronts the growing issues of aging, isolation and end of life choices through an intense character driven story of the relationship between filmmaker and subject. With humor and heart it provides a rare cinematic look at what it means to be a friend to someone in pain.