with Jen Grisanti
The key to becoming a working writer or creating longevity as a working writer is writing a TV pilot script that they can’t ignore.
The pilot script is one of the hardest scripts to write. Jen Grisanti developed a story system that has led 40 of her clients to sell their pilots. Five of them went to series. Jen was a studio executive for 12 years at Spelling Television Inc. and CBS/Paramount. She staffed over 15 primetime shows in her career. Aaron Spelling was her mentor. She is also the writing instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC.
Jen has launched numerous writing careers over the last 20 years. She developed a system of story for writers leading them to sell their pilots and staff in television. Part of her system includes story structure, adding fiction to your truth, writing memorable characters and creating a strong internal story.
She isn’t just a world class teacher, she is also an executive and works directly with the talent on many hit TV shows. She is that rarest of people, an outstanding and inspiring leader as well as a leader in her professional field.
‘Jen’s insights and encouragement were instrumental to the success of ‘Medium’ during its first two seasons. The combination of her vast experience and unyielding optimism made her the perfect conduit between the show, the studio and the network.’
Glenn Gordon Caron, Creator, Medium
MASTERING THE SET UP OF YOUR PILOT THROUGH STRUCTURE:
- Learn Jen’s Story System – Jen believes that every strong story starts with a trigger incident that leads the character into a powerful dilemma. The choice made in the dilemma defines the external goal in the A story. Then, every obstacle, escalating obstacle and “all is lost” moment needs to connect back to the goal. It is when the goal/want/desire isn’t clear that the story doesn’t work.
- Link your series trigger and dilemma to your pilot trigger, dilemma and pursuit.
- Understand how using trigger, dilemma and pursuit in all your story lines will change the way that you write.
- Learn the value of linking every preceding scene in each story arc.
- Create a powerful dilemma that will lead to a question. Answer the question with your resolution.
- Practice how to write your act breaks in a way that will bring your audience back.
WRITING MEMORABLE CHARACTERS AND CHARACTER DYNAMICS:
- Understand the Wound and The Flaw Of Your Characters
- What Is Your Character’s World View?
- Connection Between The Personal Dilemma and The Professional Pursuit
- Examples of Strong Characters From Shows
- What Are The Main Character Dynamics in Your Story?
- How to Develop Character Dynamics
- Jen will offer examples of Strong Character Dynamics in Pilots
‘Jen has a rare expertise in crafting story with both emotional depth and efficient structure… And what’s more, she’s an ace at teaching others how to do it.’
Gina Monreal, Executive Story Editor NCIS
THE STORY WITHIN THE STORY – HOW TO TELL THE INTERNAL STORY:
- Building the Internal Arc
- Connecting the personal dilemma to the professional pursuit.
- Understand the Why
- Create the Reason That Your Audience Will Want to Return
- Examples of Pilots That Have Strong Internal Stories
CREATING A STRONG EXTERNAL STAKES ARC:
- Learn how to set up the stakes from the start so that you can escalate them throughout.
- Write in a way that the audience feels the stakes at the end of each act break.
- Create momentum
- Be clear on what the worst is that can happen if the goal is not achieved.
WRITING THE BIBLE/PITCH DOCUMENT:
- Learn the key points to go over in your pilot bible/pitch document.
- Understand how to express what your series is.
- Practice how to write log lines for your first season.
- Think about a paragraph for your first three seasons with regards to an overall arc.
‘It’s very simple, when Jennifer Grisanti talks, writers listen. And they listen because she gets it, can see where they missed it, and knows how to bring them to it.’
Steve Binder, Producer, NCIS
Feedback for Jen Grisanti
‘Jen helped launch my TV career. She knows the business and understands the unwritten rules of Hollywood. Along with her business savvy, she also has a keen story sense.’
Kam Miller, Staff Writer, Law & Order
‘Jen Grisanti’s support and guidance helped launch my career, and since then I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with her on more than fifty episodes of TV. Her insightful comments have improved every script I’ve done; working closely with her has made me a better writer.’
Craig Sweeny, Supervising Producer, Medium, 4400
‘A lot of instructors preach ‘write what you know,’ but Jen’s method is more ‘write what you feel.’ She recognizes that every writer has unique experiences from which to draw, and she helps you access those experiences so you can turn them into stories that have a beating heart on the page.’
Rick Muirragui, Co-Producer, Suits
‘Jen’s teachings transformed the way I write, and how I approach every aspect of creating and challenging my characters.’
Keto Shimizu, Executive Story Editor, Arrow
‘Jen has an incredible eye for story, character and dialogue. She went above and beyond the call of duty, really getting to know the participants, catering her process to their individual styles and talents. She’s an incredible lady who genuinely cares about shaping each piece to its fullest potential.’
Erika Kennair, Director of Development Sci-Fi Channel
‘Jennifer combines excellent story sense with a compassionate, polite disposition. After a notes call with Jennifer, you feel like you’ve gotten extensive feedback from someone who’s on your side.’
Michael Narducci, Story Editor, Medium, 4400
‘Jen is a true partner. It was such a relief for me to know that she was actively seeking out the best writers and directors for MEDIUM. I never had to second guess her as I knew she had always done the most thorough research and found the most qualified and talented staff available.’
Bruce Evans, Senior Vice President, Current Programs NBC
‘Jennifer is a great executive. She has a keen eye for discovering talented writers and directors and an extensive portfolio of shows that she has supervised. This experience makes her a valuable asset in television.’
Jackie DeCrinis, Senior Vice President, USA Network
‘I was always impressed with the thoroughness and careful consideration she brought to our episodes — from outline, through script, and all the way to final cut. As an executive, she was both inventive and a great supporter of artists’ vision.’
Ken Sanzel, Executive Producer, Numbers
‘I’ve worked with and for Jennifer Grisanti on three different series for television. As an executive, her insight, creativity and sense of humour have been pivotal to the success of those series. As a director, I’m grateful for her loyalty and enthusiastic support, which have truly been the cornerstone to my career. Currently, as a producer, I find her story ideas and editorial notes always helpful, focused and credible. She knows what she’s talking about! She has optimism and passion for excellence combined with a love of people that is rare in Hollywood.’
John Behring, Supervising Director/Producer, Numbers
Appearing in this session
Credits include: TV Writing Tool Kit: How To Write a Script That Sells
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