March 27, 2012

Story consultant Jen Grisanti on Scriptchat

We'rrrrrre baaaaaack! Miss us?
Shoosh, it's rhetorical.

In this fresh Screenwriters Anonymous, we get down and dirty with Jennifer Grisanti: story/career consultant, writing instructor for WOTV @ NBC, blogger for The HP, author of two books - 'TV Writing Tool Kit' and 'Story Line', and studio exec for 12 years. Jen worked at CBS/Paramount, and other networks her whole career. Keep reading to check out the advice she dispensed so kindly to the gentle folk of Scriptchat.

SCRIPTCHAT Sunday 4th March, 2012
Guest: Jen Grisanti (in her own words... give or take a little editing)
* I would say to stand out with the writing programs, you have to write from your truth. It will separate you.
* To pitch - Start with series logline, pilot logline (A Story), themes, concept, character and synopsis.
* I think that the way you stand out as a writer is that you also know when to use your own story in meetings.
* My favorite type of clients are the ones that are ready to do the work and put in the time. I love working with every level.
* Building your portfolio to support the end goal of what shows you want to staff on is crucial to your success.
* Yes, they will remember the story that you tell about YOU. So, make sure before going in that you have the right stories.
* My brand is all about learning how to add fiction to your truth in your writing so that we hear your voice in your story.
* Write the shows that you are the most passionate about. Your passion will show up on the page.
* Recognize that when you go to a meeting that the executive wants the meeting to work as much as you do.
* Write flawed and complex characters. The shows that are working the best have leads that are FASCINATING.
* For novelists, I either work on story development or on adapting their novels into a pilot or feature.
* Start your story with a powerful dilemma, have a goal stem from the dilemma, connect obstacles & all is lost back to goal.
* Good shows to spec/fav sitcoms - Big Bang, Parks & Recreation, Community, Episodes, Nurse Jackie, The League, Modern Family, Raising Hope, The Middle.
* It's too late to write 30 Rock or The Office.
* I've worked with over 400 writers since I opened my business so yes, I definitely work with writers that over-analyze. It is my job to help them to simplify.
* You further your career by building your writing portfolio and building your network.
* I think that short teasers help some of the time. I don't think they make a big difference though. A strong concept will sell.
* I believe that it is great to have a strong brand. For someone with no connections, focus on building your portfolio first. Then, go out an build your network.
* Fav dramas - The Good Wife, Homeland, Shameless, Covert Affairs, Mad Men, Luther (yes, I love LUTHER!) Also love CASTLE, WHITE COLLAR and SUITS.
* I believe that you need 4 solid scripts. 1 or 2 current specs and 2 originals.
* I have a FREE Storywise Podcast on iTunes & my website and a FREE video blog on YouTube.
* To know what the market is looking for, all you have to do is watch the trades. Record the pick-ups & you will see who is looking for what.
* When you're writing specs, get a produced episode, study the format, watch how they write toward the act breaks...
* I've had plenty of writers tell me that they were going to spec TRUE BLOOD but none wind up doing it!
* You should never write a spec for a show that isn't officially picked up for season two.
* I am seeing a trend toward wanting to find the next HOUSE or X-Files. There is a need for this genre.
* I would say that there are slim chances of selling a spec pilot without a rep.
* It is hard for a newcomer to sell a spec pilot but not impossible. It has been done.
* I would say more people use pitch documents now versus bibles. In addition, bibles are briefer than they used to be.
*A Pitch Document is one or two pages. It lists the logline, the concept, the themes, the character, the show synopsis & briefs for the first 13 episodes.
* To get a chance on writing for a show, you have to be better than the working writers the producers already know.
* I'd like 2 see a half hour comedic sci-fi series.
* Great ideas will sell. This is the bottom line. The writer is now the entrepreneur. You can work without reps. It is just much harder!
* We are doing the TV Writers' Summit in London in June and maybe Australia in September.
* My preference is that you write a pitch document at the same time you write your pilot. It helps to organize.
* You must have a pilot to get an agent. In my experience, you need 3-4 strong scripts.
* John August's Library has a great formula for a pitch document.
* A working writer can pitch an idea without writing the pilot first. New writers CAN NOT.
* Are there age barriers when trying to get writing work? My feeling is that age is a barrier that we put there. In my opinion, the older you get, the better you write.
* The pilots you write get you representation. The pitch documents help sell the show.
* I would agree that it is much harder for new writers to sell with a pitch document. It is easier if you are a proven entity.

You can follow Jen on the Twitter at JenGrisanti

Coming up next time on the blog are meaty bites from the Scriptchat starring Bitter Script Reader. Yes, he's a script reader. No, we don't know his secret identity. And yes, he may be bitter, but he knows a lot about what to (and not to do) when screenwriting, how to raise your chances of achieving the almighty 'Recommend'.

Y'all come on back now, y'hear! 

Screenwriters Anonymous - it doesn't have an urban edge just because you wrote it at Starbucks.