Advice For Writers Graduating College by Jen Grisanti
Film Courage: Jen, can you provide some advice for writers coming out of college? Maybe these individuals have been told “You’re amazing! You’re going to set the world on fire…You’re going to leave our little school. Good luck!” and off they go….
Jen Grisanti: I would say the biggest advice to writers coming out of college is live your life. Like when writers go straight from college to the writer’s room and not experience life, then I find that they are stunted. I mean for me personally, I like the writer who explores another career path and comes into the writing and succeeds or fails miserably and has something to say. Like that to me is more interesting than the writer who got straight A’s all the way through school and then goes into the writer’s room. So I think the biggest thing is understand the journey as well. Understand that it’s not about selling that first script. It’s about creating longevity and it’s about really taking the time to grow into your own skin, understand who you are, what you have to say, and the impact you want to make on the world with your writing.
“I always say the best thing to write right now is something that connects to your emotional truth. So if you are dying to write something that has no link to your emotional truth then think about why you’re passionate about the concept.”
Film Courage: So then let’s suppose they are [this hypothetical writer] several years out of college and they finally say “I am going to block out this much time to write this amazing script. What should I start writing about? Should I write a horror film, because I know those [movies] are popular with the 18–34 demographic and I know I can add a soundtrack to it…”
Jen Grisanti: I would say write what you are the most passionate about. You have to recognize that the number one thing that sells is passion. And as much as you can say that this genre sells as much as this genre, the timing for this genre might be better, but if the passion isn’t there, it will show up on the page. And I think if there were an exact science as to what will hit then writers would be making it all over the place. I think really…like I’m going to tell you from being a studio executive from the number of years that I was and still being a writing instructor at NBC and studying pilots and knowing that Hollywood doesn’t exactly know what’s going to hit. Like they’re throwing it out there and praying that Middle America is going to show up. And you can have…I think if you were going to survey a bunch of studio executives at the beginning of each season and say what shows do you think are going to be the breakout hits versus what shows are not, because you know it’s hit or miss.
Film Courage: So going back to this writer coming out of college and they proclaim “I love [the show] LOST and I am going to write another version of it…but that is not anything like what their personal story is about. And you get to know this person and you find they had a totally different life from like…I mean being on an island is not something most people have experienced but something that is very dissimilar to what they want to write about. What do you say?
Jen Grisanti: I always say the best thing to write right now is something that connects to your emotional truth. So if you are dying to write something that has no link to your emotional truth then think about why you’re passionate about the concept. And maybe move for…like I’ve helped writers think of personal stories that they didn’t realize actually did connect to the concept. I definitely think that there are writers who function better writing about things that are removed from them. But what you have to think about…like say when you take Harry Potter, you ground it in thematic emotion and the idea of what does ground the concept. Those are themes of childhood and coming into your own and things that we all connect with on a massive level. Like when I covered The 4400 I remember thinking “Okay, not many of us are going to relate to The 4400 that were abducted from earth and then returned back to a life that moved on. But what we identify with is abandonment, redefining your life, the idea with failure to reconnect with family that has moved on. There are all those things we connect with. So I think when you’re writing stories that are outside your emotional truth, figuring out how to ground them so that even though the concept may be way outside anything you know, the emotion and the themes are connected.
Question for the viewers: What’s the best writing advice you have received in the last 12 months?
Check out more videos with Jen Grisanti here on Youtube
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.