STORY SOCIAL with JGCI and Lee Jessup is RESCHEDULED to Monday, 6/15 at Cantina Frida from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
When: June 18, 2020
Where: Cantina Frida 252 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills 90210
Time: 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
This social is an opportunity for everyone that loves story and storytelling to come out and bond. The purpose is to connect with other screenwriters and artists. Writing is very isolating. This opportunity gives you a chance to get out and speak with others that share your passion.
ALL are welcome. You do not need to signup. You can show up. Lee and I will be there to greet you and to connect you.
There is parking south of the restaurant on Beverly Dr. for $5.00.
* Due to some of the unease to large group gatherings, if you are feeling symptomatic, please wait until our next mixer. We are also going to ask that people do the elbow greeting versus handshakes.
If you’re interested in going to Friday Night Social, check my Events section. Our next one is Friday 10/4/19. I don’t have the info up. It should be up in the next week. Friday Night Social is at the District of Hannah An from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. I hope to see you there!
How to Tell Your Internal Story with Jen Grisanti
Today on the show we have Hollywood Story/Career Consultant and former Studio Executive Jen Grisanti. Grisanti is also a Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, a former studio executive, a blogger for The Huffington Post and author of, , and her recent book, .
Over twenty years ago, Jen Grisanti started her career as an assistant to Aaron Spelling, who served as her mentor for 12 years. She quickly climbed the ranks and eventually ran Current Programs at Spelling Television Inc., covering all of Spelling’s shows including Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place and Charmed. In 2004, Grisanti was promoted to Vice President of Current Programs at CBS/Paramount where she covered numerous shows including Medium, Numbers, NCIS, 4400 and Girlfriends.
In January 2008, Grisanti launched Jen Grisanti Consultancy, Inc., a highly successful consulting firm dedicated to helping talented writers break into the industry. Drawing on her years of experience as a studio executive where she gave daily notes to executive producers/showrunners, Grisanti personally guides writers to shape their material, hone their pitches and focus their careers.
Since launching her consulting firm, Jen Grisanti worked with over 1000 writers specializing in television, features, and novels. Due to her guidance, over ninety of her clients have staffed as writers on television shows, fifty-three have sold pilots, and six of those pilots have gone to series.
Enjoy my conversation with Jen Grisanti.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
FINAL DRAFT PODCAST INTERVIEW – REFOCUSING YOUR ENERGY FOR NEXT SEASON’S SCREENWRITING CONTESTS AND FELLOWSHIPS
Jen Grisanti analyzes the new Netflix series, ATYPICAL, exploring how structure can influence emotion and bring your audience to tears.
International speaker Jen Grisanti is an acclaimed Story/Career Consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy, Inc., a Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, a former twelve-year studio executive, and author of Story Line, TV Writing Tool Kit, and Change Your Story, Change Your Life. Keep track of Jen’s upcoming events on Facebook and Twitter, @jengrisanti, and listen to her Storywise Podcast. Read Jen’s full bio and sign up for her Telling and Selling Your TV Pilot video series.
I am constantly analyzing new series to see what works with story structure. One of my favorite new shows is Atypical on Netflix. I find this show explores in-depth familial dynamics at the same level as Friday Night Lights and This is Us. Understanding how structure can influence emotion and bring your audience to tears is what great storytelling is all about.
Structurally, a story tool that I’ve drawn from watching Atypical is the recognition that all the character arcs stem from the main problem of the main character and that sets up the series. It is when we feel it all linked, that story can reach such tremendous heights of emotion. This is because we feel the concept through all of the characters and the choices that they make. It often comes from the same wound but seeing it play out through different choices and different worldviews.
The main problem in Atypical is that Sam, a young boy that has autism, expresses his to therapist his desire to date. The series/season 1 is about this choice and his family’s reaction to it. The story explores how love is hard enough for a “neuro-typical” person to experience. With Sam, this pursuit becomes a lot more complex but the gift of it all is showing that the desire is real and it is doable.
We watch Sam take actions and hit obstacles in his pursuit to find love from filling out an online profile to learning how to approach girls that might be interested. It really gives us a glimpse of how he sees the world and shows us how things that might be considered simple for us are that much more difficult for people with autism. Seeing Sam take actions towards finding love connects with all of us.
We immediately feel the father’s wound to his son’s autism when he mentions buying his son tickets to a Mets game simply because he wanted to find a way to connect with him. He wanted them to have one thing in common. So, his reaction to Sam’s choice to date is to support this. He reminds his wife that they met around Sam’s age. It is clear that he hopes this experience will bring him and Sam closer together.
With Sam’s mom, Elsa, her reaction is panic because of her worry and the codependent relationship that she shares with her son. She clearly needs him to need her. So, the idea that he wants to find love, in her mind, threatens this. We see that Sam has become her life. This has gotten in the way of the intimacy that she and her husband share. The mother remains resistant despite the therapist sharing with her that autistic people have the same desire to love and be loved. They just don’t know how to approach it in a typical manner.
We see Sam’s problem play out in his sister, Casey’s arc when she punches a student that taunts another student. Casey is the protector. This is her role because of her brother’s condition and the fact that she is his older sister. We feel her angst. The irony is that it is due to her role in Sam’s life and this action she took that her first opportunity at love and romance comes into her life with Evan, who is the brother of the girl she protected.
Sam’s pursuit of love continues. When Sam gets an online response, we see the trials and tribulations that Sam has to go through in preparation for the date. When he hears that she wants to meet at a café, he has to find a way to block out the noise by wearing headphones. Sam hits an obstacle and the date doesn’t work out. Sam tries again when a girl at his work makes eyes toward him. This leads him into a situation where she offers to have sex with him. He hits an obstacle when she touches him in a way that he doesn’t like to be touched. This opportunity takes a turn for the worst.
When the parents go to dinner, we really see the opposing viewpoints to Sam finding love and the rift that it has caused in their relationship. This leads Sam’s father to buy his mother passes to a dance class. After class, she goes to drinks. This is when Elsa meets a bartender that opens her eyes to the fact that her son will never have the choices that he does. This begins an exploration toward finding intimacy.
In Casey’s budding connection with Evan, we see that Sam comes first in her life. This could cause a problem for the possibility of her finding a true connection with Evan.
When Sam learns that 49% of marriages end in divorce, Sam goes with his father to look at a place with penguins. Sam says that penguins mate for life. So, penguins aren’t like people. They’re better.
The structure in Atypical all stems from the main wound. This really works for connecting the audience to this concept and the characters in this world. This is a very strong story tool that all writers can learn to utilize for the concepts that they write.
TV PILOT PITCH FORMULA
Start your pitch off with passion. Tell them what inspired your story. If there is a link with a personal story that you have that connects to the concept and establishes that you are the perfect writer for this pitch, use it here.
What is the world of your concept? What is the time period? Is there a wish fulfillment element? Bring it all to life here.
- SERIES LOG LINE
Use the formula set up of who (create empathy) dilemma, action, goal with a twist of irony.
*The purpose of sharing your series log line is to give your audience a general idea of what your show is.
- PILOT LOG LINE
Give a log line for the A story. This tells your audience how you are going to enter the world through the central character in your A story.
- CENTRAL CHARACTER
Give a few lines about your central character. Tell us about your character through showing his/her personality in a situation.
- TEASER OR CLIMAX
Tell your story in a way that your audience can visualize your powerful opening or a compelling climax. If you pitch your Teaser, give a strong sense of your opening dilemma. What is the thematic question going out of your opening? How is your series an answer to this question?
SUPPORTING CHARACATERS/CHARACTER DYNAMICS
If there are 2-3 other central characters, give one or two lines about them. You just want to define their characters. Do not give a paragraph/paragraphs on each of your characters; you will lose your audience. Give a strong sense of your character dynamics.
Think about my exercise Log Line For Your Life and write one for each of your characters. Remember to think, what is the wound that is driving my central character? What is the flaw that gets in the way? How does the pursuit heal the wound?
What are some of the themes that you plan to use in your pilot and your series?
In this section, you want to give your audience a universal sense of your concept.
What we will see week to week in your series? Make it clear that you have a strong engine for story.
Loop back around to what inspired your show, why you think now is a good time for it and any last tidbits that will excite them about your concept and make them feel your passion
Copyright© 2016 – Jen Grisanti Consultancy, Inc. This material is for the sole purpose of the Storywise© Teleseminar. Please do not forward, copy or distribute this material.
When story gives true service, it takes us to a new level of consciousness and enlightenment and makes us feel very deeply. I have a hunger for this type of story. I am always on a quest for it. Take me inside a world from an angle that I haven’t experienced and make me feel like I am living in the worldview of the character/characters. This is what I discovered while watching the new Netflix show, The Crown.
Many of us in the entertainment community have recently gone through a shift or what many believe to be an “all is lost” moment. The best way to move through this type of experience is to express, heal and feel. Story is the place to do this. When story serves, it’s as if it understands what we are going through and it delivers it to us in a way that helps us to forget our own problems and buy into the world of imagination of another time and place. Oddly, this world has very strong parallels with what we just experienced with one meteoric rise to power.
The Crown took me into a world and made me feel like I was living it through the eyes of Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill. This is such a significant relationship in our history. To see it brought to life and delved into in a major way is absolutely spellbinding. Peter Morgan wrote this. He is a pure genius. He takes us into several different angles of relationship dynamics that ground and enthrall the viewer with this moment in time.
It starts with the King’s illness and the building of a beautiful relationship between him and his daughter, Elizabeth. We see how Elizabeth is being groomed but there is no warning at how quickly it will all happen. We feel what the King is going through. There is a moment when Elizabeth’s daughter gives him a King’s crown for a gift at the Christmas party at a time when he knows he’s sick. He reaches down for her hand as he gets choked up. I love these little moments that have so much emotion and meaning.
With Winston and Queen Elizabeth, we see how they need one another in their monumental roles. We feel their friendship and their loyalty. We feel the depth of the betrayal when Winston fails to tell Queen Elizabeth about his health and thus causes significant danger to her part in leading the nation. We feel the pain of letting go of a time that once was. We connect with what it is to have to let the younger generation take the reigns.
When I started working for Aaron Spelling, he was 69 and I was 24. He was bigger than life in my eyes. So, I could completely connect with this relationship dynamic and the understanding and admiration of an icon.
One of the many, many things that I love about this series is Morton’s exploration into the title versus the person. This was one of the major conflicts that Queen Elizabeth faced. It is very relevant today with career versus home life. However, in this time, the title had to take precedence over everything. The role of wife, mother, sister and daughter had to be secondary. Watching Queen Elizabeth have to embrace and transform into this at such a young age is astounding.
With Philip, we feel her struggle with her deep love for her new husband and her responsibility for the nation. We feel what he has to sacrifice in order to be a part of this relationship. We see how their marital bond is constantly tested by the title versus the person. It was also fascinating to know that this marriage was not supported from the beginning. Yet, there is such a poignant moment between The King and Philip when they go hunting in the pilot. The King helps Philip to see that there is no lesser role and nothing more patriotic than what he has to do with loving and protecting her.
Another relationship dynamic that moved me was the bond between the Queen and her two daughters. I never considered that when the King died, she was stripped of everything and her daughters took over. To have to see her face the death of her spouse and then go through so much loss really made us feel her pain.
I also loved the story arc where there was a promise made between the two sisters and their father. This promise is later put to the test when it is discovered that there is no way that the promise can be honored in light of the position and the responsibility. This is when we see and feel the true conflict for Queen Elizabeth and what she had to go through to maintain the role while not letting the intimate relationships in her family unravel.
For me, this is definitely one of the best first seasons that I’ve seen of any series in my 24 years of story. It filled my spirit because the writer, the director, the cast and the crew fulfilled their service to story at the highest level at a time when we need it the most.