Film Courage:  Jen, are you a writer? Jen Grisanti:  I am not.  I am an author.  It’s interesting because people ask me all
the time and it catches me off guard and I have to remember, yes, I’ve written three
books.  I am an author so I am a writer and in that
sense, I am not a screenwriter. Film Courage:  So what is it that you do
aside from the books? Jen Grisanti:  I’m a speaker.  I’m a blogger for the Huffington Post.  I am a writing instructor for Writers on Verge
of NBC.  I’ve been a writing instructor there for
eight years and I’m a story career consultant at Jen Grisanti consultancy. Film Courage:  When someone approaches you
through your website and they say “I’m considering hiring you,” how can you determine
between a writing that is dabbling in the industry versus those who say this is my chosen
career path? Can tell the difference in terms of commitment
level? Jen Grisanti:  You know, it’s interesting.  I get writers who are coming out of college
to a co-executive producer, staff writer all the way up to co-executive producer level.  This is because I was a former 12-year studio
executive and when I was an executive, I staffed over 15 top prime time TV shows.  And I got to know a lot of writers, whereas
I know a lot of consultants get the brand, brand new writers.  But because I have been exposed to the professional
writer I do get a lot of professional writers.  I think my feeling, as part of being a current
programming executive, really was identifying new voices.  I like working with the green writer who hasn’t
developed bad habits and who is open to the process, so I really don’t have a problem
if I have someone who is dabbling versus totally committed as long as they are committed to
the process that they signed on for. Film Courage:  You said something that caught
my ear and that was bad habits.  So in terms of being an established writer
or someone who has done it for several years and has “their way of doing things,” what
are some different tip-offs where you see this person is more all closed arms and not
open to the process? Jen Grisanti:  There are many tip-offs.  I would say probably the biggest tip-off is
the inability to hear a note before defending the note.  I think the biggest tip-off …well, I mean
the first tip-off is on the page.  You can tell in the first three pages if a
writer knows how to write.  What I can also say is you can also tell a
voice and you can have a writer who has a voice but doesn’t have the formatting down.  The voice can still be found through the bad
formatting, so that’s why I say I’m open and I have no problem working with brand new
writers.  I love that.  I also love working with produced writers
who do have a stronger sense of the craft.  However, the gift is really in recognizing
when you have the newer writer who makes faux pas like defending a note before hearing a
note which is a very big mistake that many newer writers make.  Also, it’s a mistake that writers make on
staff.  And so it really is helping them to feel safe
when you’re giving a note. I can say when I was a studio executive, the
agenda was that of the network and the studio that I was carrying.  Giving notes as a story career consultant
independently I have no agenda other than making the story the best that it could be.  So this is why I encourage writers to be open
and to recognize my only goal is to make their story the best that it can be. Film Courage:  You said something earlier
about you can overlook maybe formatting if the [writer’s] voice is strong and authentic.  Does that mean if the story is original or
it has nothing to do with that? Jen Grisanti:  No.  It does.  You know voice comes down to so many different
things.  A voice could come down to character description.  It could come down to writing poetic and lyrical
action lines.  It could come down to the original concept.  It could come down to knowing how to write
a flawed character well.  I mean there are so many ways … I always
try to figure out if I could really pinpoint what voice is and help people understand.  I think for me a large way that I define voice
is an idea of what is your world view?  What has happened to you in your life that
has caused you pain and given you something to say and how does your writing reflect that? Film Courage:  Have you ever seen someone
be too emotional and too…because we all feel that our story is intense and it is because
we’ve lived it.  But have you ever seen it in the writing where
possibly a writer should tone it down, whatever it is, the anger in one scene or something? Jen Grisanti:  Oh, yeah.  I mean I would say a much great problem is
not enough emotion.  I think too much emotion is not nearly as
common.  It’s more the how do we elevate the emotion
so that we feel this more. Film Courage:  And when you see this do you
feel like that writer is phoning in that character?  It’s like filler or is it that maybe they’re
not totally in touch? Jen Grisanti:  I think that comes from being
green and not really understanding.  There’s so much that goes into strong character
work.  I work with writers on the idea of thinking
about the wound.  Thinking about the childhood wounds and in
a TV pilot, how this series of triggers splits open that wound.  And then the idea of what is the negative
narrative that has come from that wound and how is that getting in the way of the central
character achieving the goal? And then how, through the pursuit, is the
central one step toward healing that wound? Question for the viewers:  Are you quick
to defend your writing?