Screenwriting Webinars from EIACE’s Jen Grisanti & Lee Jessup

Sep 20, 2017 | Interviews

Navigating the world of screenwriting is tricky, whether a writer is struggling to make a protagonist’s journey compelling or trying to get a foot in the door. The Entertainment Industry Association of Consultants & Educators (EIACE) is a nonprofit group of film professionals dedicated to the advancement of the modern story.

“We all come from different worldviews,” says EIACE member Jen Grisanti. “We’ve all had success with writers, producers and directors with our systems of teaching story.”

An acclaimed story/career consultant, Grisanti is the Writing Instructor for NBC’s Writers on the Verge program and a former 12-year studio executive. Over 80 writers she has worked with through her consultancy firm have been staffed on television shows, and 45 of them have sold pilots. “The brand of my business is about telling and selling your story while drawing from your emotional truth.”

Lee Jessup, also a well-known screenwriting career coach and author of “Breaking In: Tales from the Screenwriting Trenches,” holds tremendous respect for her EIACE colleagues. “I am humbled that this group of amazing teachers, consultants, speakers and authors would invite me to join them. I am an absolute fan of so many of them, and have myself learned a ton from their books, insights and talks.”

Jessup grew up on sets and had a script picked up early in her career. Soon discovering that “there is little more I love doing professionally than working with writers,” she became a development executive, moved on to run the now-defunct ScriptShark.com, and then began mentoring writers one-on-one.

Both Grisanti and Jessup are featured in the third installment of EIACE’s webinar series on September 21, 2017. Grisanti’s webinar is titled “Writing A TV Pilot That Sells: Setting Up The Series And Season One Through The Arc Of The Wound.” Jessup will be giving a thorough “Representation Rundown” for screenwriters considering that career step.

FD: Why do you like to teach? What particular things in your background do you feel benefit your students?

Jessup: This is the only industry I’ve ever known, so I bring my writers a sense of context and a deep knowledge of how this machine—that can seem strange and daunting from the outside—works. I have a ton of friends in the industry—from managers and producers to industry statisticians—so I am always hoarding information, and remain endlessly interested in all that’s happening in it. It’s that natural sense of curiosity, my auto-didactic nature, and my desire to help—be it, in matters or craft or business or the daily struggles of being a working writer or maneuvering a path to breaking in—that allows me to help out my writers, whether just starting out or already at the top of the food chain.

Grisanti: I love to teach because I love seeing the rewards happen when a writer sells a project or staffs. When you see a door open and a dream happen, there is nothing better. I love knowing that the story system I developed after working with top people in the business over the last 20 years has value to the student. I love working with writers on their emotional growth in their personal story. Writing is healing. There is a reason that story comes through us. Emotional truth is key. I have had very strong results with writers who learn and understand how to utilize their emotional truth.

FD: Jen, how did you connect to NBC’s Writers on the Verge program?

Grisanti: When I was at CBS/Paramount, one of the shows that I covered was Medium. It was through my relationship with NBC with the show that led them to ask me to be the Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge. The program is in perfect alignment with my business model. I am grateful for the experience.

FD: Lee, what brought you to Universal’s Emerging Writers program?

Jessup: One of my clients went through the program in its inaugural year, so I knew what am amazing, one-of-a-kind program this is, that really seeks to foster this industry’s next generation of writing talent, and puts its resources behind it. So I was a huge fan long before the opportunity came up to get involved.

FD: What led you to offer consulting services to Final Draft’s Big Break winners?

Jessup: Shelly [Mellott, Final Draft Vice President] and I have always been like-minded in our drive to champion and create opportunities for hard-working, talented writers, so when she approached me many years ago to mentor and shepherd her contest winners as they took their industry meetings, I was delighted. Every year, I seem to have gone in deeper and deeper, and this year, I am delighted to be offering one-on-one coaching to all of Final Draft’s talented category winners!

Grisanti: The reason that I offered consulting services to Final Draft’s Big Break winners is because I know that this is a top tier for writers and I know that my story system has led many writers to the same results that we’d like to see happen for these winners. I also love the people at Final Draft and share in their mission to help elevate writers and create opportunity.

FD: Tell us more about your upcoming webinars for EIACE.

Grisanti: My webinar on September 21 is about the arc of the wound as it applies to the Series/Season 1 arc in the TV pilot. The internal story connects the writer to the audience on an emotional level. It is also what creates longevity in your concept. Writing the personal dilemma of your central character is the key to connecting the audience to your concept and keeping them there. In this talk, I will discuss how the personal dilemma of the central character links to the pursuit and how the pursuit is one step toward healing the wound. I will discuss the shows Fleabag (Amazon), River (Netflix), and Happy Valley (Netflix).

Jessup: My webinar will be taking place in September, and will focus on representation—once they have a strong script on their hands, so many writers set their sights on gaining representation, but many don’t know the differences between agents and managers, which would be right for them at which juncture, how to stimulate interest, and what they can expect from their rep. So in my webinar, we will be digging into all of that!

FD: What is the biggest difference for you between a good script and a great script?

Grisanti: When I was a studio executive, I’d have approximately 300 scripts per staffing season. My job was to weed out the top choices for my executive producers for the shows that I covered. The scripts that would rise to the top for me would be the ones where I felt the voice and the message being delivered through a unique worldview of the central character as it connected to the concept. How the hero connects with the series set-up and how that situation affects the hero makes your story unique. You have to know what you want to say, say it clearly with your character, and have a strong concept that takes it to a new level.

Jessup: It is often – I find – about the drive of the writer to challenge himself to make the script even better when he is told that it’s “good,” about having a unique story and a specific point of view that sets it apart from the rest. I find that when I read a truly great script, I can lose myself in it. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s not as much about the logline as it is the execution. I’ve picked up some scripts that I thought would be a complete bore based on the logline/subject matter, but because of the writer’s stellar execution, fell in love with the work! So yes, it is conceptual, but it’s also about the masterful way in which the writer tells the story.

For more information about EIACE’s webinar series and other upcoming events, please visit their website at http://eiace.org/events.

Asmara Bhattacharya

Screenwriter / Playwright / Script Reader

Asmara Bhattacharya is a produced screenwriter/playwright, script reader, and festival screener, with multiple placements at Final Draft, Nicholl, Austin Film Festival, and other competitions. A trusted sounding board and consultant for industry professionals, dedicated fans also caught her in “Independence Day: Resurgence” and NBC’s “The Night Shift” – for one glorious half-second each. More can be found on her website: www.dickflicks.net or follow her on Twitter @hotpinkstreak