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The Future of Story Interview Series: Jen Grisanti

By Ann Baldwin and Jen Grisanti

Jennifer Grisanti is a highly respected author, script consultant, public speaker, and writing instructor. She started her career as an assistant to Aaron Spelling. She 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, Jen was promoted to Vice President of Current Programs at CBS/Paramount where she covered shows including Medium, Numbers, NCIS, 4400, and Girlfriends. She served as a mentor in the CBS Diversity Program, which seeks out and nurtures young writers and directors. In 2008, she launched her own consultancy firm, dedicated to helping talented writers break into the industry. She recently released her new book, Story Line Finding Gold In Your Life Story. She is also a Writing Instructor for NBC’s Writers on the Verge, taught classes for the Scriptwriters’ Network and The Screenwriting Expo, and served on panels for the WGA, Final Draft/The Writer’s Bootcamp, and Pitchfest. Her company hosts Storywise Seminars and Writing Retreats.

Ann: What do you hope to teach writers with your new book, Story Line, and what types of writers is it designed for?

Jen: I hope to teach writers that by developing from within and learning how to add fiction to their truth; they will find their voice and in finding their voice, increase their chances of success.

Story Line is designed for TV and film writers, novel writers (both non-fiction and fiction), songwriters, and anyone that has a story and wants to find the best platform to write it in.

Ann: Why are stories so important for all of us?

Jen: Stories universally connect us to one another. They stop isolation and increase intimacy. Story teaches us how to live better. Story helps us to believe that anything is possible. You set your sights on your goal, put a plan in action, prove that you can get over the obstacles, and achieve your goal. Stories empower us.

Ann: In Story Line, you discuss the importance of mastering the use of theme and symbolism. Can you tell us about this and give us an example?

Jen: The use of theme and symbolism is what threads your stories together and reveals your message. They are important because they help to clarify the vision of the writer and they instill the significance behind why the story is being told.

In the German film, The Lives Of Others, the theme of loyalty drew the story lines together. Are you more loyal to yourself, your significant other, or the cause? By the use of this theme, the writer communicated his message fully and allowed us to see into what was driving him to tell this story. A great way to explore theme is to go from one extreme to the other. In the case of this movie, it is loyalty versus betrayal.

An example of recurring themes in my own life can be commitment versus freedom. Past symbols of commitment were the wedding ring, the necklace given on Valentine’s Day. Then, the day the necklace broke. This was a sign of things to come. These are examples.

Ann: Can you explain what “Universal Life Moments” are and how they can help writers?

Jen: Universal Life Moments are when your world has been turned upside down and reality as you knew it, shifted.

These moments helps writers because if they happened to you then it leads you to write from your emotional truth. In writing from your truth, you create empathy and connect with your audience.

Ann: How can a writer’s sleeping dreams be helpful to their writing?

Jen: I find that when I write after my dreams, I come from a much more open and raw place. When you dream, try to remember the emotions beneath the dream. This is what helps inspire your writing.

Ann: What is your favorite room in your home and outside environment? Can you describe them and tell us why you like them?

Jen: In my home, my favorite room is probably my den because this is where I write and feel the most inspired.

Outside, my favorite places to be inspired are anywhere around nature.

Ann: Do you have any special quotes or sayings that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire, motivate, and encourage you?

Jen: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” - Mahatma Gandhi

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

Ann: What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?

Jen: I am currently writing my next book, “Turning Your Plan B Into Your Plan A.”

In this book, I will use story as a way to show the reader that you are the author of your story. When life takes a shift and your original plan ends, you can turn your plan B into your Plan A and discover that your story can be better than you ever imagined. It’s all about creating it.

Ann: Can you tell us about The Future of Story Conference coming up in Los Angeles and what your role is?

Jen: I will be on a panel headed by Chris Vogler about Story Development.

Ann: What do you think writers will find most useful from attending this conference?

Jen: I think writers will find most useful hearing all the different perspectives from a wide range of experts in the field on story.

By attending events like this, writers will become inspired. They will hit “aha” moments that could lead to a sale in the script that they are currently writing.

The goal in an event like this is to inspire story on every level.

Ann: Thank you Jen, for taking the time to share your knowledge and insights with us.

Jen: If you want to succeed in the entertainment business in the arena of story, you want to attend events like this where you are going to be surrounded by like-minded people that share your passion. Listening to experts in the field of story discuss story development could lead you to know exactly what you need to do to get you where you want to go. You do not want to miss this opportunity.

To learn more about how you can meet Jennifer Grisanti and over 30 other MWP authors of some of the best-selling books on screenwriting and filmmaking in the industry, sign-up today to attend The Future of Story Conference in Los Angeles.

Meet the Author: Ann Baldwin

Ann Baldwin is a screenwriter (The Power of Dreams, Scent of a Trail, Dream Catcher) with several spec scripts in development. She reviews books on screenwriting and filmmaking, writes articles and poetry, and has several books (fiction & non-fiction) in-progress. Prior to launching her writing career, she was a special event coordinator and manager in the hospitality and entertainment industries for over 25 years. 

The San Francisco Bay Area is her home, where she was born and raised. You can visit her website http://www.annbaldwin.net and her blog page http://ahigherfrequency.blogspot.com

Meet the Author: Jen Grisanti

International speaker Jen Grisanti is an acclaimed Story/Career Consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc., Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, a former 12-year studio executive, including VP of Current Programming at CBS/Paramount, blogger for The Huffington Post and author of the books, Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story and TV Writing Tool Kit: How To Write a Script That Sells and her new book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path To Your Success.

Grisanti started her career in 1992 as an assistant to Aaron Spelling, who served as her mentor for 12 years, and she quickly climbed the ranks and eventually ra...