THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
Someone is knocking on a hotel room door. We see a disheveled woman run out of the bathroom. She says, “I’m coming.” She looks in the mirror. She is a mess. She says, “Fu—.” She starts to clean up. We see that it’s Paris 1967. She takes some pills. We see that there is someone in the bed. She takes a swig of alcohol.
She takes the elevator down to the lobby. She rushes. We see that she enters a chess tournament. Lights start flashing from all of the photographers’ cameras. She is late for her match. She apologizes to the Russian player for being late. They both sit down to play chess.
(CONSEQUENCE – FUTURE MOMENT. FLAW – ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR.)
We go back in time to when this chess player was a little girl. We see a car accident and hear some officers talking about what happened. We see a body that is covered next to the accident. We see the little girl standing in front of it all.
A woman drives the little girl somewhere. She apologizes that her mother passed on in the accident. We hear V.O. that the little girl, Elizabeth (Beth) Harmon, was orphaned after the accident. She surveys a troubled future.
The woman reading the information about Beth is at the orphanage. She talks about Beth’s mother, Alice, being pronounced dead at the scene. There’s no info on the father.
Beth arrives at the orphanage. Mrs. Deardorff welcomes her. She gives her the tour. She meets some people, including Mr. Fergusson. We hear one of the orphans cussing in the background. It is Jolene.
Mrs. Deardorff brings her to where she will sleep. She tells her that there are twenty-one girls there. Beth has a stuffed animal. Mrs. Deardorff tells her that she knows that all she’s feeling is a loss. She says that after grief brings you low, prayer and faith will lift you.
(SERIES TRIGGER AND DILEMMA.)
They cut Beth’s hair. They pick out some clothes for her. We see that her name, Beth, is in her old dress. But they call her Elizabeth. Jolene gives Beth info on the pills the kids are given. Jolene tells her about the green ones. Jolene asks if her mother and father are dead. Beth nods her head. Jolene asks what the last thing was they said to her before they died. Beth has a vision of her mother right before the accident. She says, “Close your eyes.” Beth tells Jolene that she doesn’t remember.
Jolene takes the pills. Beth takes both medications despite Jolene telling her that she should hold the green one for bedtime. Beth has trouble walking. She sees the Janitor cleaning the floors. She sees his keys.
(WORLD SHIFT AFTER SERIES TRIGGER AND DILEMMA. LOSS OF CONTROL.)
At the meal, Jolene can tell that Beth took the green pill. Beth asks about the dinner. Another girl tells Beth to eat everything. Otherwise, they’ll tell Mrs. Deardorff, and she won’t get adopted.
(GREEN PILLS – THIS LINKS TO BETH’S FLAW OF HER ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR. THIS FLAW LINKS TO THE WOUND.)
We see all of the girls in bed. Beth watches the shadows on the ceiling. She has a dream. She sees a man talking to her mother. He tells her that she’s not taking care of herself. Her mother drops a bottle of pills. Her mother burns some things. We see that the man asks to see Lizzie. Alice says that she belongs to her. The man says, “You honestly believe that our daughter belongs in a trailer in the middle of nowhere?” Alice says, “Who says she’s our daughter. And she doesn’t like being called Lizzie.” Beth sees what her mother is burning. It’s titled Monomial Representations and Symmetric Presentations—Department of Mathematics at Cornell University. The man tells Alice that he can’t keep chasing her. Alice says, “I’m sorry, Paul.” He tells her that once he drives away, he’s not coming back. Beth hears him drive off.
(EARLIER WOUND – EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL ABANDONMENT OF THE FATHER.)
In class, we see that Beth finished her assignment early. The teacher is impressed since it is before everyone else. The teacher suggests that Beth goes to the basement to clean the erasers. Beth sees the Janitor playing chess. He looks up at her. She goes back to class.
Jolene shows Beth how she saves the green pill on her tongue. Beth thinks about the chess game. She sees the shadows on the ceiling. She plays the chessboard on the ceiling.
Beth makes her bed. Jolene and Beth watch as a little girl packs her suitcase. She gets adopted. Jolene tells Beth that no one is going to come for them now; they’re too old.
Beth goes back to the basement. The Janitor is playing chess. She asks him what game he is playing. He tells her that it’s chess. She asks him to teach her. He tells her that he doesn’t like strangers.
(PILOT TRIGGER, DILEMMA, AND PURSUIT SETUP. FROM THE RESOLUTION, IT APPEARS THAT THE GOAL IS TO GET ACCESS TO THE GREEN PILLS SO THAT SHE CAN CONTINUE TO PLAY AT THE LEVEL THAT SHE DOES.)
Beth takes the green pill. She sees the chessboard on the ceiling again. She considers the chess pieces.
Beth tells Jolene she was right; the vitamins work better at night. She tells Jolene that sometimes she skips a day or two. Then, she takes three at once. She says that she likes the way that it makes her feel. Jolene tells her not to get too used to the feeling.
Beth cleans the erasers. She tells the Janitor that she’s not a stranger. She lives there. He tells her that girls do not play chess. She tells him that she already knows some of it after watching him. She shows him what she knows. He engages her. He says, “Let’s play a game. I play white.” She sits down to play. He teaches her. He shows her a play. It’s called “The Scholar’s Mate.”
Beth takes her green pills. She sees the chessboard on the ceiling. She goes through the plays. She sees them all. She teaches herself about The Scholar’s Mate from what she remembers.
She plays with the Janitor the next day. He teaches her how to “resign” when she loses the Queen. He tells her that she lost. She says, “You cocksucker.” He tells her to leave.
(ACTION TAKEN. OBSTACLE HIT.)
Beth goes back the next day, but the basement door is locked. She imagines the chess game on the ceiling again. She goes through the plays.
(ACTION TAKEN. OBSTACLE HIT.)
She cleans the erasers outside. There’s a boy at the gate. He waves to her.
Beth asks Jolene what a cocksucker is. Jolene tells her about it.
In class, Beth is bored.
Beth reads about the male and the female body.
Beth goes back to the basement. The Janitor hears her. They play a game of chess. She beats him. He tells her that she’s gloating. He shows her a new play. She asks about it.
We see a montage of them playing in a sequence with taking the pills and playing chess. It shows that Beth is learning a lot about the chess game. They play several games. The Janitor teaches her about king’s bishop three. He teaches her several more plays.
(ACTIONS AND OBSTACLES SEQUENCE. THE PILLS AND THE GROWING ADDICTION ARE THE OBSTACLES THAT RAISE THE STAKES.)
The teacher notices that Beth is not in class.
Beth watches a film with the rest of the girls. In it, a young woman tells her mom that she started her first period.
The sequence continues with the pills and playing chess.
Beth watches a couple on the outside of the school property making out.
(BETH WATCHING THE COUPLE AFTER SEEING THE FILM SHOWS HER COMING OF AGE.)
Her chess lessons continue. She learns about one of the openings, The Queen’s Gambit.
Beth is surprised when the janitor, Mr. Shaibel, tells her that she’ll play white. He tells her that from now on, they’ll take turns. This is the way games are normally played.
(ACTION AND OBSTACLE.)
Beth continues to see the chessboard on the ceiling at night. She sees Mr. Shaibel drinking whiskey. He gives Beth a book, Modern Chess Openings. She asks if she is old enough to read it. He finds out that she’s nine. He tells her that she is astounding.
Jolene looks at Beth in class. She is reading the book under her desk while class is going.
The Janitor introduces Beth to Mr. Ganz from the Chess Club. He tells her that he is also a coach for the high school team. She plays. She impresses him. He asks if she plays with the other girls. She tells him that she just plays with Mr. Shaibel. He asks what she does in between games. She says, “I play in my head.” She mentions that she does this on the ceiling. Beth plays both men. She steps away from the board while playing. They say their moves out loud. She tells them her moves in response. Mr. Ganz can’t believe it. He gives her a gift. It’s a doll. Beth pretends to be grateful. He asks to take a picture of Beth with Mr. Shaibel. This picture is for the chess club.
(ACTION AND OBSTACLE.)
Mrs. Deardorff calls Beth in her office. She tells her that Mr. Ganz says Beth has a gift. She is a phenomenal chess player. He asks if she can go to high school. He wants her to perform for the chess club. He wants Beth to play all of the players at the same time. He mentions that he will bring a young woman as a chaperone. They make plans.
Mrs. Deardorff asks Beth if she’s been playing chess with Mr. Shaibel in the basement. She says that she has. Mrs. Deardorff tells her that she can’t have her playing in the basement, so she will arrange to have chess sets put in the game room.
(ACTION AND OBSTACLE.)
Beth notices that she doesn’t get a green pill anymore. She is upset. The man distributing the medications tells her that the state won’t let them give tranquilizers to kids anymore. She knows that the pills help her play. She finds that she has one pill still saved. She takes it.
(ACTION AND OBSTACLE.)
Beth looks at where the locked up green pills are.
In the bathroom, Beth asks Jolene if she has any extra green pills. She tells her that she doesn’t. She tells Jolene that the pills are still there in a jar. Jolene asks if Beth is having withdrawal symptoms.
(ACTION AND OBSTACLE.)
Fergusson goes to get Beth. She is in the dark. They are there to pick her up to go to high school.
The woman that accompanies them talks with Beth. Jolene catches them before they leave. She gives Beth a green pill.
Beth surveys the chess room. A bunch of high school students enters. They are all male.
Mr. Ganz tells everyone how it is going to work. Beth is in the middle of the room. She starts with board #1. Then she goes to the next one. Beth proceeds to play. Mr. Ganz tells her that they can’t respond until she opens every board. Beth proceeds to win every game. She tells Mr. Shaibel how she had the best players’ pieces tied up in fifteen moves. She mated him in six more with a knight-rook combination. She tells him that Mr. Ganz said that she beat them all in an hour and twenty minutes. She tells him that it felt good. She’s never won anything before. This outcome starts her addictive behavior with winning.
(ACTION AND OBSTACLE.)
Beth asks Jolene for more vitamins. Jolene tells her not to be rude. Jolene introduces her to Samantha.
Beth goes to get a drink of Mr. Shaibel’s whiskey.
(ACTION AND ALL IS LOST MOMENT. BETH CAN’T GET ACCESS TO THE PILLS. SHE THINKS THAT THE PILLS ARE WHAT MADE HER WIN.)
She watches a film with the rest of the girls. She tells them that she has to go to the bathroom. She takes a tool out of her pocket to pick the lock where the green pills are. After struggling, she gets in. She is trying to do it before someone catches her. She opens the jar. She puts a bunch in her mouth and a bunch in her pockets.
The movie dismisses.
Beth hears her mother’s voice. She drops the bottle of green pills as she falls from the chair and passes out in front of her class.
(SHE ACHIEVES THE GOAL. SHE GOT ACCESS TO THE PILLS. SHE HEARS HER MOTHER. THE ADDICTION/FLAW IS THE SETUP OF THE SERIES ARC.)
*Copyright® 2020 Jen Grisanti Consultancy, Inc.
July 16th-21st, 2021
Have you dreamed of writing a screenplay and seeing it come to life on the silver screen?
Or maybe you’ve published a book and are wondering about how to turn it into a film script?
Seems impossible, right?
Well, the answer, is, NO! Nothing is impossible, and on this one-of-a-kind writers’ retreat, at the beautiful 16th century Aragonese Castle set on a rock off the coast of the island of Ischia (where The Talented Mr Ripley was shot), we’ll show you just how your words, your vision—let’s face it, your baby—can make it all the way to the big screen!
International speaker Jen Grisanti is an acclaimed Story/Career Consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc., Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, 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 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 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 the consulting firm, Grisanti has worked with over 800 writers specializing in television, features and novels. Due to her expertise and mentorship, one hundred and twenty-five of her writers have staffed on television shows and eighty have sold pilots, six that that went to series.
As the Senior VP of Talent Development for WarnerMedia Entertainment, Kelly Edwards oversees all emerging artist programs for HBO, HBOMax, and Turner.
Edwards brought an innovative new approach to developing the company’s writing and directing fellowships which have become an industry best practice. By marrying the two programs, material created by the writers is shot by the directors with a fully inclusive crew for air on WarnerMedia’s digital platforms. The content has garnered festival awards at SXSW, Tribeca, Seriesfest to name a few.
Prior to HBO, Edwards was a key corporate diversity executive at Comcast/NBCUniversal for over five years where she oversaw over 20 divisions, launched employee resource groups, and introduced diverse creative talent to NBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and Telemundo.
Edwards’ career has spanned both television and film having produced the movie of the week A CHRISTMAS DETOURfor Hallmark, the one hour series SEX, LOVE, AND SECRETSfor UPN, serving as a network executive for UPN and Fox, and as a creative executive in features. As an executive she helped to develop series such as GIRLFRIENDS, THE PARKERS, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, CLUELESS,and THE WILD THORNBERRYS.
In 2000, Edwards co-founded the non-profit organization Colour Entertainment, a networking group for diverse creative executives and assistants in TV, Film, and Digital, all designed to connect current and future industry executives with one another.
Edwards graduated from Vassar College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater and holds an MFA in Writing for Film and Television from Emerson College. She currently serves on the Annenberg Inclusion Board and is a 2019 Sundance Episodic Lab fellow.
Richard “RB” Botto is the Founder and CEO of Stage 32, the official film education & networking platform of AFM and the Marche du Film at Cannes Film Festival. Stage32.com is the world’s largest online platform connecting and educating film, TV & digital creatives and executives worldwide. Since 2011, Stage 32 has emerged as an online community of over 500,000 creatives with over 1,000 hours of online education taught by over 500 industry executives.
RB is also a working actor, producer and screenwriter. As a producer, his films have played at dozens of festivals including the Sundance award winning feature, Another Happy Day, written & directed by Sam Levinson (starring Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore, Ellen Barkin), the documentary Crutch, the feature What Lies Ahead (starring Rumer Willis and Emma Dumon) releasing in 2019 and the upcoming Rain- Beau’s End (starring Ed Asner, Sean Young and Kate Arrington). As a writer, his latest screenplay, The End Game, is currently set up at Covert Media. As an actor, his latest film On the Corner of Ego and Desire premiered at the 2018 Raindance Film Festvial.
Botto is a best-selling author with his book Crowdsourcing For Filmmakers, published by Routledge Press under the American Film Market Presents banner. The book can be found at the Routledge Press booth by AFM badge registration and on Amazon, where it has over 50 5-star reviews.
A sought-after speaker and mentor, RB has been a keynote speaker and panelist at such festivals and conferences as Cannes, AFM, Tribeca, Sundance, Raindance, SXSW, Portugal FEST and Winston Baker. He has also taught at institutions such as Harvard and Columbia University on the subjects of filmmaking, producing, film finance, screenwriting, social media, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, entrepreneurship and business.
Tom Dever was born and raised in Ohio and has worked in every conceivable facet of the film industry for the past decade; most notably in feature film production at Fox Searchlight Pictures and most regrettably in reality television casting. He is currently the VP of Development for Coverfly, a talent discovery platform and screenplay aggregation software company, where he recently packaged a feature film at Netflix, with Imagine set to produce. His debut feature FOR THE WEEKEND is currently available on streaming platforms worldwide.
When you come from a place of emotional truth in your writing and add fiction to it in your story, you connect with your audience. I will go through how to take inventory of your history and identify your universal life moments by looking at your dilemmas, your failures, and your successes. After taking the time to mine your creative well, you will find your gold.
FINDING YOUR VOICE
This presentation goes into TV and film. By understanding how to find and utilize your voice, you will learn what it takes to set you apart from the masses. By defining what makes your story unique, you will learn how to draw from this emotional truth leading you to your desired outcome.
SCRIPT WRITING | THE FEATURE SCRIPT
Learn some of the secrets to telling strong stories from the studio executive perspective. In this presentation, I will go over the seven components that will make your feature script sell.
If you are interested in taking you writing to the next level you will NOT want to miss this. RSVP today!
**This event is being supported in part by Arizona Commission on the Arts which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts
About Jen Grisanti:
International speaker Jen Grisanti is an acclaimed Story/Career Consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy, Inc. Grisanti is also a Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, a former 12-year studio executive, and author of Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story, TV Writing Tool Kit: How To Write a Script That Sells, and, Change Your Story, Change Your Life.
Over twenty years ago, 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 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, Grisanti worked with over 1000 writers specializing in television, features, and novels. Due to her guidance, over one hundred of her clients have staffed as writers on television shows, seventy-one have sold pilots, and six of those pilots have gone to series.
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.
A lot is written about the art of dialogue, but what about the equal challenge
of writing great description/action? Citing examples from modern masters like
Christopher Nolan, Vince Gilligan, Shonda Rhimes and Quentin Tarantino,
Dan Calvisi will explore the mechanics, formatting and execution of this crucial
element of the screenplay. Dan will also lead the class in writing the introduction of a famous movie
character, to be compared to the actual text from the original screenplay.
In this talk, Jen Grisanti will go over how to set up the series and season one arc by
creating a strong arc of the wound for the central character. It is when the personal
dilemma links to the professional pursuit and the pilot arc is one step toward healing
the wound that we root for the outcome and emotionally connect to the story. Jen
will discuss the season arcs for FLEABAG (Amazon), RIVER (Netflix) and HAPPY VALLEY (Netflix).
This will cover everything you ever wanted to know about agents and managers,
including how to get the right representation, what to expect from your agent vs.
what your can expect from your manager, how much you should pay them, what
they will expect from you, and what you can do to motivate them.
My seminar “How Comedy Works” makes a unique guarantee in the world of
screenwriting seminars: it gives you absolutely no help with screenwriting. HCW,
as we in the office like to call it (Note: There is no office), is about comedy as an
art form; what it is, what it means and how it works. Why take time with that instead
of figuring out why your 2nd act sucks?, I hear no one asking. Because learning how comedy works will
help you do it better. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This talk will show how looking at
comedy not screenwriting can help your screenwriting; how contemporary comedy goes back to ancient
Greece (and yes, I’m looking at you, fart and vomit jokes); and the precision, skill and ingenuity that
comedy requires. Most of all, this talk explains why everyone who says examination kills comedy is
not only wrong but should be killed, and shows how comedy principles translate into actual laughter.
So, y’know, forget that stuff about no help.
One of the most important ingredients of a successful story is momentum. When you mix momentum with mindset, you root for the achievement of the goal. Many TV shows and films make the mistake of not having enough momentum and not having enough character development. Understanding the use of these two things will help you to elevate your story both in life and on the page.
I’ve been studying and analyzing story for over twenty years. I am an author of three books, a Writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC and a story/career consultant for writers. I read and analyze an average of two to three scripts a day. One of the areas of story that I’ve noticed can make or break a strong script is momentum. How do you create strong momentum? You start your story with a strong trigger incident that leads your central character into a powerful dilemma. Then, the choice made in the dilemma is what defines the external goal. You add momentum to this formula when you set up the personal dilemma and the stakes. We should always be clear about what the worst that can happen is if the goal is not achieved. It’s when we don’t know what’s at stake or why we care that the story loses momentum.
With regards to mindset, I’ve often taught the idea of ego versus spirit. In the first three quarters of the story, the central character wants to achieve the goal for ego-related reasons. It is in the last quarter of the story, after hitting a number of obstacles that the character’s motivation shifts to spirit. They now want to achieve the goal for the betterment of the greater good. I am currently reading an incredible book titled “Mindset” by Carol Dweck that made me take a deeper look into this idea. In her book, Carol discusses the idea of the “fixed mindset” versus the “growth mindset”. Carol writes; “The fixed mindset creates the feeling that you can really know the permanent truth about yourself. You don’t have to try for such-and-such because you don’t have the talent. You will surely succeed at such-and-such because you do have the talent.” She goes on to talk about the growth mindset. She writes; “By the way, having a growth mindset doesn’t force you to do something. It just tells you that you can develop your skills…. The fixed mindset stands in the way of development and change. The growth mindset is a starting point for change, but people need to decide for themselves where their efforts toward change would be the most valuable.” I love this! Even though she discusses it in relation to real life, it also applies to story. When you shift the mindset of your character from being a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, you add depth and momentum to your story.
Recently, I watched a show that had a very strong first season. This was due to a very strong season arc as well as strong episode arcs that built in momentum as the season went on. By doing this well the first season, the writers established an expectation from the audience. Then, during the second season, I’d say that the biggest mistake that was made was that you didn’t care about the season arc. There were three co-protagonists. The wounds/personal dilemmas were well developed for two of the three characters. The third character whose wound was developed the least was the one who had the most at stake within the season arc. Since we didn’t know enough about this character’s wound or understand his shift in mindset, we didn’t root for or care about the outcome. With the other two characters that were well developed, we rooted for them to find their peace but their stakes were not reflected in the season arc. If there had been more momentum in the season arc and we had understood the mindset of that third character in a stronger way, it would have made all the difference in the success of the season. I choose not to name the show simply because I admire all writers that put their heart and their soul on the page so that we can all use it to learn.
In life, momentum is the fuel that leads us toward our goals. When we understand how to utilize the idea of “what is the worst thing that can happen if we do not achieve our goal?” we ignite our possibility. When we allow our mindset to evolve from being a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, we open ourselves up to more opportunity. This thinking not only helps us to achieve more of our goals, but it also opens us up to find more fulfillment in the process. Momentum and mindset are key ingredients in our success in life and in the stories that we tell.
I seek to provide transformation to others and to experience it personally on a daily basis. As a story consultant, my mission is to help transform the message of the storyteller into one that resonates with their audience on a deeper level, uplifts, creates change, and to leads the storyteller to a sale.
How do we create transformation through the telling of story? After writing my book, “Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path To Success,” I always seek ways to elevate my own message. I find that by being open to transformation in my own life, I better understand how to pass it on to others. My goal with every seminar, every one-on-one consult, and every life experience is to identify how story can encourage change in the way that we see things.
When I teach or guide, my intention is to take the storyteller to a deeper place of understanding the why. Focusing on the why leads to transformation. Three whys that have significance in this process are:
Why does the writer want to write the story?
Why are they the perfect writer for the story?
Why does the central character want what they want? Or, Why do they want to achieve the goal?
Understanding the why adds emotional fuel to your story. When we feel and understand your whys, we feel your story. It’s a similar equation for entrepreneurs who need to tell and sell the story of their brands.
When I see films, watch TV, or read a non-fiction book, I’m seeking a sense of transformation. I have a desired outcome in my mind. When I can feel the why behind what the screenwriter or author is trying to say, and I understand how it applies to my own life, transformation happens. I am a junkie for transformation through story.
This year, two books that have stood out and led me to transformation are The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday and The 22-Day Revolution: The Plant Based Program That Will Transform Your Body, Reset Your Habits and Change Your Life, by Marcos Borges.
Ryan Holiday wrote his book is to guide people through using obstacles to their advantage versus getting bogged down by them. I love his quotation: “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” His book illuminated the path to my own transformation because I understood the author’s why for writing it, and I understood my why for reading it. I wanted to learn from past leaders who encountered apparently insurmountable obstacles, what they did to get through them, and what they learned along the way. This book transformed how I view my own obstacles.
While Ryan Holiday’s book led to emotional transformation, The 22-Day Revolution: The Plant Based Program That Will Transform Your Body, Reset Your Habits and Change Your Life by Marcos Borges brought about physical transformation in my life. I read this book because so many of my friends who have faced cancer believe a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to go. I understood the author’s why for writing it and my why for reading. I tried the 22-day program and loved it! In addition to my internal health, I wanted to see results. The food was amazing and I loved the physical results. The fact that the transformation led to a desired visible result made it even more fulfilling.
In film and TV, the desired outcome is to transform audiences. I’ll forgive a writer almost anything structurally if I feel transformed by the story. I recently saw Ricki and The Flash. I was curious how Diablo Cody would tell the story of a woman who left her family, since this is such a counter-intuitive life experience yet it happens in the world. I wanted to see if I could understand the why behind Ricki’s action as well as Diablo’s why for writing it. In life, we make bad choices that often lead to negative outcomes. What I took away from this story was that despite deep dysfunction and mistakes made, family is family. No family is perfect and we can find meaning in the imperfections when there is love. The question I felt being asked was: Can we find redemption by fulfilling a role that we left behind and find peace in the process? I did expect that the story would go deeper into the why behind Ricki’s choice to leave in the first place, and there were parts of the story that I felt could have been stronger. However, the story did reach me. I felt her regret. I felt compassion for Ricki (played so brilliantly by Meryl Streep). I understood why she wanted what she wanted. I teared up at the end. I felt the transformation because I felt like I understood why the story was written. This is what story is about.
There is an endless market for story because all of us, in our own ways, seek to explore and understand life. By understanding the whys of story, you allow us in, you transform, and you create change.
In her class, CREATING A TV PILOT THAT SELLS: THREE IMPORTANT TOOLS, Jen Grisanti will teach you what she believes are the pillars that will take you from ordinary to extraordinary with the writing of your TV pilot.
Jen will walk you through three tools: Trigger, Dilemma and Pursuit, and she will guide you how to use these key elements to set up your pilot in a way that will lead you toward success.
Jen says, “These tools are the foundation that have led many of my clients to success. By mastering the set up of your story, you create the possibility of making a sale and staffing.”
Through understanding how to link these three elements, you will learn how set the foundation in your story, have an active lead and elevate the emotion to a whole new level.
Jen believes that in order to go from a non-working writer to a working writer, you have to write a pilot that hits it out of the ballpark. She will teach you the tools that will elevate your game and increase your opportunities.
TRIGGER – By creating a powerful trigger incident for your series, you will create a strong season arc and this will establish longevity for your concept.
A strong pilot trigger is what carries the first episode. Linking these two makes the difference between a good pilot and a great one. You need to clearly set up that the pilot trigger would not have happened unless the series trigger happened.
Jen will go over several pilots that have done this successfully.
DILEMMA – The trigger incident should push your central character into a dilemma. The choice that is made in this dilemma is what will define the external goal.
The dilemma should be strong enough that we understand that there is not an easy choice on either side of the dilemma. This is what will create empathy and a rooting factor for your central character.
We will also discuss the set up of the personal dilemma and how to link it to the professional pursuit. This will elevate the emotion in your story.
PURSUIT – The clear set up of the goal is the glue that will make your story hold together. By clearly setting up what your central character wants, you can link your obstacle, escalating obstacle, and “all is lost” moment back to the goal. This will help you to write stronger act breaks. It is when the goal is unclear that the story doesn’t work.
In every scene, we should have a clear sense of what your central character wants and why they want it. Through setting up a clear pursuit, it will help you to establish this.
Jen knows what it takes to sell a pilot. She has had thirty-two clients over the last seven years sell pilots. Five of them have gone to series. Jen has also helped to staff over 65 writers during this time on top primetime shows.
Jen was a studio executive for 12 years at CBS/Paramount and Spelling Television Aaron Spelling was her mentor. Jen has covered shows including; BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 (the original), MELROSE PLACE, SEVENTH HEAVEN, CHARMED, MEDIUM, NUMBERS, THE 4400, NCIS and GIRLFRIENDS.
For the past seven years, Jen has been a writing instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, a story/career consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc., an author of three books – STORY LINE: FINDING GOLD IN YOUR LIFE STORY, CHANGE YOUR STORY, CHANGE YOUR LIFE: A PATH TO SUCCESS and TV WRITING TOOL KIT: HOW TO WRITE A SCRIPT THAT SELLS. Jen is also a blogger for The Huffington Post. In addition to Los Angeles, Jen has taught classes in New York, London, Australia and Israel.