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Episode 025: Jen Grisanti -- Story Consultant / Writing Instructor for NBC / Author / International Speaker
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What we cover: “Failure doesn’t move us back. It moves us forward. Failure tells us what is no longer working.” – Jen Grisanti
As a VP of CBS Paramount, overseeing Current Programming, Jen Grisanti was exactly where she wanted to be, or so she thought. Then, one day, the unthinkable happened, and without warning, she suffered a big crash when her professional reality was turned on its head and she was let go. The ladder she had been climbing collapsed from underneath her. But guess what she did? She did what Aaron Spelling -- yes that Aaron Spelling -- her long-time business mentor taught her to do: She found the gold in her story. Jen’s career began working side by side with Aaron, ultimately as head of Current Programming for Spelling Television. She was instrumental in shaping many of the shows we love today – 90210, Melrose Place, Charmed, Seventh Heaven, you name it – and in this capacity, she started to see that great stories in fiction share the same qualities as great stories in life, and vice versa. We have a hero, we have a dilemma, we have a goal, we have that rock bottom moment, and we see that hero rise again. So when Jen’s career as she knew it tumbled down around her, she knew she had two choices – to be a victim of circumstance. Or to learn from it and blossom. She chose the latter.
Hers is by no means a story relegated to those in the entertainment industry. Not by a long shot. Hers a story that is universal. The specifics may not be the same, but the message is.
I love this episode, I love this woman, I love her story. And you know what? As a sucker for Charlie’s Angels, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, I loved hearing firsthand what Aaron Spelling was like as a person. Self-made and accessible and a lover of Pink’s Hot Dogs.
Today, Jen Grisanti is principal of Jen Grisanti Inc. She provides feedback and guidance – notes, as they say in the bizz – to writers who are developing projects. Forty-two of her writers have gone on to sell their series as pilots, which is huge. She’s an instructor with NBC’s prestigious Writers on the Verge program. She’s an internationally sought after speaker – having spoken in Australia, Israel, London, Toronto. And she’s the author of three books: Change your Story, Change your life; Storyline: Finding the gold in your life story; and the TV Writing Toolkit.
Our talk specifically focuses on how we can all find the gold in our own story. You may think you’ve hit rock bottom, but with a perspective shift, you will see you haven’t. Where you really are is one step away from an “a-ha” that is going to rocket you to greater heights -- if you are willing to identify it and take action. That’s the key.
Despite the fact that Jen is probably one of the busiest people in Hollywood, she made time to meet with me on a Saturday morning in LA. And it was pure perfection. She speaks candidly about the collapse of her marriage, and the fact that, had she not lost the things she thought she “needed” in order to have “arrived” that she’d never be where she is today. And that is a place of authentic arrival -- a life built entirely on her own terms, using the gifts she has accrued from a 25 year career shaping the stories that have captivated millions of people around the world. When you talk to Jen and you talk about heart ache and heart break and disappointment, you soon realize that she sees those as the gold -- the “all is lost” moment, as they say in Hollywood, when truly good things are just around the corner.