The International Screenwriters’ Association hosted a TV Weekend in Chicago this weekend called From Concept to Studio Deal. The event was attended by hundreds of people who wanted to learn more about the screenwriting process, how to get into the business and the art of writing the perfect script. The event took place at Columbia College in Chicago.
On Friday afternoon, Max Timm, Director of Community Outreach with the International Screenwriters’ Association, spoke a little bit about the ISA organization and how to make it in the script writing business. Timm broke down the concept and pilot of “Stranger Things” and “Timeless.” He broke down the basic conceptual make-up of the shows, their tone, and looked at the emotional development of the characters.
On Saturday, Nickelodeon’s Karen Kirkland, Vice President, Talent Development and Outreach, talked about Nickelodeon’s Writers Program and hosted a small networking reception for the attendees. In the morning, Jen Grisanti, one of the greatest executives and most prolific producers in the business, gave incredible insight on how to write a script that sells and how to find your inner writer based on your own personal experiences. She shared about how her divorce and quitting her 15 year old career had lead her to the ultimate change in her life and opening her own business. She has led 44 of her clients to sell their pilots, five of which went to series. Part of her system includes story structure, writing memorable characters and character dynamics, creating a strong internal story and she will do a workshop element on adding fiction to your truth.
Grisanti presentation was followed by a four hour “tough” talk with Lee Jessup, who is a career coach for professional and emerging screenwriters, with an exclusive focus on the screenwriter’s ongoing professional development. She exposed the harsh truth about TV screenwriters and how the industry has changed over the years. Jessup also explored the requirements for landing the agent or manager, the various paths available for staffing on a show or selling your pilot, the contests, fellowships and programs available to writers seeking to stand out in the television space, and more.
On Sunday, Corey Mandell, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for Ridley Scott, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and others, moderated a fun and interactive session. He discussed the ability to pitch yourself and your ideas in addition to knowing what is required to sell an original idea in the current marketplace, and how to effectively market in the room in order to land a staff writing job. At the end of the event weekend, there was an industry panel discussion about navigating the screenwriting business and breaking into Hollywood from Chicago. The panel included Angie Gaffney, a Midwest-based producer and entrepreneur who serves as the President of Black Apple Media and Co-Founder of Stage 18 Chicago, Craig Harris, a veteran TV Producer with numerous credits and hundreds of hours of produced programming, including CNN’s Chicagoland And A&E’s The First 48, Matt Abramson, a producer and original content creator, and Nickelodeon’s Karen Kirkland. After the panel, two finalists were chosen from the ISA’s event Pitch competition who won to be part of the ISA Development Program Evaluation.
For more information on ISA, visit: www.networkisa.org.