APRIL Spotlight: Jaclyn Gramigna
From Script to Pre-pro supported by New York Women in Film and TV
Q: How did you hear about the from Script to Prepro Lab?
Jaclyn Gramigna: I had been on the NYWIFT mailing list for years, and had seen the lab pop up before but hadn’t considered applying until I spoke to someone who had a very positive experience participating. In fact, I almost didn’t apply because I had heard that the application process was extensive, in order to make sure everyone participating was actually ready to make their feature. (Now, I’m really glad I didn’t let my fear of failure get the best of me!)
Q: What was your goal in applying?
JG: At the time that I submitting my application, I had already been moving towards bringing my feature from “script to preproduction.” I had started putting together a lookbook, logline, synopsis etc, but was working in somewhat of a vacuum. I decided to apply to FS2P, thinking that at the least, it could help generate a little buzz about my film and hopefully, I’d come out of it with the tools to get the film funded.
Q: Before you started the lab, what was the state of your feature script? How has your project developed over the course of the past 3 months?
JG: Pre-FS2P, I had been writing and rewriting my script for more years than I’d care to say and had recently concluded that it was time to “abandon” the writing phase and make the damn thing! I knew I would eventually revisit the script but I felt like it was solid enough to get things in motion.
During the application process I begrudgingly received some feedback from Elizabeth Page (who founded and facilitates FS2P) and even though the idea of rethinking parts of the script sounded like torture, I knew she was right. I ended up doing one more significant revision before the workshop started, in January. (Important to keep reminding myself, it is a marathon, not a sprint...)
Over the past 3 months, I have been developing (and revising, and editing) my pitch materials and it’s funny how the process of writing about the project reveals how to make the script better. Approaching it from a “how can I make this work better for the production,” perspective—i.e. beefing up a supporting role to attract a bigger talent—has definitely affected the more recent revisions.
I think the biggest development in the project has actually been my growing confidence and ability to talk about it. It’s helped instill in my mind the best verbiage to use when casually pitching and I’m more in tune to what people respond to or not. When FS2P started, I would say, “I’m trying to make,” or “I’m working towards making, my first feature.” Three months later, my ability to confidently say, “I’m making it,” already has people wanting to get on board, and the wheels are more actively in motion than they have ever been!
Q: How many other women participate in this NYWFT workshop? Could you describe the group?
JG: The magic of FS2P is definitely in the group of women participating. There are seven other amazingly talented and intelligent filmmakers, complete with uniquely killer scripts and a variety of skill sets and experiences. [Fun Fact: The collaborative nature of the lab is so integral that, according to Elizabeth, it takes 3 months to “cast” the group of participating filmmakers.]
It’s so much fun to work alongside these women, learn from their very thoughtful, and often razor sharp, feedback and see their projects develop, like mine has. My film is a “cat and mouse” thriller and can get pretty dark, so it’s especially fun to be along for the ride with films of all different genres/personalities. Everyone’s script does have one thing in common; they are all centered around strong, complicated women, who take control of their own lives. (Check out the other participating writer/directors: Michelle Walson, Justine Williams, Eugina Gelbelman, Kerry McPherson, Yunah Hong, Aviva Neuman & Elizabeth Page)
Q: What does a Friday workshop session typically look like? How do you spend that time?
JG: We meet every Friday evening from 6-9(ish) in an intimate, conference room setting. Every week, we focus on a different element. Starting with something as “simple” as workshopping our loglines, and each week building up the material (a 1 paragraph synopsis, a 1-page synopsis…etc).
Again, the magic is in the group, because before we started, we all read each other’s scripts, thoroughly and then discussed them, during our first session! So, when people are giving feedback, they know your story on a deep level, as well as your vision/intentions. Lately, we’ve been working on our lookbooks as well as our formal pitches. Every week, we each stand up in front of the room and deliver our pitch. It is not easy (though some of the women make it look pretty effortless) and can be quite nerve-wracking, especially when we have industry guests who come in to give outside feedback. We typically spend 20-30 minutes (sometimes more) focusing on each project, depending on everyone’s needs that week.
I have definitely gotten up there and bombed, but everyone is so patient and supportive (and also, tells it like it is) and it makes me not want to disappoint them. It’s great motivation to work hard, because we’re holding each other accountable, and I feel particularly lucky to have the rare opportunity to workshop this phase of the process.
Next on the curriculum is tackling the tedious but oh-so-necessary process of creating shooting schedules and tiered budgets for our projects (thanks to support from Entertainment Partners). Wish us luck!
Q: What are you hoping to have achieved by the end of the program?
JG: By the end of FS2P (in May), I want to have fine-tuned my pitch and investor materials, filled out my producing team and be actively raising the funds. In addition to the lab, there is a big pitch event, in November (sponsored by Light Iron Post Production), where we each get up and do our presentations in front of a room of colleagues and industry folks/potential investors.
My film is relatively producible (and I’ve been thinking about the nuts and bolts of actually making it for years) so my plan (however ambitious) was always to work toward shooting this fall. The best case scenario, for me, would be to have already gone through principal photography, and use the pitch day to attract finishing/marketing funds and distributors. That being said, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that things happen, and don’t happen, and always evolve a lot, so I am flexible. I know I’m going to make this film in the very near future (and it can take place at any time of year) so regardless of the exact timeline, it’s full speed ahead!
Q: What’s next after the program ends?
JG: If I have not already shot my film by the time the program officially ends (after the November pitch day) then my most immediate goal will be to finish getting things together (funds/preproduction) and shoot! If I have shot the film, then my goal will be to guide it through post-production.
If you’re curious…My film, “Someone to Watch,” is a psychological thriller, about a home care nurse, with a murky past, who survives a train bombing and becomes the caretaker of a fellow survivor. As a love affair develops between them, so do her suspicions…that he may have planted the bomb.
I won’t tell you how it ends…but you may not see it coming ;-)
I’m itching to make a “female gaze” thriller, that’s dripping with tension, punctuated by stylized nightmares and dusted with visual humor and I am actively looking to add Executive Producers to the team (especially those who aren’t afraid of a little darkness). If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Applications for the next season of “From Script to Preproduction” open in June. If you’re interested in learning more about the lab (supported by NYWIFT, Entertainment Partners and Light Iron Post Production), check out the website https://www.fs2p.org/ (it hasn’t been updated with the current session’s filmmakers yet, but it gives more information about the program in general).]