Supernatural Talk with Writer Jenny Klein

August 23, 2013 in hollywood, Writing

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(Source)

Growing up, I used to watch my favorite TV shows and wondered who came up with the storylines that kept me glued to my screen each week. I knew that there was a staff of writers who came up with the hot characters, addictive plots, and hooks that kept you coming back for more. But that was basically all I knew about Hollywood TV writers. Then I moved to LA, and started meeting these real life people. One of which is the very talented writer, Jenny Klein. I had a chance to chat with her about her writing endeavors, getting started in Hollywood, and being a staff writer for the ridiculously popular CW show, ‘Supernatural.’

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Jenny! Thanks so much for taking the time to do the interview as I know you’re super busy. So, tell us a bit about your background and how you came to LA.
I’m from Skokie, IL and came to LA to major in screenwriting at USC. I was so excited to get into the filmic writing program, I couldn’t believe that the bulk of my assignments were going to be writing TV and movie scripts and I’d never have to take math ever again. I didn’t even bring a calculator to college. It was awesome.

When did you decide to pursue your dream of writing for TV? What shows influenced you growing up?
Shows that influenced me most growing up were The Twilight Zone, where every episode was a mind-bending experience, Seinfeld– one of the best examples of interwoven storylines and characters playing off each other– The Honeymooners, South Park, ER, and WB (now the CW) shows like Dawson’s Creek and Buffy. As a teen, those shows were like enhanced mirrors to the high school experience. I wasn’t dating but could get really into Dawson & Joey. I wasn’t fighting but could watch Buffy kick ass and then go to class. Pure wish fulfillment.

Pursuing screenwriting felt like a natural and exciting transition from writing stories, which I’d been doing since first grade as little story books out of cut-up pieces of paper I stapled together. Movies and TV were such a huge part of my family life, so when I was wrapping up high school and found out there was a program at USC where I could be taught how to write television and movies by professors who were also working screenwriters, I knew I had to apply. It was writing + TV… writing + movies… I couldn’t think of a more fun combination, and the idea that I could build a career out of it sounded almost too good to be true.

It’s awesome that you knew what you wanted to do from an early age. So, tell us…what was your first job in the business? Any horror stories you’d like to share and what you learned from them?
My first job in the business was as an intern for a great movie producer, Edward Saxon. In a way, I was spoiled by that experience because Ed is hilarious, smart and boundlessly kind, which I can’t say the same for everyone. But over my year at that internship, I learned how to do script coverage, hustle on errands, I learned about the development process, and one of the most important lessons of all– to be detail-oriented as an assistant. Sometimes things may seem small, like coffee orders or the copier getting jammed, but when messing those things up starts to add up, it reflects poorly on you as a worker. I started as the writers’ PA in Season 3 of Supernatural– a job that is overwhelmingly detail-oriented– and if I hadn’t learned early on to complete every task with equal responsibility, timeliness and effort, I doubt I’d have been promoted to writers’ assistant and gotten the chance to write my first episode in Season 7. I know not all writers make good assistants, but in my case, being a good assistant ultimately helped me land the opportunity to write.

I should probably also mention because it might be helpful– when I started interning for Ed, I also started interning for another Bigtime Producer Who Shall Not Be Named. I was one of four interns in a small office, the producer was mostly never there/was always traveling, and all the interns shared one old computer in one little cubicle. And the other three guys were all Ivy League. The whole thing was ridiculously idle and useless, I wasn’t learning anything, not to mention not being paid. I wasn’t being paid for Ed either, but I felt useful at Ed’s office, I was always busy there, I was learning, and getting something out of it– real experience. So after a month at Unnamed Bigtime Producer’s, I quit and started working full-time that summer as Ed’s main intern. I guess my advice from that is to not be afraid to walk away from a gig that really isn’t worth your time, then you can put more energy into something that is.

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You just recently became a staff writer on CW’s ‘Supernatural (Congrats!) where you write about Sam and Dean fighting demons and monsters, etc… Do you ever get freaked out when you’re doing research on urban legends or supernatural beings?

Thanks, Kat! Yes sometimes I do get freaked out when I’m doing research, but that’s how I know I’m onto something good. When I’m brainstorming episode ideas, if I start to get scared or freaked out, I know I should write that one down because if it was enough to creep me out, hopefully it’s enough to creep out a TV audience.

Very true. It’s a pretty impressive achievement to get staffed on a flagship show like CW’s ‘Supernatural.’ What advice to you have to any aspiring tv writers out there who want to venture out to Hollywood? Any words of wisdom?

Work hard. Keep writing. Don’t give up. I’d also advise not hanging your hat on a single writing sample, even if it’s awesome and everybody loves it– always be writing something new, but never stop after just one draft of a script– hone it and hone it to get it from good to great. Rewrite and rewrite. Sometimes a script is just not right until draft 5 or 6. Don’t be afraid to make huge, page-one-rewrite changes to make a story you really believe in shine the way it deserves. Give your scripts to people whose opinions you respect and really address notes. Read your own work without preciousness, as if it were someone else’s– how would YOU note it? The best thing you can do for yourself is to be your own harshest critic. And if you write a script, don’t get too upset or down if nothing happens with it. Take it as learning experience to make your next script even better.
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(Rocking the red boots on the ‘Supernatural’ set)
You also have a background in sketch comedy and you’ve performed all around LA as well as making some funny shorts. Do you see yourself going back to comedy? Do you think this background helps you in your current position at ‘Supernatural?’
I think my comedy background has helped a ton to make me a more well-rounded writer. I came out to California with the intent to write drama, then in college I fell in love with writing and performing sketch comedy, so I found myself writing a very earnest Holocaust movie and one-hour pilots while performing dick jokes around L.A. Knowing I am equally comfortable writing comedy and drama has made me feel equipped to tackle any writing challenge, especially on a show like Supernatural, where there are downright funny episodes as well as heart-wrenchingly sad episodes, often a mix of both.

Writing and producing over 40 sketch videos also gave me a big understanding and appreciation of the hard work that goes into production– I’d recommend all writers make at least a couple shorts themselves because physically knowing where to put the camera and how shots will cut together when you get in the editing bay can really inform the way a script is put together. Getting up on stage was super intimidating to me at first, but performing live comedy when I always strongly identified much more as a writer than performer has definitely made me a stronger pitcher than I’d otherwise be, and my experience writing sketches inclines me toward writing tighter scenes. Comedy is about the build from set-up to joke-punchline, and dramatic scenes build to an emotionally resonant dramatic “punchline,” but still– it’s a punch. As for returning to comedy, I’m so thrilled about being a one-hour TV writer and finding a place for myself in the genre world, but I wouldn’t eliminate comedy from my future. It’s fun, I love it, and who knows what’s ahead?

Very cool. So, when does your first episode of ‘Supernatural’ air? And why do you think the show is still going strong after 9 years?
It airs Tuesday, November 26 at 9/8c. And I think ‘Supernatural’ is still going strong after so many years because of the core relationship between Sam and Dean. Their bond has been tested season after season as they battle all sorts of crazy entities, earth-shattering circumstances and emotional struggles, but at the end of the day, the show is about two brothers and how they rely on each other.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Livin’ it up in the Hills?
In five years, I hope to still be writing TV. If that is the case, I will be so, so happy.

Some fun questions…

Last meal on earth?
Grilled cheese on challah bread with like 5 different kinds of stinky cheeses on it and a big bowl of creamy tomato soup to dip it in.

Go to drink?
Cherry Coke Zero!

Any advice you’d give to your 21 year old self?
Write what you want to write because that’s the time you can do it. You’re 21 and have that freedom and that applies to everything written on spec at present too. Also, don’t eat the KFC Popcorn Chicken because it is going to give you horrible food poisoning and will be seriously not worth it. And then two months later, don’t convince yourself that lightning doesn’t strike twice and go ahead and eat KFC Popcorn Chicken again, because lightning will strike twice, and it tastes like vomit.

For more on Jenny, follow Jenny on Twitter. Don’t forget to check out her episode airing Tuesday, November 26th at 9/8c.

August Obsessions

August 19, 2013 in Acting, hollywood

I love August. Everything slows down and you start getting excited about fall. Here are a few of my favorite obsessions this month.

Breaking Bad- Yes, this is the last season. Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. TV’s bromance gone awry.
But my favorite season thus far is still season two where you watch the slow descent of a pathetic, but ridiculously smart chemistry teacher into the ruthless killer he eventually becomes. And Jesse. That’s right, bitch! Yeah. Mr. White. Yeah. Science. (Give this kid an Emmy)
Breaking Bad

Korean Dramas. Oh. My God. The first time I watched a melodramatic Korean drama…it took over my life. From the cheesy songs to the character archetypes, I did and still do watch these obsessively. Thanks to Hulu, I can watch these without end. Also, its nice to watch TV with people that look like you. Just sayin’ And talk about the differences with issues tackled in dramas in 2013. Gay marriage. Family secrets. One night stands. In a ridiculously conservative country like South Korea, it seems like they’re moving forward culturally. Until I go visit again, I just need to watch through my Hulu Lens. Here are my current obsessions.

She is Wow- The title is oh so corny, but this show is about an aging movie star and her gay husband. There are dramatic secrets and of course a son they are ashamed of because he’s a screw up. I literally could not stop watching this. Infidelity. Murder. Secrets.
She is Wow

You’re the Best, Lee Soon Hin – This drama is my current obsession and its about a girl who may or may not be who she thinks she is. So of course, she wants to be an actress and is scouted by the CAA/WME of Korean talent agencies. You have the super mean grandma who wishes she had more sons. The conservative mom. The crazy bitch sister. And of course…family secrets that are meant to be buried, but of course are put out there in the open.
Lee Soon Shin

BTW, I am not the only one who is addicted these Korean dramas. These are my favorite hilarious comments from non-Korean viewers. HA.
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Boo’s Philly Cheesesteak Butterscotch Cupcakes – Unfortunately, Tastykakes won’t sell any more of their products to West coast stores, but this butterscotch cupcake is just as good. Creamy, buttery, and you won’t be able to stop eating them. (Cupcakes are created by Jen Hoche at Uhu Baking)
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The Face Shop Face Masks – Spent too much time in the sun or maybe too many Patron margaritas? (My favorite drink in life) I suggest using these masks right before bed. This South Korean brand is renowned in Asia for its simple yet effective ingredients and popular price point. I’m a huge fan of these masks even if they scare my boyfriend. Eh. What you do for vanity. :)
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You Gotta Laugh…with Aaron

August 17, 2013 in hollywood, humor, inspirational

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It’s not easy following your dreams, or seeing them come to fruition especially in a town as tough as Hollywood. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Fullerton who also happens to write about his experiences surviving cancer while simultaneously writing on USA’s ‘Graceland.’ His blog recounts everything from his experiences with chemo to having his staff writer friends help him break his episode which aired this past Thursday.

As a sucker for inspirational stories, I was really drawn to his story as was the rest of the Interweb. It’s so easy to blame the world and others when you face difficulties, but its WAY more difficult to laugh about your troubles and push through. I tend to be more of the complaining type unfortunately, but whenever I meet people who find the humor and positivity in hard situations, I take a step back.

Life is hard. Life won’t always give you what you want, and it isn’t fair. But you deal with it. Move forward. In Aaron’s case, he’s doing really well physically. And his awesome episode of ‘Graceland’ aired on USA on Thursday.

Whatever you’re going through, Keep on keeping on.

Reality…er…Rocks? Well…

April 10, 2011 in hollywood, LA

Well hello there. I haven’t blogged in a minute, or a week, but hey, whose counting? :) I had to cover this ‘Reality Rocks’ event for work and had a couple interesting photo opportunities that I thought I’d share.

First, I had to get a coffee and came across this HUGE RICE KRISPIES treat. I’m still thinking about it…

The Myspace booth

Then I met this lady who turned out to be Frenchie from VH1′s ‘Rock of Love.’ I had no clue who she was, but she kept telling me she was famous. Hence the pic. All I could think was…whoa, homegirl is TAN and your dog better not attack me!

Randomly bumped into Ani Phyo, Eco-lifestylist and Raw Food Author. She is so sweet!!! And gorgeous in person. I felt guilty for eating meat when I talked to her though.. Veganism doesn’t agree with me.

And I LOVE Michael Maloney from ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.’ This show always makes me cry like a huge baby. I’m serious.

Then, I had to get a bunch of kids to wear these Myspace badges. They were like, “Who is this random person talking to me?”

And nothing ends a Reality TV expo like some hand sanitizer! Especially when you randomly brushed past Ron Jeremy. Again, I’m serious.

Oh Snap! It’s Fergie Ferg!

March 11, 2011 in Acting, comedy, Events, hollywood, LA

Ummm…I met Fergie Ferg last night at the Chin Chin restaurant for an event for the “Look Like You Give A Damn” project sponsored by Nivea for Men. Josh Dumael and Fergie showed up to support their trainer, Don Brooks, who unveiled his meal system, the Matrix Meal System. Other celebs that were present included appl.de ap (Black Eyed Peas) and Dylan Walsh. (Nip/Tuck, Secretariat) Oh, and did I mention that I randomly saw my brother, Andrew, at the event? LOL.

I had no idea that Fergie would be there, and was just floored with how down-to-earth and kind she was! I mean, we talked for a short period of time, but she was loving the fact that I’m also a blogger and comedienne. Anyway, I’m not a name dropper, but thought that it was to be noted that she was super nice and had zero attitude. Here’s a pic of us, and the lighting is so weird, but whatever!

And just wanted to embed my favorite video from Fergie which is probably ‘Big Girls’ Don’t Cry.’ Simple and soulful. My fave.

Talking Writing, Digging from your Well, and Hollywood with Story Consultant, Jen Grisanti

March 4, 2011 in hollywood, Writing, Yoga

We all have a story. Whether its a quaint anecdote about how you used to make blueberry pancakes with your grandmother every Saturday morning or perhaps a story about the heartbreak you experienced after losing your first love, we’re all storytellers in our own way. When I tackled my first screenplay at NYU, I made about a billion mistakes and had no clue what I was doing, but the more I kept at it, revising and re-working the project, it got better. But the difficulty usually lies in how to full develop the story and characters as well as trying to find that nugget of truth that everyone can relate to, which is where the talents of Jen Grisanti come into play. Jen is a Story/Career Consultant, Instructor for NBC’s ‘Writers on the Verge, has covered shows at Spelling Television Inc. including Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, and Charmed, and is a former VP of Current Programming at CBS/Paramount working on diverse shows from Medium, NCIS, Numbers, 4400 and Girlfriends.

But life led her on a different path once she embarked on her own business, starting the Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc. in 2008 and she now uses her Entertainment Exec. experience to guide writers to shape their material, sharpen the pitches, and focus on their career goals. She’s helped her writers get staffed as writers on TV shows as well as selling pilots that have gone to series. And the woman had time to write a book called, ‘Story Line: Finding the Gold in Your Life Story,’ which I quickly read and thought it was the type of book you could read over and over again because you’d find something each time that would help you expand the depth of your story and characters. I was lucky enough to chat with this busy lady….

Hey Jen, how are ya? So, thanks for your time and let’s get down to it. You went straight from USC to working for Aaron Spelling, famed producer of ’90210′ and ‘Melrose Place.’ How did you get that job and what kept you there for so many years?
Hey there. Yes, I actually got my job at Spelling Television Inc. through The Friedman Agency, a job placement agency for people in the Entertainment industry. But Aaron Spelling is what kept me there. He was my mentor for 12 years. Climbing the ladder in Current Programming kept me on my toes doing the thing that I love most in the world, developing story.

Very cool. You don’t seem jaded at all. You’re quite positive and focus on the inspirational and positive in your book. What keeps you that way?

First, I’d have to say that I was born with a positive attitude or at least, this is the story my mom tells me. To stay positive, I do a lot of yoga, spinning, meditation and I go to church. All of these things refuel me. I feel like you have a choice in some life situations, you can be a victim and stay in the wound or you can get back up, learn from it and do better the next time. I choose the later.

So true. And, I love your HuffPo blog posts that are really not just for screenwriters. You focus on how everyone is a writer as long as they connect to others through their personal story. One of my favorites is “Your Story is Your Key to Success in Business Presentations.”
Yes, I believe that telling story is something we all do everyday, all day no matter what business we are in. By empowering the storyteller in all businesses with the tools to how to best tell their story, I feel that it will lead to success. Story is the key to connecting with your audience. This is why I choose to broaden my brand through these blog posts. It’s also considering the audience for The Huffington Post. You want to write something that will interest the majority in some way or as Jerry Weissman, whose book I site in this blog, you want to think about “What’s In It For You?” This phrase is referring to your audience.

Let’s talk about the post, “Finding the Gold in Your Story.” This seems to be the logline/theme of your book, ‘Story Line: Finding the Gold in Your Life Story,‘ right? You talk about It is about coming from an authentic place, connecting with your life experience and bringing your voice into your characters. With all your years at Spelling Inc, and CBS/Paramount, working with story development and writers, what do you think is the biggest mistake that first time writers make in terms of using their personal story to write a universal story?
Yes, writing a log line and the exercise Log Line For Your Life are definitely themes in my book and a large part of everything I teach about story. The mistake that some first time writers make is that they write from an autobiographical place versus understanding the process of adding fiction to their truth. This is what my book ‘Story Line’ is all about. I take you through the process of how you learn to draw from your emotional well for inspiration and then how you craft it into your character by using the truth of the emotion but fictionalizing it into the story of your character.

Finding your voice is something else I cover in my book. By writing a fictional story from a truthful place of emotion, you will find your voice. Knowing the value of your story within your writing and learning how to use it in a universal way versus an autobiographical should be one of the goals of the storyteller. When you write from an autobiographical place, you are too close to your story. It’s harder to understand how to hit the pivotal moments in your story if this is not how they happened in your life. Bottom line, our lives are not that interesting as they are. It’s when we learn to add drama and imagination to our life experience that the true magic begins.

Wow. I never really thought of it that way. Point taken and noted. :) So, let’s talk about rejection which is a touchy subject that a lot of us know about. What advice do you have for performers/writers/anyone who is not getting the feedback that they are looking for? What advice have you given for the writers you’ve worked with that may not have gotten staffed or their pilot didn’t sell?

My advice is to listen to the constructive criticism and work harder. Learn not to shut down. Be open enough to hear the criticism. The gift of being a writer is that you have the power through your writing to change anything. Directors and actors don’t have this power as much as writers do. So, if your spec is not hitting, figure out how you can writer it from a stronger place so that it does stand out on the executive’s desk that has hundreds of scripts to read.

Most pilots don’t sell. This is just the cold hard fact. So, when you write your pilot, you have to think of so many things but two important things are is this a concept that could sell in the current market? And, if this doesn’t sell, will it serve me well to get me staffed on the shows that I would like to be staffed on? Another tip I am learning that is helping pilots sell is does your central character have a strong back story that provides irony to the concept? Could you reveal that back story and have it parallel the professional story in your pilot? Examples of this are in THE GOOD WIFE, MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD and the BBC show, LUTHER.

For more about Jen, CLICK HERE TO GO TO HER WEBSITE or FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER.
(Part 2 of this interview will be posted next week)

Top 5 Ways To Know You’re in Koreatown

November 17, 2010 in comedy, hollywood, LA

Have you ever been in Koreatown or K-town in Los Angeles? If you ever get confused while driving in LA, and you come across the below signs, you may be in K-town.


Streets named after Ivy League Universities- I don’t know what it is about us Korean folk and the love of the Ivies, whether they be Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, but there is definitely an obsession. This is obviously the perfect reason why there needs to be a street named after an Ivy League University especially for those of us that didn’t get into one. AHEM.

Double Language Signs- No, you’re still in LA. I promise you.  I talk about how Korean names don’t sound good in English in my stand up. Here is Exhibit A.


Driving Ranges in the Middle of the City- Korean Moms/Dads love golf, especially wearing expensive golf gear to go to the local driving range or golf course.


There is a Korean BBQ joint or Karaoke Bar/Club on almost every corner- Korean people love to BBQ.  We love fire-grilling beef, chicken, or pork and wrapping it in crisp lettuce, dipping it in red pepper sauce and devouring every delicious bite.  When I stopped being vegan, this was one of the first things I did: Go to Korean BBQ.  But remember that you will reek of meat when leaving the restaurant.


Places open 24 Hours. This is the norm in NYC, but not so much here in LA. Except in K-Town. Or Swingers on Beverly. It’s a weird, but comforting thought that IF you really want to…you could get a bowl of spicy tofu soup at 4:36 AM. Don’t you agree?

Meeting at G4 TV

September 29, 2010 in Acting, hollywood, TV Show

I had a meeting with the folks over at G4TV today. Um…if I had an on-camera job over there, would you watch?

BTW, this is the way that everyone thinks my name is spelled. The actual spelling of my name, Kathrien, is not logical and of course, was a mistake that the nurse made on my birth certificate. Oh nurse, were you drunk or something when you were doing my paperwork?

Love the feed!

A Little ‘Glee’ and Puck Action at Beso

September 23, 2010 in Acting, hollywood, Influencers, LA

Last night I ended up going to Beso for a BBM event and met Ashley of the cute fashion blog, Pursuit of Shoes, and um… we ended up meeting Mark Saling or “Puck” of my current favorite show, “Glee.” He was super down-to-earth, and was sporting that mohawk that LA guys seem to sport.


Here was the scene:
INT. BAR/RESTAURANT-NIGHT
Super crowded lounge filled with uber trendy people. Ashley and I spot Mark and immediately talk about our love of the show.
ME: OMG. Your rendition of Jigga’s “Empire State of Mind? was one of my favorite parts of the premiere.
MARK: Cool.
God, I’m cheesy. Whoops.

And next week is the infamous Britney episode and also…Paramore! DUDE..I’d love to guest-star on this show as the crazy Asian rap girl. Sigh. Check out the clip below.

When You Need to Get Away…

August 29, 2010 in hollywood, LA, Life

So if you’ve seen my stand up routine, you might know that my parents live with me. No, this is definitely not by choice, but by necessity. I made a joke out of something that has weighed down on my shoulders for quite some time now. I mean what would you do if your mom or dad called you one day and said, “We don’t have anything. We’re coming to LA to live with you.”

Your 20′s are meant for struggling, figuring out who you are, getting drunk or high, trying out different things that you’d probably like to forget, spending way too much time on social networking, dating lots of stupid bad boys or maybe just spending too much time on online dating sites, but mostly, it is the time for you to make mistakes. You’re no longer newbies, but you don’t yet have the responsibilities of a family or mortgage. Until you do. The thing is, I’m a family gal. Family has always been really important to me, but its hard to try to figure out your own path while your super conservative Korean parents live with and depend on you.

People are always surprised when I tell them about why I love to perform, do comedy, blog, or sing. And the truth is that…when I do those things, I don’t have to answer to anyone. I’m literally listening to my own voice without anyone telling me their opinions about who I should be and its definitely freeing.

I did write a manifesto about being positive, but it gets really hard sometimes. You worry all the time about what the future holds, you wonder if you will always have a positive outlook when things look really bleak, and you ask yourself if you’ll always be worrying about what will happen with your parents. Granted, I pray a lot which helps me, but that doesn’t mean that life worries completely disappear. I know that my family isn’t the only one that is going through rough times given our country’s Economic climate, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get wistful when seeing my friends live that fun 20-something life.

Thank God for views like this though. Whenever life gets to be too much, I like to escape to places where I’m completely surrounded by serene beauty of nature. Then, my mind gets clear and all is well…for now. Ya heard?