Vanessa Parise on How to Sell a TV Show and Live to Tell About It
By: Jenna Milly | May 22, 2014
Vanessa Parise is an actress, writer and director. Her films Kiss the Bride and Jack and Jill vs. the World hit the indie world with a bang, but what she really wanted to do was get a TV show on the air. And finally, this pilot season, that dream became a possibility when her spec The New Twenty hit the market, and she soon discovered she had not one but two offers. Script sat down with Parise to discuss how she went from the world of features into television and kept her wits about her while making a deal that could eventually have her show on the air.
Script: What is The New Twenty about?
Vanessa Parise: The New Twenty is a single-camera comedy. Sex and the City meets Modern Family. Three girls from the same high school end up where they never imagined being in their late 30s, single and living together – and quickly realizing they are better together as they form their own modern-day family, replete with teen kids. It’s about blowing apart the picture we have in our heads about what our lives are supposed to look like and embracing the truth of what is. It’s about living today, as women and men who have been given so many opportunities – and finding our own personal brands of happiness and fulfillment as we approach our midlives (crisis anyone?) in this brave new world.
Script: What’s your writing process like? Describe how/where you get your creative inspiration.
Vanessa Parise: I start with the big idea. What do I want to say? What am I noticing in my life right now that is of most interest to me? And then I begin to carve out a story, where different characters offer opposing perspectives, and I start to question that big idea. To tear it apart, look at it from all sides, and then piece together an opinion. With a TV show, it’s particularly fun to do this because each episode can explore a different theme that is part of the big idea.
Script: What do you do after you’re finished writing and it’s time to go out with the script? How does that work?
Vanessa Parise: After finishing this script last month, I sent it to my (fantastic) new reps to read. They really liked it, so we got together with my showrunner to discuss the best places to go with it — depending on time of year, who was making female-driven comedies, and who was looking for new material.
Script: What did you do when you found out you had not one but two offers?
Vanessa Parise: My experience with The New Twenty has been the most flowing of my career to date. The response has been so enthusiastic, and it feels great to get YESes rather than a heap of NOs. I’m very appreciative!
Script: How will you navigate this sale?
Vanessa Parise: I am looking at the pros and cons of each, most especially to determine where the show will most likely go to series. Also, what other shows are on the network, and if they are akin to ours.
Script: What’s next for you?
Vanessa Parise: My highest priority and focus is to make the pilot of The New Twenty – and to make it so funny and resonant that we will go to series. I am also turning in the screenplay treatment to a book adaptation this week, and I have two other feature scripts in development, one of which I will direct. I am directing an MOW (movie of the week) next month. And we are closing another TV development deal.
Script: What advice would you give to future TV and film writers?
Vanessa Parise: This has been a long time coming… so persevere, follow your heart, and eventually it will pay off!
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