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A Discussion with Screenwriter John Glenn on the Importance of Being Inspired by Those Around You

John Glenn is an American screenwriter, producer, investor and director. John currently resides in San Marino, California. He launched his screenwriting career in 1999, when he sold his spec script Red World to Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Pictures[1] in a multi-studio bidding war. Since, he has scripted original films for every major studio, handled production rewrites, produced and directed film, and created […]

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John Glenn
John Glenn

John Glenn is an American screenwriter, producer, investor and director. John currently resides in San Marino, California.

He launched his screenwriting career in 1999, when he sold his spec script Red World to Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Pictures[1] in a multi-studio bidding war. Since, he has scripted original films for every major studio, handled production rewrites, produced and directed film, and created Television at myriad of major networks.

Over the course of his extensive career, Glenn has developed, sold, and produced over two dozen projects to every major network, including ABC,[3][4] NBC,[5] CBS,[6] and Fox.[7] Prior to taking over SEAL Team, John Glenn’s production company, John Glenn Entertainment, was based at NBC/Universal on the Universal studio lot.[8] During Glenn’s successful 4-year tenure with NBC/Universal, he sold and produced multiple projects, and served as Executive Producer on the NBC drama, Allegiance.[9] Glenn moved his company to CBS in September 2017.[10]

FILM CAREER

John Glenn has scripted feature films for every major studio, including  Journey to the Center of the EarthClash of the TitansLaw Abiding Citizen and The Lazarus Project (which Glenn wrote and directed.) In 2008, he delivered a page one rewrite of Eagle Eye that Steven Spielberg attached to direct.[11] Glenn also worked on re-imaginings for Blade Runner with producer Bud Yorkin,[12] and for The Warriors with director Tony Scott.[13]

Glenn has partnered with producers such as Mark Gordon,[14] Peter Chernin,[15] Beau Flynn, Bert Salke,[16] Richard ZanuckAndrew LazarStephanie Savage, David Janollari, Mary ParentDavid HobermanTodd LiebermanEllen DeGeneresMark BurnettRoma Downy,[17] and Kurtzman-Orci,[18] amongst others. He has worked with notable directors such as Steven SpielbergM. Night Shyamalan,[19] Paul W.S. Anderson,[20] Tony ScottDJ CarusoMcG,[21] Justin LinF. Gary Gray, and actors Charlize Theron,[22] Sophia Bush,[23] Eva LongoriaPaul WalkerMarcia Gay Harden,[16] Chaz PalminteriVirginia Madsen,[24] Jason O’Mara,[25] Colin O’DonoghueDavid Boreanaz,[9] John Cusack, and Angela Bassett,[26] to name a few.

Step # 2: Choose and answer any 8-10 of the questions below and answer in much detail as possible.

2. What do you love most about the industry you are in?

What I love most about what I do for a living is that it’s multi-faceted and ever changing.  In a typical day, I’m writing, managing budgets, dealing with all sorts of creative people and their needs, from directors, actor, Production Designers, other writers as well as the studio or network.  When I’m not running a show, I’m creating shows and filling all of the extra time I have with passion projects.  Recently I’ve had the time to do just that.  So I wrote a spec pilot I love; funded a ed-tech project that demystifies the essay writing process for kids who struggle with writing; and partnered with a renown creative force to start an animation division of my business.

4. What keeps you motivated?

Ideas, voices, and stories.  I love to see what happens when you create a world and inhabit it with characters.  Even though I am creating and writing said world, I find it fascinating to almost step back and watch how characters interact and listen to what they say.  They do come alive, and they do have their own wants, desires, and motives.  Once you know who they are, it’s almost like they know who they are, and they live, and talk, and do things that are often surprising. 

6. How has your company grown from its early days to now?

I never set out to start a company.  I just wanted to be left in a room alone and write, and be paid for it.  And that was my early career, writing movies.  Around 2007, I ventured into TV, and that’s when I began to take seriously the idea of building my own business, which was primarily centered around taking ideas I have and giving them to other high-level writers.  In this role I became a Non-Writing Executive Producer, so I could triple the amount of projects I had, which had the effect of accelerating my learning curve and becoming better and better at developing and producing.  This tack lead to my first company deal at NBC / Universal a decade or so back. 

9. How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

The whole work life balance thing isn’t always realistic.  I live in LA, maybe the most obscenely expensive school in the States.  Everything here costs far too much.  Housing is ridiculous.  Gas, food, it’s all taxed beyond crazy.  The Public Schools, by and large, do not work, so when you have kids, you have to factor in private school for them.  I moved into a neighborhood known for fantastic public schools, and that worked for us until my oldest hit high school.  Unfortunately, in LA, I think everyone works more than they probably would like to.  Certainly for anyone who is a writer/producer/creator, it’s at least a 50 hour a week job – more when in production.   What I committed to long ago was getting up around 4:00 AM, writing very early, doing business post 11 o’clock, and being home to have dinner with my family.  I stopped working 7 days a week about a decade ago, but writing is tough and time consuming, add any element of production to it and you’re working 12 hour days usually.  But if you love it, it’s not very difficult.  It’s a gift. 

11. What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

If you want to be a writer, write every single day.  You have the choice on what to write, so choose wisely.  Try to find an idea that has some scope to it, some core notion that’s different and will stand out.  Don’t start big, start with a fantastic character and then lead the character into the concept.  If you want to be a producer, get a hold of IP or a script people want.  Befriend as many writers as possible and help them develop spec scripts.  I also think working inside of an agency is a fantastic way to figure out a path in the business if you’re not sure what you really want to do.  You start in the mail room, eventually hoping to make it onto an agent’s desk, but once you make it there, you’ll learn more in a year on the inside than 5 on the outside. 

12. What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

I haven’t overcome it.  It’s the blank page.  Staring at a blank page every time I begin a new project still feels like it did when I wrote my first script 25 years ago; terrifying.  Like maybe this is the time when you simply are terrible and can’t get it done.  It’s not insecurity, because at a certain point, you know you’re good.  At this point, I’ve sold over 60 film and television projects… but still that blank page is just a nightmare.   

14. What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment?  That I’m still here, making a living.  I don’t come from money or privilege, so to make it in this business, and to do well, it’s a gift.  I’ve worked extremely hard for years, but to be here and still working, it’s something I’m very grateful for

15. What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?

Be true to yourself creatively.  Don’t try to write like your heroes.  Try to be better than them.  To be good, to have an original or genuine voice in the creative arts, you have to love what you do.  It doesn’t mean it will be easy, in fact, I can guarantee you that it won’t be, not if you really want to be good.  But you have to love it.  You have no chance if you don’t.  So if you don’t love writing, quit writing now and focus on something else.  If you don’t love the idea of producing, move away from it and focus on something else.  There are so many unique and interesting careers to be had in entertainment.  Don’t overlook being an agent or an executive, frankly, some of the most creative people I know are film / TV agents and executives. 

16. What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

Be very careful about who you trust in Hollywood.  When the chips are down, when you hit a rough spot, and you will, take note of who is there for you and who is not.  It’ll surprise you. 

17. Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

It’s a cliché, but my family and friends.  My church and my community.  I’m a practicing Catholic, proud of it, and at the end of the day, most of what you have that matters is what you have that’s closest to home.

20. Explain the proudest day of your professional life.

When I sold my first script, a feature called RED WORLD, to Jerry Bruckheimer.  I was ironing my work shirt, readying myself for another bartending shift.  I got the call and it changed my life.  I didn’t blow out of my job, though.  Didn’t tell my boss to shove it.  I actually worked for another month, because I really liked bartending.  Oddly, I miss it at times.   

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