Don’t follow trends. The steady predictability of working hard, treating people well, having talent and making efforts in your community will help you succeed. That’s a forever trend.
Jenny Frankfurt is the founder of, which is currently in its fifth year. Finish Line is based on the idea that rewriting is essential to being a successful writer and we provide development notes when requested in order for writers to rewrite and resubmit new drafts (for free) throughout the competition. This mimics a studio, network or production company process and helps the writer prepare for a serious career in the entertainment industry.
Prior to Finish Line and her work as a script consultant, Jenny was a film and television literary manager/producer with her own company, Highstreet Management based in Los Angeles. Highstreet represented writers around the globe, specializing but not limited to breaking UK, European & Australian writers and directors into the US market. She sold television shows (both reality and fiction), features and staffed television shows for almost 20 years.
Jenny began her career in representation after graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts by working at the William Morris Agency in New York where she worked for a legendary film, tv and playwright’s agent, who represented such writers as Eric Bogosian, William Mastrosimone, Warren Leight, Eric Overmyer and Jon Robin Baitz.
From NYC Jenny moved to Los Angeles where she worked at ICM with clients such as Susan Sarandon, Louis Malle, Johnny Depp, Lasse Hallstrom and Will Smith. After deciding management would give her more freedom to produce and influence her client’s careers she started working with manager Rick Yorn and clients such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Claire Danes and Benicio Del Toro among others.
Jenny tried her own hand at producing the independent feature JOHNNY HIT AND RUN PAULINE, to which Emma Thompson was attached as Executive Producer. Jenny then started working with manager Benny Medina at Handprint Entertainment, representing talent, literary and production clients. She soon became Head of Handprint’s Literary Department.
Besides representing writers and directors Jenny has the option on the book THE BEAST MUST DIE, written by Nicholas Blake in 1938.
Where did the idea for The Finish Line Script Competition come from?
After working as a literary manager for 20+ years and wanting to do something a bit different, I realized with my excellent skills at script development notes and my contact list throughout the industry, I would have a lot to offer if I created a script competition that focused on the writer and the process of rewriting; mimicking the studio or network development process. Rewriting intimidates a lot of writers and many script competitions don’t give substantial enough notes to help or they do it after the competition ends, which doesn’t help writers win. So, we thought we’d turn things on their head so writers would have more control over the outcome.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get up very early (5:30am) to get my son off to school. I walk the dog and take in the day and then meditate for 20 minutes (hopefully). Work wise I deal with social media planning and make sure we’re going to get all the notes that are needed out in time. So I look at our submissions and plan accordingly. I spend most the day, dealing with industry, getting winning/finalist and semi-finalist scripts out to people to read and then start on notes, which goes well into the night. It’s productive because I give writers a time line in which we will provide their note and I do all I can to stick to that.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I start with research. I love information. And I want to make sure I am educated and informed before I make a move, namely because this industry and life in general can be pretty unpredictable. When I know I have the answers, that’s when I start. And then I’m build on them as I see the need for the competition to work better or to serve the writers.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m not big into trends. I like the steady predictability that if you work hard, treat people well, have talent and make efforts in your community you will succeed. That’s a forever trend as far as I’m concerned. However, we are a competition that believes in giving back, which we do through notes and time and mentoring and we will be working more on that in this coming year, but it’s too soon to discuss it. The trend is social good and we’re all for it in life, on the page and on our screens.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I don’t allow myself to get weighed down by things I can’t control. I know my skills, I know how to make this competition the best it an be and I focus on that and building on that at all costs. Obstacles appear occasionally, but I don’t lose faith in the good of what I am doing and my ability to do it. It’s confidence that I haven’t always had, but which I have thrived in when I have had it. When I have had it has been when I know I am in the right place doing the right thing.
Some problems that arise I can help, some work themselves out and some are just things I have to accept and work around. But nothing stops me from doing my best; it’s just a sense of knowing what is your and what is someone else’s.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t compare yourself to other people. Compare=despair. And stop knocking on doors that don’t open for you. There is a time to push and a time to keep your dignity, knowing there is something or someone better out there for you.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
First thing, without a doubt, is that bananas are disgusting. Maybe others agree, but you’ll never get me to change my mind on that one.
The first is that with writing, there is always a way to tell a story that is not the norm, that is out of the 3 act structure and is avant- garde and off kilter. This is often the material I respond to the most because it shows creativity and courage. It’s believing in YOUR way to communicate a story and not sticking to a tried and true industry method that is too often adhered to and implored to follow. Take chances and in the Finish Line Competition we really reward those chances. Great writing does not need to follow a staid methodology just because it seems that that’s what the industry is looking for. In fact, many producers and executives I speak with are really looking for those special scripts so they too can take chances.
Secondly, there will be some who agree with this and other who don’t as with topic one above. But I am a persister. Sometimes to a fault. Because if I believe in something or someone, which isn’t easy to do over and over – we have to limit the energy we put out on someone or something, I am determined to have movement forward. I have been called a dog with a bone and I know that can get annoying sometimes but I have learned how to be persistent without being annoying I think. I have made mistake in this arena, but for the most part, it’s paid off and I believe it’s worth sticking your neck out when in this lifetime, you find something that you can feel healthily passionate about.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read. I read voraciously. Not just scripts, but books, magazines, articles, newspapers. I want to know the world around me and I want to be aware of material that might be out there that can be turned into filmed entertainment. I am constantly going over notes, research and contacts I have to find the best fit for everyone involved. It’s a process, the industry is ever changing and if you don’t keep up with it you’ll get left behind. It’s an industry of relationships, so keeping in touch and checking in now and then, professionally and personally matters. I’m lucky to have a great memory, but I take voracious notes about who is where and what they’re looking for. Understanding people and companies edicts prepares you and less time is wasted.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Focus on the core of what the screenwriting/TV pilot industry is about and that is writers. There is nothing on TV or in theaters that doesn’t start with a writer. Knowing writers, how they think and work; offering help and understanding some of their challenges whether they be financial, with perfecting elements of story craft or knowing how to be a business person after their material is finished is what is at the beginning and end of every day with Finish Line.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was a manager I took chances on clients, which I never think is a bad idea. But some of those chances turned into failures because the ideas I had were bigger than the assets of the people I was taking under my wing to represent. Falling in love with someone’s potential, when in fact there is nothing behind them but a ‘branding’ idea, is what has tripped me up in the past. So, time, effort, passion and work put into someone or work that crashed and burned? Painful for sure. How to overcome it? Recognize it takes time, talk it out with others who have experience in the situation and find someone else or a different piece of material to feel passionately about. It’s always something to remember, not not to sit in. Moving forward with hard won knowledge and lessons learned is key.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This is tough because I come up with great ideas that are more creative than business related, and those are what are I share with writers to help improve their scripts. This depends so much on what is already presented and what is needed to make the material stronger, more emotional, more visually powerful, etc. I’m always open to looking at where there is a opening or something lacking and filling it, like I did with Finish Line.
Many years ago, and I doubt I am the first person to have this idea, a friend and I looked into the idea of having nail salons in airports. Why aren’t they there? Having a spa to go to. With nails, hairdressing and massage, etc. when you’re stuck in an airport would be a great idea. Honestly, we looked into it and there was a reason why it wasn’t happening, but I cannot remember what it is. It’s an expensive idea because airport rental space is not cheap, but I think it would really make a lot of money. Someone please look into it!!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was a little over $100, but I took my (12 year old) son to see Cirque du Soleil at Dodger Stadium. I have seen them a few times and have always found the shows very moving and have often cried at the marvel of it. He was really astounded by the breadth of movement and story told in this fantastic and exciting way. To have him see how story can unfold in various, non-linear ways is moving for me, but also I want him to have experiences to remember, not just tangible hold in his hands gifts that will get lost or break or he’ll lose interest in.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I imagine a lot of people in the entertainment industry say IMDB.Pro, but it really is helpful. Other than that I have learned a lot this past year about fixing and adding to our website through WordPress, so I feel less dependent and am able to make changes in the moment. I’ computer savvy to a moderate degree, but never enough to be able to truly fix something in the moment. It’s a nice feeling to not have to wait for someone else to get things done.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
This is really out there for a site for entrepreneuers, but there is a book I have read many times called “From Survival to Recovery”. It’s about how everyone is surviving something we don’t know and it affects how they act, how they perform and the personal and professional relationships they have. While business is ultimately business, people are always part of it, and to have empathy not just for others, but forgiveness and sympathy for ourselves when we don’t achieve what we want or act as we hope is important. We all need to allow one another some space for our humanity. On a screenwriting and industry level, everyone must read “Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman.
What is your favorite quote?
I have a few, but for this topic it’s the same one that I had under my Senior picture in my High School yearbook. It came from the Breyer’s ice cream commercials I saw growing up – “When you care enough a dream can last a long, long time.”
- Research, read and be informed. When you have the answers, that’s when you start.
- Don’t follow trends. The steady predictability of working hard, treating people well, having talent and making efforts in your community will help you succeed. That’s a forever trend.
- Don’t get weighed down by things you cannot control.
- Knowing writers, how they think and work; offering help and understanding some of their challenges whether they be financial, with perfecting elements of story craft or knowing how to be a business person after their material is finished is what is important at the beginning and end of every day.
- Engage in ideas that are non-linear and help people see storytelling differently.