Television, radio and film (TRF) faculty members Keith Giglio and Ben Frahm are also working screenwriters, often bouncing stories off each other in the Newhouse faculty and staff lounge. Giglio has written films like “Return to Halloweentown” and was a producer on “A Cinderella Story.” Frahm was a story consultant on DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” and his original script, “Dr. Sensitive,” sold to Universal Studios.
Success in the past doesn’t mean resting on your laurels, however. “Dear Christmas,” Giglio’s holiday romantic comedy written with his wife, Juliet, will air on Lifetime Nov. 27, while Frahm’s newest screenplay was recently optioned by Imagine Entertainment producer Bobby Cohen.
With so much in common, it makes sense that Giglio and Frahm would form a strong friendship while teaching together at Newhouse.
“I missed having a writing buddy to talk to,” says Giglio about Frahm, who joined the TRF faculty in 2014. For the past few years, the two have had weekly coffee meetings to catch up on campus happenings and talk writing.
“We figured out [that] we went up for the same writing job against each other. Something called ‘Fast and the Furriest’,” says Frahm, laughing. “Neither of us got it.”
As working writers, both professors have to make time outside of their teaching schedules to write screenplays. This past year, while Frahm was teaching from home due to the pandemic, he put his extra free time into a new script.
“I wrote this script in two weeks,” says Frahm. “The project is still in the early stages of development. It’s exciting to have Imagine on board, as they will offer clout and relationship to the packaging and producing process.”
As for Giglio, he’s been co-writing Christmas movies with Juliet for the past three years, and they have recently signed a two-book deal with a publisher to write romantic comedies.
“I got a call about writing a Christmas movie,” says Giglio. “My wife and I always worked on romantic comedies together. So, we drove down to New York, pitched it [to the producer] [and] by Monday we pitched to the network. In a few weeks, we had a deal and greenlight to make the movie. It was called ‘A Very Nutty Christmas.’”
Giglio and Frahm bring their successes to the classroom in hopes of teaching students how Hollywood and screenwriting really work.
“I feel like our experiences in the industry can [inform] our work in the classroom,” says Frahm. “It’s fun to blur those lines and get students excited about what’s out there.”
But with success comes hard work, and Frahm does his best to make that clear to his students.
“At the age of 25, I sold a script for quarter of a million dollars to Universal, and I was like, ‘This is easy,’” he says. “But I try to tell them about the struggle. You know ‘The King’s Speech?’ That took 30 years to happen. So we spend energy [talking] about the story behind the story. I think [that] can be beneficial, to not sugarcoat it.”
Giglio agrees. “It’s about doing the work,” he says. “There’s a [misconception about] Hollywood that people are just soaking under the sun having fun. Maybe. But they’re also working really hard. I think Ben and I try to teach the grind of how to sit down and break a story [and] we try to emulate that in the classroom.”
With their new projects in the works, Giglio and Frahm both feel that sharing their experiences in class is a form of paying it forward.
“You get on an elevator. It gets you to the top. You’ve got to send it back down for the next person,” says Giglio.