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A Script for Success From Wellsburg to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — When most youngsters were watching “Sesame Street” and “The Muppets Show” on TV, a young Jay Cipriani was fascinated to know how these shows were made.

Cipriani, a Wellsburg native, took that childhood curiosity to a new level when he began writing his own shows. Even at a young age, Cipriani said he was more interested in the behind the scenes of school productions. He dabbled in film-making and puppet shows. He then began writing radio shows and other scripts.

“I always liked movies. When I was watching ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘The Muppets’ I was watching in a different way. I wanted to know how they made it work,” Cipriani recalled.

And when he found a Life magazine at his grandmother’s house that carried a story about Jim Henson and Frank Oz, the masterminds behind those children’s shows, Cipriani was hooked.

By his high school years, Cipriani realized his hobby could transition into a profession.

After graduation from Brooke High in 1992, he went on to study at West Virginia University while also taking summer classes at New York University.

After graduating WVU in 1996, he moved to Los Angeles where he studied at the University of Southern California and pursued his love of writing.

Many of his movie scripts have seen fruition on the Hallmark Channel, especially those with a Christmas theme.

Currently, the pandemic has put a crimp in just about everything in the entertainment world.

This is frustrating as he hopes to expand his career into the area of directing. In addition to his writing, Cipriani teaches screenwriting at the New York Film Academy in Burbank, Calif.

“It’s kind of a miracle anything got made this year,” he observed. “Teaching has been a challenge, too. You can teach writing virtually, but there are things with cameras and lighting and stuff that you need to be hands-on with. “

His advice to future screenwriters is to never stop writing. In fact, he said to write every day.

Cipriani is expanding his writing genres to include horror films, sci-fi adventures and more. “I’m always writing different things. Right now I’m working on a romantic comedy, minus Christmas.”

Just this past week, Cipriani was contacted by Preston DeFrancis, another successful Ohio Valley talent working in the movie industry in California.

“I knew Preston went to USC, but we didn’t meet until now.. We got together and talked about Wheeling.”

The two reminisced about going to the movie theaters in downtown Wheeling.

“We talked about the old Victoria Theater and watching ‘Rocky 4’ there. I saw my first ‘R’ rated movie – ‘Friday the 13th, Part 5’ there. We didn’t appreciate the Vic until now … We talked about Towngate Theatre and all the cultural resources in Wheeling and Steubenville.”

He said the pandemic has forced all of us to reflect on what’s truly important in life.

Cipriani lives with his wife Theresa and their two children in Los Angeles.

He says while he has enjoyed success with his writing and screenplays, he feels he just “has his big toe in the door” of the industry but looks forward to new challenges when the pandemic eases.

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