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MENTORING MATTERS - Always Moving Forward: Moving From Nonfiction To Scripted Features

Posted By Karyn Benkendorfer, Thursday, March 31, 2016

I knew from the time I was 11 years old that I wanted to be a filmmaker. I have had many amazing opportunities in the industry including working at the studios—directing, writing and producing for nonfiction television and documentaries. I’ve also had opportunities as a member of the PGA. One that I’m most grateful for has been participating in the Mentoring Program.

After optioning an original theatrical screenplay, I wanted to find out more about the process of how to get a feature film made. What does it take to get a film from script to screen? How do you make that crossover from producing nonfiction television and documentaries to feature-length fiction films?

As part of my "quest for knowledge,” I applied to the PGA Mentoring Program. I vividly remember the day I found out that my mentor was Lauren Shuler Donner, whose impressive credits include You’ve Got Mail, Free Willy, The Secret Life of Bees, and X-Men. I was thrilled. I reached out immediately to her office to set up a meeting, then started preparing my questions and doing my research. I wanted to be respectful of her time and knew that I needed to go in well prepared.


We met at Lauren’s office. I have to admit, at first I was a bit nervous, but once we started talking, I quickly felt at ease and the conversation flowed naturally. Lauren asked me about my work as a nonfiction/documentary producer/writer and about my other projects. She was supportive and insightful and encouraging. 

Lauren helped me to understand how the skills I have as a nonfiction/documentary producer and writer translate to working in feature film. For certain, I knew I’d bring to the table dedication, tenacity and loyalty, along with a keen sense of humor and the ability to roll with the punches. She was open to my many questions, and I appreciated that she was so forthcoming. Our conversation was exactly what I had hoped it would be. After our meeting, I knew I was on the right track and I just had to keep at it and move forward, even if it took years.

As our mentoring period came to an end, Lauren graciously offered to help me in any way she could and left the door open for continued communication. I honestly can’t thank Lauren enough for her time and encouragement. She helped me realize the possibilities we have as filmmakers and that with persistence, our dreams can come true.

I am grateful to my Guild and to my colleagues who dedicate their time to the Mentoring Committee. It is an invaluable program! Thank you.

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