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MENTORING MATTERS - No Plan? No Problem: A Great Mentor Can Guide Your Curiosity To Constructive Places

Posted By Molly Perkins, Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Four years ago, when I drove west out of my parentsdriveway in Tupelo, MS, I had no idea where my hoped forTV career would take me. Now as a producer on an award-winning weekly network show, I still wonder.

I have worked for three seasons as an associate producer on CBSs The Henry Fords Innovation Nation with Mo Rocca. I have been with the show since day one, and our small team built a successful educational and informational (E/I) program that has won two Emmys. Fast forward to today and Im now a producer on Season 4. This show and my colleagues have taught me an immense amount about how to be an effective producer for non-scripted television. I am grateful for all I have learned here. However I am curious about other genres and how to jump the tracksinto scripted, narrative content, both film and television.

I applied to the PGA 2017 Mentoring Program in search of some general advice, insight and direction. I was delighted to be paired with Mara B. Waldman, Vice President, Production at Comedy Central. Mara has enjoyed a successful and varied career for over 20 years, with work that ranges from scripted television and film to documentaries and talk shows.

When I first contacted Mara, she was prompt and courteous despite her hectic schedule, and we arranged a lunch meeting soon after. In the meeting, I came clean: I do not know where I want to be in five or 10 years, and thats what I need help with. I do not have a specific goal, but more of a curiosity about other genres, larger productions, different workflows and how my strengths as a non-scripted producer can best support these. I was in need of advice on how I might fit into other projects and genres, at what level and how to get there.

Firstly, Mara reassured me it was okay to not have a five- or 10-year plan mapped out. She said my next step is simply that: a step. She gave me excellent points regarding industry structure and practical advancement—the type of information that can only come from a veteran. She also shared what her day-to-day is like as VP of production on a variety of shows. We discussed which types of shows generate more fires and stresses on productions as a whole. This candid conversation helped rule out some areas of previous interest, as well.

Mara also gave me some assignments: attend Movie Magic Budgeting and Scheduling workshops and start tinkering with budgets. These assignments were intended to bolster my existing skills with specific expertise needed to help facilitate a transition to scripted television and film.

Though I came to Mara with an open book of aspirations, she was able to direct my efforts to specific tasks, strengthening my repertoire for my next move. She is gracious and approachable, and I look forward to future meetings.

The PGA Mentoring Program provides an unprecedented opportunity to get one-on-one time with an industry veteran whose only interest is the success of the mentee. Its a truly wonderful benefit and I look forward to a continuing professional relationship with Mara.

Tags:  mentoring matters 

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