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I COULD LEAN ON HIM FOR ANYTHING: Taking The First Steps Toward Scripted TV

Posted By Wei Ling Chang, Friday, June 5, 2015
After a three-year odyssey producing and directing my first feature film, The Unlikely Girl, I felt like I had aged 10 years but knew that there was nothing else I’d rather do. My husband found this strange. Still, he agreed to move with me from NYC to LA so I could pursue more head-banging challenges. 

Since I caught the fiction bug, I decided to take a break from producing reality TV (like A&E’s The First 48 and Parking Wars, and MTV’s Made) and focus on narrative film and scripted TV. Breaking in has been difficult since I knew next to nobody in scripted TV and had no idea where to start. So when the PGA Mentoring Program opened for applications, it was like the U.S. Coast Guard finally answered my distress call. 
I asked to be paired with a showrunner experienced in one-hour dramatic series and someone who is also a writer. The interview process for the program was a lot less scary than my field shoot at Utah’s Supermax Prison; it was warm, friendly, and fun. 

I ended up being paired with Kirk Ellis, an Emmy-winning showrunner, best known for the miniseries John Adams. couldn’t have done a better job. Right from the start, Kirk and I gelled. He is smart, worldly, approachable and generous with his time. I felt especially blessed when he told me that I could lean on him for anything. The tiny drama queen in me even might have shed a tear.

During the mentoring cycle, we met for coffee and kept in touch via text and email. When I had a little manager dilemma, Kirk was on hand to guide me, telling me to go with my gut but to make sure that the manager could lay out a tentative strategy for my work. When I was in a bind to find someone to negotiate a writer/director agreement for me, Kirk introduced me to his lawyer, who has since become my lawyer.
Because we are both writers, we also bonded on a creative level. On a few occasions when I’ve completed a new script, Kirk would offer to read it and give me his feedback. You can’t do better than notes from an Emmy-winning writer. Thanks to Kirk’s guidance, I am now one step closer to my goal of breaking into scripted TV, having completed a TV pilot script and show bible. 

Long after the mentorship cycle ended, we are still in contact. In fact, from the start, Kirk told me that the mentorship could be as long as I wanted it to be. It’s funny, after all of the business cards you collect at networking and social events—few generate relationships as meaningful as the ones you can find through the PGA Mentoring Program. I can’t wait to be a mentor myself and give back when I am seasoned enough to do so.

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