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MENTORING MATTERS: The Write Move. Wisdom From A Sitcom Master

Posted By Ayser Salman, Thursday, January 28, 2016

I’m a producer/editor of promos and original content for the Weinstein Co. It’s a great gig, but I’ve found myself wanting to move into the scripted TV realm as a writer/producer. So I was thrilled when the opportunity came through the PGA to be matched with a mentor who was a writing television producer. I was hoping for some validation that I was on the right track, plus maybe a few words of wisdom. What I received from my mentor Matt Williams—creator of Roseanne and co-creator of Home Improvement—was that and so much more.

Matt and I met twice for 90-minute mentoring sessions. During the first meeting, I alternated between furiously taking notes and trying to absorb all of Matt’s wisdom. Of his storytelling advice, what stuck with me most was, "take what’s real, exaggerate it, and do it with heart and humanity.” Much of my work is inspired by my "spirited” Iraqi family, whose escapades don’t require much exaggeration. But this piece of advice has freed me up to really push the boundaries and reach a new level of comedy in my writing.

Our first session flew by. At the end Matt said, "Send me whatever you want me to read.” I looked around conspiratorially and then leaned in and whispered, "They told us not to ask you to read anything.” To which he bluntly replied: "Well, how am I supposed to help you if I’m not familiar with your work?” Point taken. Matt also introduced me to other established writers he knows, particularly women, whom he felt could better speak to my specific experience as a female creative in this town. The man is simply a wonderful advisor and all-around mensch.

My mentorship has ended but I keep in touch with Matt, who graciously continues to look at my work. While I’d like to say this speaks to my amazing talent, I think it’s more accurate to say it speaks to Matt’s character. I’m now at the point in my career where I’m being asked to speak to those younger than me and offer my own advice; for that, I draw on my experience with Matt. If I can be even a quarter of the advisor/mentor/supporter he’s been for me, I think I could stand a chance of being helpful to someone else.

So thank you Matt Williams, for making time and truly caring. And thanks especially to the Mentoring Committee and the PGA for making this program available to members. It’s truly an invaluable experience.

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