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MENTORING MATTERS - In Praise of Nice People: Want To Develop Great Reality TV? Love The Format.

Posted By Brenda Brkusic, Thursday, June 9, 2016

Over the last decade, I’ve had many rewarding experiences as a producer, and I’ve been fortunate to work with some great mentors along the way. As the Executive Producer of Program Development and National Productions for PBS SoCal, I am responsible for directing the development, production, national distribution and promotion of high-quality programming on public broadcasting. I’ve been the executive producer on many programs and series for which I have won multiple Emmy Awards. But after a decade in this very specific world, I was curious to know how this type of work is handled by executives outside of public broadcasting. I applied to the PGA Mentoring Program with the hope that this knowledge would help me take my career to the next level.

I was thrilled when I found out that David Eilenberg, SVP of Unscripted Development, Late Night, and Specials for TNT and TBS, agreed to be my mentor. Prior to working there, David was involved with the development of shows such as Shark Tank, The Voice, and The Apprentice for Mark Burnett. Working with David was exactly what I needed to give me the different perspective I was seeking.

During our mentorship, David took the mystery out of the unknown and gave me a better understanding of the "big picture.” We talked about the benefits and challenges of developing programming for a production company versus a network or studio. David described the qualities he looks for in a development executive; "I like working with nice people,” he said, noting that personality, confidence and enthusiasm for the genre are all important. We discussed the value of my experience and the typical compensation for this type of industry work. Between meetings, David took the time to look at my written work and video productions, and offered feedback and recommendations. In comparing best practices and strategies, I found that we shared many similarities. There were also areas where we differed in structure and approach and it was beneficial to analyze the pluses and minuses of each method. For instance, we discussed how my current role requires me to oversee a series from development through production, post-production,distribution and marketing, and we discussed how the dynamics of my job would change if I was only responsible for one of those areas.

In the end, I was most inspired by David’s leadership style, kindness and willingness to extend himself to others. David has continued to stay in touch with me since the conclusion of the program, and now at his new post as President of ITV Entertainment. I am grateful that the PGA paired me with a mentor who has taken an ongoing, genuine interest in my professional development. Thank you to the PGA Mentoring Committee and to David Eilenberg for giving me this very rewarding mentorship experience.

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