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MENTORING MATTERS - Starting From Scratch: A Good Mentor Helps You Get Down To The Essence Of Your Story

Posted By Whitney Hodack, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Over the course of my fledgling career in the entertainment industry I’ve held a variety of positions from production assistant to post coordinator to reality TV producer. Of late I can usually be found working in the production office on various scripted TV shows, most recently as the production supervisor for Adam Ruins Everything. When I met my PGA mentor, Jethro Rothe-Kushel, I had recently made the transition from reality television to scripted content. My aspirations were (and continue to be) to produce feature films, but I didn’t really have any idea how to make that happen.

During my five years working in reality TV, I had made my way up to story producer, predominantly working in post. I was given hours upon hours of shot footage from our field producers and would have to formulate a full episode from what they had obtained in the field. But when it came to contemplating how to produce a feature-length narrative, the idea of starting completely from scratch was daunting, and I couldn’t think of where to begin.

That’s where having a mentor who has produced features (especially low-budget ones) comes in handy! Having produced several features himself, Jethro fit the bill. For our first two meetings I had general questions for Jethro: How do you get started? What’s the day-to-day look like? What are the major responsibilities? However I really started to understand things when I applied his advice to a project I had in mind.

A friend of mine had written a short that she desperately wanted produced. She handed it over to me and I finally had something tangible to discuss with Jethro. At our next meeting I led our discussion with, “This is a low-budget to no-budget project; what can we do here?” He went through the script with me and helped me break it down to its very basics. What is the main premise? What are the most important ideas to get across? In turn, we discussed how I could redirect my writer to give me a script that conveys these ideas for a producible cost. We also brainstormed how I can help my director find creative ways to get these ideas across within the constraints of the budget.

With Jethro’s help I was able to look at the script differently and see the ways to make possible something that seemed insurmountable. The project is still on hold while we work to find money and crew, but I have a much clearer sense of direction in how to proceed to get this piece made.

Going forward, the questions Jethro helped me identify are the things I’ll consider when a new project comes along. Ultimately what I’ve learned is that being a good producer is all about collaborating in finding creative solutions to problems that arise throughout the filmmaking process, from pre-production all the way through post and supporting your team every step of the way.

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