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MENTORING MATTERS - A Whole New Ball Game: A Great Mentor Will Let You Know If You Have "The Gene"

Posted By David Kaufmann, Friday, April 13, 2018

I applied for the PGA mentoring program during a time of great change and transition in my life. I had just quit my corporate job in New York City where I was handling the production, licensing and distribution of content for Major League Baseball and moved across the country to Los Angeles with the goal of producing independently. As a producer with a strong background in intellectual property, I sought out a mentor who had found success in acquiring and adapting elevated literary content and long-form journalism. I was matched with the wonderful Paula Mazur, producer of great films like Corinna Corinna, Nim’s Island, and most recently, The Man Who Invented Christmas. Since I was looking for someone to help me expand my horizons beyond my core experience in sports, she was a perfect fit.

Paula and I met for coffee and immediately hit it off when we learned that we were both born and raised in the great state of New Jersey. She was incredibly open with me about the ebbs and flows of her own career and the realities of life producing independently, especially how it would differ from my former corporate life (for better and for worse).

During our first meeting, she gave me some homework. I was to find four or five books that I loved, think about how they might be adapted and then bring them to discuss at our next meeting. That meeting was planned for an hour, but it turned into three, as we discussed every facet of each book. She helped me to think through the material as she did, not just in terms of story and character but also from a logistical and practical perspective. We went over every landmine that could come up during adaptation and production and spoke about how best to protect oneself throughout the process.

We set our third meeting for six weeks later, and I was determined to activate the advice that Paula had given me. During those weeks I acquired rights through shopping agreements (contracts that allow a producer the exclusive right to represent content on behalf of an author) to two new books and a fantastic newspaper article and began the process of adapting them with writers, with an eye on further packaging. During our third meeting, I ran through my progress and the roadblocks that I was facing. She gave me great practical advice based on experiences from her own career, like how best to give notes to a writer to achieve desired story results and keep a project moving forward.

As we got up from that meeting, she left me with some incredibly encouraging words: “You’ve got this; you have the gene. Keep going, keep pushing, keep trying. You will succeed.”

I feel lucky to have participated in the program and even luckier that I now have someone like Paula in my corner. I carry her advice and the confidence that she helped to instill with me every day, as I continue to work towards a long and successful producing career.

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