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MENTORING MATTERS - Eight Days On The Line: The PGA Shadow Program Offers Education Through Immersion

Posted By Andrea M. Reyes, Wednesday, October 17, 2018

There’s a large group of us in the PGA who were just cutting our teeth in scripted television when the 2007 writers strike hit. I am one of these. We work under the non-union umbrella and aim to produce scripted content, but the industry doesn’t know how to fit us in. Having worked my way up in reality television and now serving as the co-founder and non-writing executive producer of an independent scripted production company, I knew I needed practical knowledge and a reintroduction back to the scripted world.

When I found out veteran executive producer Harry Bring was offering a shadow opportunity, I knew I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to learn from. As a line producer turned executive producer, Harry has worked on notable episodic programs such as Melrose Place, X-Files and Army Wives. His current show, Criminal Minds, was where the shadow opportunity would be. Harry expressed his excitement in meeting me and complimented my current resume; I never told him, but that compliment meant so much and eased any nerves. Harry relayed I would be incorporated into one episode’s day-to-day schedule. For every episode, there are 15 days total from prep to shoot, and I was to be Harry’s shadow for eight of them.

The first prep day, the episodic director started with an all-department- head script read-through; Harry proudly introduced me and we were off and running! I joined in every meeting, including the location scout, tech scout, casting session and cast read-through. In between the meetingswe had opportunities to sit in his office and discuss what our job as line producer entails. My favorite line Harry shared that I will keep with me is, “Our job is to steer the ship. If it starts to pull, you work out the problem and get the ship back on track.”

It was eye-opening to recognize that the duties of a non-union vs union line producer are virtually the same, including budget creation and management, working with department heads and being the main contact for the network. One difference I noticed was the use of Movie Magic Scheduling by scripted producers. Given how “reality” has expanded over the years to include what we call “softly scripted” elements, wider training on MM Scheduling for reality line producers would be a great way to link them into the scripted world. I recognized my need to learn MM Scheduling and have already signed up for classes.

Harry offered to answer future questions that may arise whether I’m budgeting, scheduling or simply need guidance; for that gesture alone, I am grateful for this shadow opportunity offered through the PGA Mentoring Program. I hope I’ll be able to pay that experience forward to a fellow producer someday!

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