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OPEN DOORS - Looking Ahead To Summer Vacation: A Life-Changing Experience That's More Extraordinary Than Exotic

Posted By Sasheen R. Artis, Wednesday, January 22, 2020

While some cruise the Mediterranean and others shoot documentaries along the Amazon, each year a small group of creatives are selected to spend eight weeks during the summer in the PGA’s conference room in Beverly Hills.

It’s in these less-exotic digs that the magic happens. PGA Power of Diversity Master Workshop participants develop their film, TV, documentary and web series scripts and attend twice-weekly seminars led by some of our industry’s top producers. They learn the art of the pitch, how to hone their negotiation skills, and how to better understand the worlds of film finance, streaming and the TV writers’ room—all while being mentored by dedicated PGA members.

Now, this may not be your idea of a perfect summer vacation, but for alumni like Eugene Rhee (class of ’17) and Widad Shafakoj (class of ’19), it was transformative. Rhee is a screenwriter/producer and experienced post-production VFX supervisor who enjoyed success as a story consultant on the blockbuster film Fast Five prior to his time in the workshop. Shafakoj is a Jordanian filmmaker whose award-winning documentaries tackle tough social issues and challenge the status quo in the Middle East.

 
Eugene Rhee and Widad Shafakoj found the
Power of Diversity Master Workshop to be life-changing.

 

Describe your experience in the PGA Power of Diversity Master Workshop.

Rhee: Everyone was so positive and supportive, and there was such great camaraderie. I made wonderful friends who I’m still regularly in touch with, and who I can turn to for both practical and emotional support going forward—and that means something, especially in a business as competitive as this one.

Shafakoj: Participating in the workshop was the best decision I ever made. It gave me an intensive overview of filmmaking in Hollywood. The assignments are well thought-out, and the sessions are heavy in content. I was fortunate to meet some incredible producers, story analysts, managers and key figures in the industry.

 

Since completing the workshop, what are the steps you’ve taken to get your project made?

Shafakoj: I am currently in negotiations with award-winning producers I met through the workshop. I was also approached by one of the biggest talent agencies in LA for representation.

Rhee: I’ve produced two films over the past two years. One was for Blumhouse and Hulu, and the other was a Netflix Original film. The first film, called Flesh & Blood, was part of Hulu’s Into the Dark anthology of horror films. My other film was a rom-com (Despite Everything) that was based on an original script I co-wrote. It premiered globally on Netflix.

 

How did the workshop impact your career?

Rhee: The workshop really opened my eyes regarding producing diverse content. My experience also led me to become a Producers Guild of America member because I’ve developed a deep appreciation for what this organization is doing.

Shafakoj: Getting the chance to learn in the hub of the film industry, though sometimes overwhelming, helped me realize the infinite potential I have as a filmmaker. What I was personally exposed to would have taken more time and effort to acquire anywhere else in the world.

 

What advice you would give to someone considering applying to the workshop?

Shafakoj: Take advantage of everything provided to you, go the extra mile and make it worthwhile.

Rhee: So much of this business is about networking. Build relationships with other like-minded people in the industry. Focus on making friends with your fellow participants and see how you can help each other.

 

Applications for the class of 2020 open in February. Visit pgadiversity.org for more information.


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