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MENTORING MATTERS - 'Madam' Becomes The Perfect Mentor: A Second Chance Leads To A First-Rate Opportunity

Posted By Gabrielle Pickle, Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Sometimes life takes a funny turn that leads to an incredible outcome. I am currently an Atlanta-based line producer in the feature world, but two years ago I started optioning and developing projects to take the next big step in producing. I also wanted to investigate crossing over into TV and learn more about the roles and interaction between showrunners and creative producers. So in September, I applied and did not make the selection for a shadow program in Atlanta. But as luck would have it, shortly thereafter, I received an email from the PGA, offering me an opportunity to interview for one that had suddenly become available in New York. Ten days later, I was walking onto the set of Madam Secretary to spend three days with Producer Lori McCreary. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Throughout my mentorship, I followed Lori around from soundstage to soundstage, meeting to meeting—working with actors on scenes, developing the next episode and handling issues with other producers. We sat in video village where I asked a million questions and took pages of notes. I wanted to know about everything: dealing with VIPs on her show (she had four secretaries of state in one episode!), working with the writers’ room, pitching to networks, juggling multiple projects, how she got Madam Secretary greenlit and if work-life balance is remotely possible for a producer. 

"Lori sent me a  
television pitch deck  
and asked for my notes.  
I felt like it was both  
a test and a compliment."  

The most standout advice Lori gave me was, “You have to figure out what the networks want and then develop a pitch so strong that it is harder for them to say no than to say yes. That’s how to get a green light for your project.” She also sent me a television pitch deck and asked for my notes. I felt like it was both a test and a compliment. 

Overall, the PGA Mentor Shadow Program was a fantastic experience. Since my mentorship ended, Lori has graciously continued to answer questions via email, and I’ve worked to implement her advice on pitches for both feature and TV projects. I’m already setting up meetings to get in the room and make them happen. And my coolest takeaway was discovering that Lori and I had so much in common. That amazed me because she is so accomplished and currently producing so many successful projects simultaneously. It inspired me to believe I can achieve the same in my own career. 

I am eternally grateful to the PGA for the opportunity to take part in its mentorship program. Thanks to the Guild, the future looks bright.


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