Chris and I just got the best card from our friend Jason, who happens to be a very talented actor. His card thanks us for our friendship, for having been there for him, and for inspiring him again and again. He ends with the line – “You’re so in the Tony speech!” It made me laugh out loud. I knew what he meant.
We all need mentors, whether personal or professional. My first true Producing mentor was Rob Tapert at Renaissance Pictures. Rob never hesitated to answer my questions about how the TV business worked. As Rob’s assistant, I would get to stay on the line during many of his calls so I could take note of things I’d need to follow up on. Sometimes Rob would be getting notes from the Studio about scripts or edits of episodes. It was my first exposure to an essential part of the collaborative process, the give and take between the Studio (the buyer) and the Producer (the supplier). When Rob traveled down to New Zealand to be on set for “Hercules” and “Xena,” he took me with him, and I quickly learned how television production functioned. I was amazed at how many talents were involved in turning out the final product. Happily, those years with Rob yielded many great experiences, including some lasting friendships, a bit of writing, and even an acting role. (Amphion, the peaceful warrior. Cool!)
Over the years, various people have been generous and helpful to me, so I’m mindful to help others as well. I’ve participated in the PGA mentorship program, and on my own jobs I’ve often hired from within and trained people up. But I’ve also learned, the most accessible mentor, is the one you have inside yourself. Simply be interested in the world around you, and you’ll discover teachers everywhere. I’m fortunate enough to work with incredibly talented Showrunners, Writers and Directors, so of course I’m always watching and learning from them. But I’m also constantly learning from everyone I collaborate with – DP’s, Line Producers, Production Managers, Camera Operators, Sound Mixers, Digital Imaging Techs, (Picture, Sound and Music) Editors, Colorists and VFX Artists. They all offer me an endless supply of information that can only make me better at my current job, as well as better prepared for potentially bigger challenges down the road.
As for my traditional mentors, I would like nothing better than to be able to thank them during an awards speech one day. But just in case I never get to be “that guy” who actually steps up and gets to thank people, let me do it right here, right now…
Thank you Rob Tapert for starting me on my way, and for your blessed friendship all these years. Thank you Antonia Ellis and John Melfi for giving me the chance to learn Post Production. And thank you Irene Burns, for showing me what to do next, and for always being my biggest cheerleader. And thank you Chris, for putting up with crazy hours and limited vacation time so I can pursue my dreams! You are the best life mentor/collaborator anyone could ever ask for!