​Seven “Killer” Pieces of Advice from the Women Behind Alumni Series ‘Mary Kills People’

By Emily Gagne ● February 08, 2018 14:00

Woman looks out of car window

Caroline Dhavernas in the Season 2 finale of 'Mary Kills People' 

On Tuesday night, the CFC was among a very lucky few to attend Global TV’s Women Killin’ it in the TV Industry event, which featured a screening of the Season 2 finale of Mary Kills People, as well as a panel with assorted women who worked in front of and behind the camera on the series. Among the talented creators and producers featured that evening were three CFC alumni, all of who have been with the show since its beginnings.

Mary Kills People was created by CFC alumna Tara Armstrong based on a script she entered the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program with in 2014. The series was brought to life with the help of alumnae Tassie and Amy Cameron, who decided to make the show the first project for their production company (Cameron Pictures Inc., which is also behind upcoming series Little Dog from another alumnus—and Mary Kills People Season 1 guest star!—Joel Thomas Hynes). Together, Tara, Tassie and Amy would bring on a number of other CFC alumnae to work on the show, including Holly Dale (director of all six Season 1 episodes), Roslyn Kalloo (editor of several episodes between Seasons 1 and 2), and writers like Sherry White, Michael Goldbach and Marsha Greene.

Greene was among the women invited to speak on Tuesday’s panel, which also included the aforementioned Cameron sisters, as well as Caroline Dhavernas (series star), Tecca Crosby (Executive Producer, Entertainment One), Barbara Williams (EVP & COO, Corus) and Lisa Godfrey (VP of Original Content, Corus). All of these women had plenty to share about the state of the industry, covering a range of topics from the #MeToo movement to gender parity in Canada and beyond. There were many amazing insights shared, but what we loved most was their honest advice for women starting out in the industry. Check out some of our favourite tips below.

1. Say Yes to Opportunities (and Yourself!)

When moderator Sangita Patel (ET Canada) asked the panel to share some advice for burgeoning creators, Williams was first to chime in, saying that she’s “a real believer in the confidence to have your own ambition, and be comfortable with your power, and say yes when someone says, ‘What about doing this? Or what about trying this? Or what about applying for that?’”

She continued, “Just say yes. And trust that if they think you can do it, you can!”

2. Make Moves (Big and Small!)

In giving her response to the same question, Godfrey emphasized the need to not be afraid to take risks in your career, particularly in terms of roles. She said even “lateral” moves (i.e. moving from staff writer on one show to staff writer on a totally different show) can be the step up you need to learn more about your craft and, in effect, prepare yourself for future moves.

She explained, “It’s gonna grow what you know, and I think that’s the key for going up [in the industry].”

3. Know (and Stand Up For) Your Worth

Greene took a different approach to the question, reflecting on what she wished she had known in her early years as TV writer. As she explained, she didn’t feel she stood up for herself enough at the beginning, encouraging others to remember to do just that, especially when negotiating a new gig.

“As you go from job to job and you have to renegotiate what your title is, what your rate is going to be, what your value is,” she said. “Stand up for yourself and fight for that, even if someone isn’t saying, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ If you feel you can do more, you should go for it.”

Panel of women speak before an audience

4. Work Hard (But Really, Harder Than Anyone Else)

The first woman to bring up this essential piece of career advice was Crosby. As she said, very succinctly, “The people I’ve seen get ahead—men, women, whoever they are—work really hard.”

Tassie Cameron echoed her statements later on, saying that one of the pieces of advice that she followed in own life was to “work harder than everybody else.” She says hard work is “crucial to succeeding in this business.” Looking at the number of successful shows she’s juggled in the past eight years (see also: Rookie Blue, 10 Days in the Valley), it’s hard to disagree.

5. Be Open and Collaborative (With Everyone)

The other major piece of advice that Tassie Cameron has for up-and-coming creators? Don’t screw up.

“When I say that, I don’t mean don’t make mistakes,” she clarified. “Make mistakes! But don’t be an asshole to people. Don’t treat people poorly. Don’t abuse your power. Be open and collaborative.”

Her sister, Amy, backed her up, adding that you need to remember that the entertainment industry is tiny and “you do encounter people again and again.” In other words, it pays to make a good first impression (and second and third).

6. Ask Questions (Yes, Even Those Ones)

You know the old saying “there are no stupid questions”? According to Amy Cameron, it’s worth remembering as you make your way into the TV biz.

“Had I asked more questions earlier, I feel I would have looked less idiotic, or continued to look less idiotic,” she explained to the crowd on Tuesday.

“I think it’s important to just ask questions when you don’t know something, or you want to meet someone, or you’re curious about a job, or you’re wondering why you weren’t put forward for something. It’s asking those questions, not just assuming that someone else is thinking of that for you. No one will stand for your own interests as much as you.”

Sangita Patel, Amy Cameron, Marsha Greene, Caroline Dhavernas, Tassie Cameron, Lisa Godfrey and Tecca Crosby 

7. Lead By Example

The last piece of advice comes from Mary Kills People’s leading lady (emphasis on the leading). After years of working in TV and film, Dhavernas says she has learned to find power in her own voice, but also in the effect it can have on others she is working with.

“I’m at an age where I know that I’ve been doing this for a long time and that if I say what I have to say correctly to the right people, they will know that I’m doing it for the love of my own show.”

She continued, “Trust that people are willing to hear what you have to say when it’s a collaborative effort. When you say what you need to say, people will respect you for it and know that they have the room to do the same thing.”

The Mary Kills People finale airs Thursday, February 8 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global. 

All photos courtesy of Corus Entertainment.