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Television Head Teaches Students to Present with Intention

By Jacob Nelson

Laverne McKinnon is perhaps one of the only television producers out there who doesn’t believe in pitching.

“I believe in finding the right match.”

A graduate from Northwestern’s RTVF program with an MBA from Pepperdine University, McKinnon works as a senior programming executive, independent producer, and media consultant. Her day-to-day tasks include working with writers to help them cultivate and develop their ideas.

It’s a skill she’s developed throughout a variety of professional experiences. She worked as the senior vice president of drama development at CBS, and has since worked with a variety of high profile artists that include directors like Oliver Stone, comedians like Louis CK, and musicians like Madonna.

One thing McKinnon has discovered is that when networks or production companies are deciding whether or not to produce a show or a film, they’re considering more than its plot and its characters.

“Truly, buyers are buying you,” McKinnon said. “It’s not just about having a good idea, it’s about, ‘Are you the person to take this across the finish line?’”

Currently, McKinnon’s title is Head of Television for Denver & Delilah, Charlize Theron’s production company. She’s teaching a course this spring that’s designed to provide an experiential opportunity for students to learn how to be aware and mindful of all the moving parts in the production cycle.

“It’s all about perspective and choice,” she said. “It’s about process, not perfection. You could fine tune your pitch or your presentation and then you walk into a room and if you’re not fully present and experiencing what is happening in the room your pitch isn’t going to land.”

The course will develop students’ ability to make compelling presentations, and, more importantly, to read a room — a skill that will benefit anyone, regardless of their professional pursuit.

“Whether you’re a writer producer or go work in tech, it’s important to be able to walk in a room with intention,” McKinnon said.