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Turning a Chance Into a TV Career

Oct 18, 2004  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

Were it not for the student internship program of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Jose Molina firmly believes he would be back in his native Puerto Rico, perhaps working in advertising, rather than being the co-producer of NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU.”

“I wouldn’t have come out to Hollywood,” he said. “I wouldn’t have had the courage. I didn’t know a single thing about it, and I didn’t know if it would have a place for me. I was about as un-Hollywood as one can get.”

While studying at Yale University, Mr. Molina knew he wanted to write but he wasn’t sure what kind of writing he wanted to do. Then in his junior year he chanced to see a notice that Price Hicks, the academy’s director of educational programs and services, was coming to speak. He went to listen.

“Price Hicks gave a 45-minute presentation [about working in the television industry], and it sounded like something worth a shot,” Mr. Molina said. “I waited until my senior year to apply because I thought if I got the internship, I would stay in California. It would get me out there.”

As part of the process, he wrote a spec script for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” When he was accepted into the internship program, it was a fantasy come true-he was placed as a writing intern on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Soon he was going to story meetings and observing pitch sessions.

No permanent job came from the internship, and after it was over Mr. Molina stayed in Hollywood-working at a Blockbuster Video. Still, the experience gave him the focus and understanding to move forward, and within two years he was back in the industry. He eventually became a staff writer on “Dark Angel” before joining “SVU.”

Mr. Molina was also asked by the academy to be a mentor to a later intern, Rob Dougherty. The two formed a friendship and have on occasion written together.

“This is one of the best opportunities the industry offers someone who wants to get in,” Mr. Molina said.