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February 28, 2017

Message from Mars

Tricia Brock took the long way around to her perfect job.

Paula Hendrickson
  • Chad Batka

Many people can recall childhood events that, in retrospect, seemed to telegraph their future careers. Then there’s Tricia Brock.

“I wish my trajectory were that clear,” says the director of shows ranging from 30 Rock to The Walking Dead. “Where I grew up — on a farm in southern Missouri — anything to do with show business might as well have been on Mars.”

She began by working as a production assistant on commercials in New York, then produced a documentary about sorority rush week at a Southern college, and after that turned to writing.

“I moved to L.A., wrote my first script — which Paramount bought — and started my career as a writer,” she says. “I was so young. I thought I’d won the lottery and would keep winning the lottery. I had a lot to learn about the vagaries of Hollywood.” She penned episodes of several TV series and reworked other writers’ scripts before learning about AFI’s Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women.

“I don’t know why I knew AFI was going to be my path and open the door, but I knew,” she says.

“It took me five years to get in. I did that in 2001, but I’ll never forget the orientation. Jean Firstenberg was head of AFI at the time, and when talking to the eight of us who had been chosen, she referred to us as directors. It was one of those lightning-bolt moments.”

Brock’s 2002 short film, The Car Kid — starring James Franco, Meat Loaf and the late Brad Renfro — drew attention at film festivals and helped her secure financing for a feature. By 2005, television beckoned.

“Ilene Chaiken hired me to direct on The L Word,” she recalls. “It was my first job in television. It took a herculean effort to get Showtime to approve me, and it’s been building ever since.” And how. Brock’s recent work includes Mozart in the Jungle, Mr. Robot, Ray Donovan, Orange Is the New Black, Outcast, Younger, Girls and all eight episodes of Margot vs. Lily, Nike’s first YouTube scripted series.

“I love being in a job where I’m expected to have opinions, because I always do. I’m well suited to this job for that reason. I’ve definitely found my match.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2017

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