UCF alum Mike Diaz ’06 ’10MFA was selected from a pool of more than 1,500 applicants to be one of only six to participate in the esteemed CBS 2019-2020 Writers Mentoring Program.
The eight-month mentoring program pairs writers with CBS executive mentors. The mentors then help the writers develop a new piece of material.
“I was ecstatic when I got the call from CBS because I knew this program would open a ton of doors for me,” Diaz says. “I am swimming in gratitude, saying I feel lucky would be an understatement.”
Diaz has been paired with Pamela Soper, senior vice president of current programming, whose impressive list of credits ranges from working on hit television shows like “The Big Bang Theory,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “NCIS.” He has also been paired with Hugh Huynh, manager of current programming, who has previously worked with industry titans such as Sundance and Nickelodeon Animation Studio.
Following the mentorship period, the writers participate in a 16-week workshop designed to teach them everything about the television business. The writers additionally receive access to powerful agents, managers, executives, showrunners and producers.
“I started the program in September and every moment of it has been fantastic,” Diaz says. “The first half involved writing a new pilot script to be used as a sample for the upcoming TV staffing season, under the guidance of my executive mentors. Now, the program is shifting into the workshop phase where participants meet weekly with various industry professionals to focus on the business side of television writing.”
“My time at UCF Film as a graduate student was priceless.” — Mike Diaz ’06 ’10MFA
“My time at UCF Film as a graduate student was priceless,” Diaz says. “I still consider Ula Stoeckl, my thesis chair, to be my first creative mentor. She was incredibly kind and supportive while I wrote and directed my thesis feature. And having a background as a director has only made me a stronger, more visual screenwriter.”
Diaz has written, directed and produced narrative features, documentaries, short films and digital series. He is best known for his short films such as “The Miseducation of Simon Kraus” (2011) and “Karate Tortoise” (2016). His popular dramatic feature “The Miseducation of Simon Kraus” was created as his thesis film for his M.F.A at UCF.
His work has taken him to six continents, allowing him to travel to places such as Iceland, Australia, Nigeria and Alaska.
The Florida native lived in New York City for a few years while he produced and taught for National Geographic before he eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where he works as an executive producer’s assistant at 20th Century Fox. He is currently working on the Fox network drama, “9-1-1: Lone Star.”
“I’ve dabbled in writing both drama and comedy, but ultimately, I’m a story-driven writer who loves world-building and sketching character arcs more than trying to come up with one-liner jokes,” he says. “My favorite shows are grounded genres with winding, serialized storylines filled with dramatic twists and turns.”
Diaz says in addition to the new TV pilot he’s working on in the CBS mentorship program, he is putting the finishing touches on a feature screenplay that he hopes to direct later this year. He is also currently sending a new web series he wrote and directed to film festivals.
He says the best way for aspiring writers to get their foot in the door is to continue improving their craft and be ready when an opportunity presents itself.
“You can’t control when you’ll get opportunities, but you can control whether you’ll be ready for them or not.” – Mike Diaz ’06 ’10MFA
“This is an extremely competitive field, so your work really needs to stand out in order to get your foot in the door,” he says. “The best way to get better is to just write. Have people you trust read your script and rip it apart, then rewrite it. … When somebody asks to read you, you must have scripts ready to go. You can’t control when you’ll get opportunities, but you can control whether you’ll be ready for them or not.”