Cutlip stays abreast of the doc world at Towers

WHO SHE IS: Melissa Cutlip, a director of development at Towers Productions since 2004.

HOW SHE VIEWS HER JOB: “To come up with ideas that will become commissioned projects to be funded and ultimately produced.” She accomplishes this by pitching to networks and writing treatments.

She is currently involved in series and specials for National Geographic, History Channel and Weather Channels.

PROS: “The chance to work on interesting projects?especially in TV development. This is a good job for people with attention deficit disorder because TV is a fast moving business. Certainly in the documentary world, it is important to stay ahead.

You can be organic or ride the wave of something popular. I always feel like a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. This job allows you to learn a lot about creative, historic and scientific aspects.”

CONS: “It takes a long time to get an answer on your network pitches. Keeping up with constant changes and demands, the networks sometimes decide to change their program strategy.”

KEY TO SUCCESS: “I’m surrounded by talented people that make you up your game?never settling. They make you want to upgrade. If you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s time to change rooms.

After navigating my career change from advertising to television production, I’m reminded of Cher’s quote that ?life is not a dress rehearsal.’ I had a good job, but it was not fulfilling intellectually or emotionally. My hand was forced to change careers due to a lay off, but I am glad it was.”

BACKSTORY: With a B.A. in history and a M.A. in journalism from the University of Michigan, Cutlip worked at Starcom from 1996. She made a daring career change at 32 to television. She interned at Ch. 9 for six months, freelancing as a writer there for four months until a friend told her about an opening at Towers.

There, she quickly ascended from an associate producer after six months to associate director of development and a year later was named director of development a year ago.

BIG BREAKS: “Getting laid off at Starcom was a sign from God. I had wanted to make a career change for a while. I was upset for about 15 minutes and then went on to make changes.

Another big break was having really supportive family and friends who believed in me and supported me. As a single person, making this move on my own was especially challenging.”

WORDS OF WISDOM: “Never be afraid to make a career change. It’s not easy, but in the end, it’s worth it.”

HER ULTIMATE GOAL: “To be on the other end of programming on the network level?on the decision-making side.”

A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: The book “What Should I do with my Life” by Po Bronson.

Melissa Cutlip can be reached at 312/601.6972, or email,