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Mukerjee mentors CGA students working on CWC documentary

Tom Coyne

Marisha Mukerjee '02 W'98 talks about mentoring students working on a documentary about Culver Women's Celebration. (Photo by Andrew Crowell)

 

Maybe it was kismet that led Marisha Mukerjee ’02 W’98 to call her friends at Culver Academies to see what was happening.

She had just spent nine months in Budapest, Hungary, working as a writer and co-executive producer for “Halo,” a Paramount+ TV series based on the video game. She also recently purchased a farm in Ohio to be close to her parents.

With Hollywood shut down because of the Writers Guild of A strike and many projects on hold, she wondered: “What’s going on at Culver? I usually only get here during reunions.”

She checked in with Dean of Faculty Josh Pretzer and master CGA counselor Beth Schmiedlin and discovered a documentary was being made about Culver Women’s Celebration.

Who better to help guide and mentor the project? After all, in addition to writing for “Halo,” she’s also written for “Snowpiercer,” “Quantico” and other TV programs. Oh, and she wrote the proposal that led to the creation of CWC in 2002, when it was initially known as Culver Women’s Convention.

“In my proposal I wrote about, ‘Why don’t we do something that really celebrates the women of Culver, past, present and future to find inspiration.’ Because we need that, right?” Mukerjee said.

She said women often don’t celebrate their accomplishments. She also thought there was a need for CGA to create its own traditions. What better way than promoting women supporting women?

CWC also was partially inspired by the events of 9/11 early in her senior year.

“As a community it brought us together. But it also made us ask questions about, what is important to us? What is legacy? What is value? How can we better ourselves? How can we be more supportive?”

 

Marisha Mukerjee watches as Victoria Herrera '25 (right), CWC prefect, asks questions of Kari Teglia '24, first rotation senior prefect, for the CWC documentary. (Photo by Andrew Crowell)

 

CWC coincides with Culver Military Academy’s Culver Annual Review, a yearly inspection and challenges that evaluates CMA students in all aspects of life in the military system, which includes extensive cleaning and barracks inspection.

More recent CGA graduates might be surprised to learn CGA had its own form of CAR that included cleaning and inspection of dorms until Mukerjee came up with the idea of CWC.

The first CWC consisted of student leaders, alumnae and staff working together to create workshops, identify and recruit speakers and inviting members of the community.

“We still had to do the cleaning for a little bit. But it was the start of making it an event that would be student run,” Mukerjee said.

It also was meant to evolve to meet the needs of students, with a new theme every year.

Mukerjee was on campus in mid-February to help wrap up the documentary and talk to current CGA girls as part of the oral storytelling format and to mentor students.

After graduating from Culver, Mukerjee went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She said she thought spending four years at Culver was a bit like attending an American university and she wanted a different experience, which is why she decided to attend school overseas.

“My father had been through the British system and I wanted to see what it was like,” she said.

She also said she didn’t know what she wanted to major in. But she said with the help of retired fine arts instructor Anne Duff, she had developed a love of art history. She said she also loved history and politics. St. Andrews allowed her to pursue all three passions with an art history and international relations major.

“I loved that idea,” she said. “It felt right.”

She also got involved in theater while a senior at Culver and started a theater company while in Scotland.

Clover Choi '24 interviews Marisha Mukerjee '24. (Photo by Andrew Crowell)

Mukerjee said she’s been writing for as long as she can remember. She said she wrote her first feature while at Culver, sitting on a bench in front of Linden, which is still there.

She then focused on making short films and working in production so she could pay the bills while living in London.

“I called that getting my Ph.D. in the business,” she said. “I learned everything about production. I worked on films in both the UK and in India. I did film classes in Paris.”

Then she decided to get back into writing, so she enrolled in Northwestern University’s master of fine arts program that required her to do an internship in Hollywood. She got one with Playtone, Tom Hanks production company. She had another one with Showtime.

After she graduated, she wrote a play, “The Life of Thomas Paine,” that was featured at the Goodman Theater in Chicago.

She was working at Cineflex Studios when the president of the company Christina Wayne, who had greenlit shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” read a pilot for a TV show Mukerjee had written. She told her: “You need to stop working for me because I’m going to help you get representation as a writer. Because you’re a writer.”

Mukerjee got a manager and an agent while working as a writer’s personal assistant for the TV program “Justified” on FX.

“I fell in love with TV. I love the medium because it doesn’t have to have a beginning, middle and end. It does, but it’s novelistic and you can really tell stories in an interesting way with lots of characters and burn that candle slowly,” she said.

She then landed a position as a staff writer on “The Bridge,” a series about two police investigating a serial killer that aired on FX. She’s been writing for TV programs ever since.

She’s working on a few other projects she can’t announce just yet, including a romantic comedy. She also plans to do some directing.

Mukerjee said she stays involved with Culver because both the boarding school and Culver Summer Schools and Camp played such a big role in who she has become.

“I was really shaped here and I definitely owe a lot to this school,” she said.

 

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