After a couple of years working on Wall Street, Dottie Zicklin ’86 decided she needed a change so she drew from an interest she picked up at MIT—theater.
Her first theater production at MIT intrigued Zicklin. Although she didn’t love the acting piece, she became interested in writing. She wrote a one-act play about student life at MIT and received a $400 budget to direct, cast, and produce the play in Kresge Theater. With that experience, she started on a path that led her to working as an executive producer and writer for television. “You would never imagine that studying economics at MIT is the place you’d get turned on to theater,” says Zicklin.
When she decided to pursue script writing as a career, she didn’t know where to start so she applied to graduate programs. After one year at UC Davis and an internship writing for TV show China Beach, Zicklin decided that television was the place for her. “For me, TV is like a novel with chapters where you can stay with the same characters for a long time. I like characters and I felt that TV is really about characters where film is often more about plot and spectacle.”
While economics and theater may seem drastically different, Zicklin says that it’s her analytical mind that helps with successful story structure. “It’s kind of like a proof in calculus,” says Zicklin. “There are many different ways to write a script. Each script is different, it’s a new problem—a new proof.”
Zicklin produces the TV series Younger, now in its fourth season, and has been directing for the last two years as well. “I was really excited to direct,” says Zicklin. “When you direct, you’re in charge of every single creative decision for that episode: wardrobe, props, color plate, where you want the cameras, lights. You really are responsible for the entire visual look of the show.”
As a woman who came to directing later in her career, Zicklin is enthusiastic about the future of female directors. “There’s sort of a tipping point here in Hollywood where they really want female directors,” says Zicklin. “Ryan Murphy wants half of his directors to be female, and NBC wants to do that too. I got into it late because it’s really tough to break into as a woman, but I think the younger generation is really going to bust through this.”
Over the years, Zicklin—a two-time Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award nominee—has written and produced for sitcoms like Grace Under Fire, Cybill, Caroline in the City, and was co-creator of Dharma & Greg.