The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

‘Hannah Montana’ co-creator Michael Poryes shares secrets to success with SSU students

Célia Aline Amaral
Michael Poryes connecting with students

On Monday, March 4, Michael Poryes, co-creator of the Disney Channel shows “That’s so Raven and “Hannah Montana”, visited campus to share his experience as a successful television producer, screenwriter and filmmaker. Poryes came to campus to answer questions about what it takes to break into the entertainment industry and build a successful career.

Poryes said that when he was young, he dropped out of UC Berkeley to pursue a stand-up comedy career in Los Angeles. When his plans fell through, he worked as a waiter and decided to pursue writing instead after meeting another writer who had decided to become a stand-up comic instead — that man was Gary Shandling. 

“I got into sitcom writing because I’d always loved sitcoms. My goal in writing wasn’t about movies or books, only sitcoms. I had a good job at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. I got my first agent there. I got my first meeting there. You just never know where things are headed,” Poryes said. 

Through the session, Poryes shared insights from his year in the industry. From the importance of networking to the value of persistence, his advice was practical and actionable. “You have to be willing to fail,” He said. “But each failure brings you one step closer to success.”

Poryes decided to join the Disney Channel because of a position that had opened up for a four camera half-hour kid’s show. Because of that opening, he was able to fill that time slot with “That’s So Raven”.

In the original pilot of the series, the show was centered around a white girl, with Raven-Symoné originally casted as the best friend. However, Poryes said that the crew “loved Raven so much,” that they decided to rewrite the show and make Raven into the protagonist. “I can change the writing. But when you have a 12 or 13-year-old come in and they’re so talented, you adjust to the talent, not the other way around. That’s what happened with Raven and Miley [Cyrus],” Poryes said. 

“Hannah was originally a Jewish girl from New York. It had nothing to do with Miley. But we totally revamped the character because there was just something about her.”  

Out of the shows he’s written and produced for, Poryes said he had the most fun working on Hannah Montana because he had the most control. 

As the Q&A session went on, students had the opportunity to ask Poryes questions on a wide range of topics, from script writing to casting. His responses were given with humor and humility, making him a relatable figure to those aspiring to follow in his footsteps.

Poryes said the biggest hurdle in trying to get into the entertainment industry was self-doubt. “You’re second-guessing yourself, you’re not taking that chance. And then all of a sudden, that chance is gone. You’re going to run up against so many ‘nos’ and people that are just as passionate as you are, if not more, for the same job. The biggest hurdle is to think, ‘I’m not good enough for that job.’” 

Moving forward, Poryes is currently working on an idea for Nickelodeon because, as he said, “You can’t rest on what you have done in the past to be successful.” As an exclusive, Poryes agreed to tell us a little bit more about it starting with the name of that possible show, “Head in the Game”. This could possibly feature the famous basketball player Stephen Curry who is currently in negotiations. Poryes used that specific moment as a teaching opportunity to tell students to go after what they want as the basketball player wasn’t easy to convince into discussing the project.

Poryes ended his visit with a word of advice for students, “Always know that you’re the most important voice in the room. Always embrace who you are and what you’re doing. Don’t lose who you are in the process.”

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About the Contributors
Ally Valiente, News Editor
Ally Valiente is in her 4th year at Sonoma State majoring in communication and media studies and English.
Célia Aline Amaral, Student Life Editor
Celia Aline Amaral is a senior majoring in communication and media studies.
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