Elon University / Today at Elon / Michelle Leibel ’14 brings big ideas to ‘A Million Little Things’
The talented alumna has made her name as a writer for one of ABC’s top shows.
When Michelle Leibel ’14 sits in the writer’s room at the start of a TV show’s season, she looks forward to sharing ideas that have been on her mind for months. The scenes she fell in love with and the moments that will grow into an episode of ABC’s A Million Little Things.
The space is a safe place for Leibel, who sees every day as an opportunity to work with many talented people.
“I feel most creative when I’m able to share ideas from other people, and I’m fortunate to have very supportive and patient friends who let me brainstorm with them before I sketch anything,” Leibel said.
As a writer and producer, Leibel writes episodes of primetime drama, but also contributes to other writers and producers. Similarly, she relies on her collaborators to help her fine-tune her work as it is being developed.
Leibel’s journey has evolved from an NBC page to assistant showrunner to a writer and then writing producer on A Million Little Things. The media arts and entertainment graduate said she now sees her role as a fulfilling outlet for her creativity.
Leibel received immense support from the faculty while studying at the School of Communications. Youssef Osman, assistant professor of cinema and television arts, helped Leibel shoot a short film that she later submitted to festivals in her senior year.
“In her senior year, she teamed up with (Elon graduate student) Michael Tahan and they suggested me a brilliant short script called ‘That Other Crazy Thing You Do,'” Osman said. “I was immediately fascinated by the story. Michelle’s writing style and voice are unique. It’s no surprise that the film won 2nd Best Screenplay at the Nashville Film Festival.”
Osman highlighted Leibel’s involvement with both Elon Student Television and Cinelon and was inspired by what she was able to achieve while still with Elon.
“Michelle was one of our most talented and hard-working cinema and television students,” Osman said. “It’s no surprise that she continues to be one of our most talented and gifted alumni.”
But Leibel did not only find success and inspiration in the School of Communications. She credited Scott Proudfit, associate professor of English, with giving her important life advice.
“He once said we had to go out and have as many experiences as possible because writers should write what they know and if you don’t live your life you’ll end up just writing about the writing and no one wants to read that ‘ Leibel said. “I’ve carried that with me forever.”
After working as an NBC side, Leibel became a production assistant for writers on a new show and occasionally worked at desks at NBC, allowing her to network and gain the experience necessary for her future.
Her role as a production assistant gave her great admiration for the people who make everything move.
“Assistants are writers and producers who haven’t had a chance to get that title yet,” Leibel said. “Without them there would be absolute chaos, and they often come up with ideas that make it onto our show and make those episodes even better.”
Lacking a consistent schedule, their work day varies from day to day and consists of production meetings, covering the set, staying in the writer’s room, or assisting in the transition of episodes from production to post-production.
Leibel said it was surreal to see her ideas on screen with such talented actors. The group dynamic with the directors and crew is able to bring the episodes together.
“It’s so much fun handling ideas and then seeing them come to life on the page,” Leibel said. “It’s always very gratifying to see how a joke or a scene you’ve written makes people laugh when they read it around the table or touch someone emotionally,” said Leibel.
Her creativity allows her to find solutions to any problems that arise and contribute meaningful ideas to A Million Little Things. Leibel credits her experience for finding what can bring her to life during a shoot.
“My advice to any aspiring television writer is to get a job on the set,” Leibel said. “It is so important to know the ins and outs of production. If there is no crew, there is no show!”
A Million Little Things Season 4 currently airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC and is also available on Hulu.