CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A local graduate directed tonight's season finale of the hit comedy TV show "Raising Hope" in his debut directing role.
Rick Kelly, a West Virginia State University graduate, directed the hour-long episode in February that featured Maw Maw (played by Cloris Leachman) learning her mother is still alive at age 104.
"It's my maiden voyage, and it's like having your dream come true. I've been wanting to professionally direct since I was 19, and finally getting the opportunity to do so is absolutely amazing," Kelly said. "I know it's cliche to say, but I don't know how to describe it in words. It's true. The culmination of being in the industry for two decades -- to fulfill that fantasy is amazing."
Kelly credits much of his success to WVSU assistant professor Danny Boyd, who he reached out to as filming was taking place.
"I say this with all sincerity, it may have been 20 years since I was at State, but if it weren't for you, I wouldn't have had any of the opportunities in film and TV that I've had," Kelly wrote to Boyd.
Kelly also acknowledges assistant professor Steve Gilliland and former professor David Wohl for their roles in his career.
"I'm deeply indebted to you and David and Steve. And I will never be able to fully express my gratitude toward you especially," Kelly continued in the note.
While working as an assistant editor, he had the opportunity to direct an episode of "Raising Hope," and it being the finale was "just luck of the draw," Kelly said. He has been a part of "Raising Hope" since 2010, where he started as a first assistant director after working on the TV show "The Gates" in a similar role, according to a news release.
Kelly has been in the industry for nearly 20 years and has worked on the "My Name is Earl" TV series from 2006-2009 as a second assistant director and first assistant director. He also has been involved with films "Constantine," "The Polar Express" and "The Scorpion King."
"Rick was just a really good kid and a really hard worker," Boyd said of his former student in a news release. "He was here during our 'golden age' when we made four feature films in a row and we had a number of students who were able to get good experience and then go on to work in the big leagues."
Kelly lists the 1991 film "Paradise Park," which was written and directed by Boyd, as his first professional experience on his resume.
"WVSU's Communications program uses an interdisciplinary approach," Gilliland said in the release, "that enables our students to learn about film, radio, television, public relations and theatre. Rick learned some of the basics of cinematography in filmmaking class. He also learned by directing fellow students in a production of Christopher Durang's avant-garde play, 'Titanic.'"
Kelly has worked in the entertainment industry since his graduation from WVSU in 1991.
"These three guys were great, great people, and they were also instrumental in my career. I'm so thankful for three mentors and having the opportunity to learn from them," Kelly said.Contact writer Candace Nelson at Candace.Nel...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/Candace07