It’s not easy being a showrunner for a television show. The role includes dealing with actors, writers, budgets, and network executives. The hours are long, and the burnout rate is 100 percent.
Yet they’re also some of the most creative people in Hollywood, and this documentary shows how tough, and wonderful, this job can be.
Showrunners started as a Kickstarter project nearly two years ago, and had its North American premiere last month in Austin, Texas. Recently, it was released exclusively on iTunes, and is already becoming a popular feature. Not everyone who loves TV may be interested in seeing how their favorite shows are made. Once they look at this movie, however, they may wind up being more curious about the process. The documentary features some of the top showrunners around, from Damon Lindehof and Joss Whedon to Shawn Ryan and Steven S. DeKnight.
The background of the film is the process of making a typical TV episode, and starting a new show. Hart Hanson of Bones is seen filming an episode, while Johnathan Carnahan is filming the pilot for Showtime’s House of Lies, which will have a fourth season next year. DeKnight is also shown with the staff of Starz’s Spartacus. He says it took many years to get a writing job, starting with a Buffy spec script. Like many showrunners, he went up the ranks to his current position. Ron Moore, best known for Battlestar Galactica, got his start with a spec script and a tour of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Janet Tamaro of Rizzoli and Isles was a reporter before she went on to TV dramas.
Joss Whedon talks about how he worked as a showrunner for Buffy, Angel and Firefly. He says his writers should be partners, not just scribes, and that the moment of a story is more important than the move. He also recalls how tough it was to run three shows, which one other showrunner says can’t be possible.
The film also features network executives like Michael Wright of TNT, who says he serves the role as an advisor to the showrunner. At least one person agrees with that.
There’s also discussion of how cable gives more freedom compared to network TV, even if it’s for less money, and how the internet may provide more opportunities. It also talks about how Comic-Con really made showrunners as well-known as the actors and writers, and role of social media.
Showrunners gives TV fans an excellent look at television, and the people who make the shows on the air. You can learn more on the movie’s website. A book based on the movie is also available through Amazon.
Here’s a trailer of the movie…