Tuesday, December 2, 2014

TV Writing Resource Week - Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show

We continue with TV Writing Resource Week by moving on to the perfect follow-up to Children of Tendu: Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show.

Showrunners is both a documentary film and a companion book to the documentary, written by Tara Bennett. This week I was trying to highlight resources that were largely free, but Showrunners in either form is so essential that I'm bending that rule a bit.  The book is available on Kindle, with a list price of $9.99, or in paperback with a list price of $14.95, though can you can often get cheaper prices on either thanks to Amazon discounts.  The movie is available for purchase and rental on iTunes. HD purchase runs you $12.99, but it can be rented for $4.99. (SD downloads of each are about a buck cheaper.) Access to both could cost you less than $15, so that's pretty much next to nothing.

In either form, Showrunners is a very frank, in-depth look at the art and business of running a TV show. It really drives home what a demanding job it is. Many participants speak wearily of the long hours and the heavy workflow, but most also display an awareness of how careful one must be when complaining about a job that pays so heavily. Still, we're reminded at the start that 85% of new shows fail, and an interview with a TNT & TBS executive points out that being a great writer doesn't always make one a great showrunner.

If nothing else, both references will convey just how all-encompassing the job is. I might actually favor the book, which is in the format of an oral history that has been culled from many of the same interviews that appear in the documentary. The book has room to expound on several of the interviews, though the documentary sets itself apart by taking us into several writers' rooms, along with showing us some of the showrunners working on set and meeting fans at Comic-Con.

If Children of Tendu demystifies the process of working on a TV writing staff, Showrunners pulls back the curtain on the top job. We get a few writers talking about how they got their start. Several of them discuss how they sold shows and dealt with the network and actors as part of the creative process. It's a look at the top job in TV, straight from the horse's mouth. The stable of interviewees includes:

J.J. Abrams (Alias, Felicity)
Matthew Carnahan (House of Lies)
Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus)
Jane Espenson (Husbands)
Hart Hanson (Bones)
Mike Kelley (Swingtown, Revenge)
Robert King & Michelle King  (The Good Wife)
Damon Lindelof (Lost)
Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica)
Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory)
Ray Romano & Mike Royce (Men of a Certain Age)
Shawn Ryan (The Shield)
Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy)
Janet Tamaro (Rizzoli & Isles)
Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse)

And many more!

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Purchase the film on iTunes here.

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