Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (2014) Poster

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Write right ... and quickly
David Ferguson30 October 2014
Greetings again from the darkness. It's simultaneously "the best job and the worst job". While not a definition of a TV Showrunner, that is certainly the best description. With the recent renaissance of TV, and the competition between networks, cable and the internet, an incredible level of creativity and freedom has produced a more cinematic effect on the small screen. Whose broad shoulders are responsible for what we watch? The Showrunners, that's who.

This is a behind-the-scenes look at the process of getting a show to air, and then struggling to keep it there … it takes an enormous amount of talent and a ton of good luck. We learn that 84% of new TV shows fail, and it's important to note that good shows often fail – not just bad ones. Director Des Doyle presents an extremely impressive succession of interviews. These are the writers, producers and showrunners of some of TV's most innovative shows: JJ Abrams ("Lost"), Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Terence Winter ("The Sopranos", "Boardwalk Empire"), and Janet Tamaro ("Rizzoli & Ives") just to name a few. This who's who of showrunners generously share their insight and observations on the business that more than a few call "a grind".

Especially interesting is the concentration on the writing process. We go inside the writer's room and hear discussions on the importance of looking at the entire season, rather than a specific episode. We learn the importance of "quality scripts on time", meaning the writing must be good and must come fast – episodes frequently air within a month of filming. Joss Whedon advises writers to focus on moments, not on moves. Collaboration is crucial, and while nothing beats an actor who embodies a particular role (Michael Chiklis in "The Shield"), never lose sight that writing is the heart of TV shows.

Discussion of the various outlets (networks, cable, internet) leads to an explanation of how TV writing has evolved. Some shows are now designed for the increasingly-popular "binge watching", while network shows are still in the business of "selling ads". Another significant shift is due to Social Media. TV is described as now being like the theatre – immediate feedback is available (Twitter, Facebook). While ratings are still important, interaction between the industry and viewing public is now standard operating procedure.

It's not often we are allowed behind the curtain in the entertainment business, but this one should be mandatory viewing for anyone with an itch to become a TV writer. You should know the stress and insecurities that accompany the talent and ego. You should understand the time pressures and the lack of recognition that often follows even those who prove successful. You should also know that for those who have it in their blood, nothing else compares. This is truly "the art of running a TV show".
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Great show!
Arenas481228 April 2015
I really enjoyed this. When I worked as an E.P. at a small town station...creating content for multiple hours a day is tough (think Wyoming or Montana). I agree with the "new" term Show-running. These guys are definitely more like a Station Director or Manager at that point. Not just an E.P.! This is a pretty good insight into the world of television. I was surprised at how similar the writing process is with local stuff and a network drama. It's still writing scripts to get the audience's attention. Dealing with the networks has to be nerve racking at the level! Breaking into T.V. at any level is tough now-a- days. I liked the one producer's story on how it took him ten years to be successful. This film is definitely a watch for college students trying to break into TV/Broadcasting!
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Enlightening look behind the scenes
gmharris18 May 2015
Really well done. Not only does it teach a lot about the job of being a show-runner, but there is some good background on how television is changing, and media in general.

We are in a time where it might look good to start on the internet and then hope for a move to television, and then a realization that the internet might be the best fit. At the same time there are people who would have wanted to be in movies, but found greater freedom in television. The internet and social media plays a role that it didn't before.

So if you like thinking about entertainment - not just watching it, but also learning how it gets made, this is a great look at that.

Good interviews. There are a lot of affable show-runners out there.
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The Men (And Women) Behind The Curtain Want To Show You Something...
dcscribe886019 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There are plenty of books, DVD's and other filmed documentaries about the goings-on backstage that occur in the process of making television, good, bad or indifferent. SHOWRUNNERS: THE ART OF RUNNING A TV SHOW quite simply deserves the ten out of ten IMDb rating I've bestowed it with, because nothing else I've seen has been as thorough - or as thoroughly entertaining - as this Irish- based production on the subject.

Director Des Doyle and his crew have pulled out all the stops, and as a result, been granted a rare audience with all of the people that the most rabid of us fans would love to have five minutes with, (and you get considerably more time than that here easily). J.J. Abrams (ALIAS, LOST), Joss Whedon, (BUFFY, ANGEL, FIREFLY), Ron Moore (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Hart Hanson, (BONES, BACKSTROM), Terence Winter (BOARDWALK EMPIRE, THE SOPRANOS), Janet Tamayo (RIZZOLI AND ISLES), Jane Espenson, (BUFFY, HUSBANDS)...and that's hardly a complete list. Everyone who appears offers some revealing aspect of what goes on behind the creation and administration of a show, telling us more than we ever knew - or even cared to know, in some cases.

We get an examination of what makes someone tick, who has to be ready to answer a billion questions, put out about as many bonfires as they crop up on a daily basis; wrangle story ideas, script changes, notes from the network, from show directors and even from the actors's the 'BEST and the WORST job you can have', to paraphrase one subject's summation of what it's like.

I have always had an appreciation and admiration for what showrunners do...But this film only strengthens and deepens that feeling. Especially since I could never imagine doing it myself!
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An Irish Look at American Television
gavin694222 April 2015
A documentary that explores the world of U.S. television showrunners and the creative forces aligned around them.

Although I am a huge fans of movies and have a rather solid understanding of their production and creation, I must confess I never really thought about television. I pictured it being similar, though on a smaller scale. This documentary shows that my belief is not accurate: in many ways, television is on a much larger scale, and certainly requires a greater capacity for creativity when new ideas have to be generated each week.

Touching on "Lost" was great, because it was a show many people (myself included) were addicted to. There is still debate over whether the creators really knew where the story was headed, and how much had to be invented along the way. Few, if any, of the fans were satisfied... could this have been rectified?
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defines it
rpessm22 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Not many people are too interested in how TV is made, it's just expected to be made by someone; hence, the low number of people that actually were drawn to watch this documentary is telling. Having worked in TV production, I can tell you the process is a grind and often boring and often tiring. As the Showrunner for Battlestar Galactica says: when so many questions need to be answered, and, as a result, there is chaos on the set, he just says to everybody "it's not heart surgery! We're just making a TV show." And another says: in the back of your mind, you have to remember that nobody will care as much as you do about your "pretendy" little TV show.... -- you get the idea, for the most part, that these Showrunners do not lose the rational perspective that this is business. The idea that TV is pretentious is acknowledged by all these hard-working leaders of basically small businesses that put a lot of people to work. And every one of them mentions in some way or another that it is about meetings, negotiations, persuasion, and mostly money. To depict this process and the result as "art" is debatable, but who cares. It's about work and money...and having some freedom to contrive stories and characters for the purpose of entertaining their respective audiences, the content of which, for the most part, we have seen before...and will see again. That's what humans do...the same thing over and over and over again. We are rutted.
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Nicely edited with solid content.
Nicole C19 January 2016
The film did great in regards to exposing what life is like being a Showrunner. I was glad to hear from Showrunners across all genres, and even from some who ran shows that I watch routinely. It is definitely very inspiring and intriguing to watch how much effort goes into the weekly episodes we take for granted. Though the cast is predominately white male (this reflects the business itself), it would be interesting to see more diverse Showrunners in television. As well, I would have liked to hear more about the writing process and how they come up with ideas for new episodes.

The film had great editing style which kept me engaged throughout. The clear, crisp cutting between different Showrunners and the sets, enforced how busy these people actually are. One might think of working in television as a glamorous job, but as this film shows, it is also very exhausting. The Showrunner is kind of like the middleman, under the control of the network and trying to please audiences, while also trying to be faithful to their own artistic vision (at the same time juggling between actors and crew members). I'm not sure how this title of the 'Showrunner' came about, but it seems like too much responsibility has fallen on one person.

Overall, definitely an interesting watch to get a good look behind the scenes of running an American TV show.

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