WHAT’S A SHOWRUNNER?
Most people know that in feature films, the director is the final word creatively on the project. But on a TV series, the head honcho on all creative matters is called the showrunner. A showrunner is a writer/executive producer – both the head writer of the show and the highest ranking producer. He or she leads the writing staff in developing stories and scripts, is the final word on rewrites, hires directors and crew and dictates the visual style of the show, makes all casting decisions, and has final cut power in the editing room.
If you’re a writer, and you want to control the material you create, TV is the place for you. Not only do you have creative control in episodic TV, but you are not forever doomed to “development hell.” In feature films, scripts often take years and sometimes decades to go from first draft to actually being made as a film. In TV, it’s weeks. You dream it up in July, shoot it in August, and millions watch it in September. And instead of waiting another bunch of years for your next script to make it to the screen, there’s another one on the following week…and the week after that, and the week after that.
And to those who think TV is inferior to feature films, I offer the following face-offs:
True Blood vs. Twilight
Tina Fey in 30 Rock and Steve Carrell in The Office vs. both in Date Night
How many dramas have characters as memorable as Tony Soprano, House, or Jack Bauer? How many movies make you laugh as hard and as often as Curb Your Enthusiasm, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or The Big Bang Theory?
If you’re a writer or other aspiring filmmaker bursting with creativity and thinking about film school, check out what’s happening in TV at Chapman. It may be your best path to becoming a showrunner with your own weekly show on FOX, TNT or HBO.