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04/20/2001 - Showrunners and Television Series
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How to Produce Movies for Television


"When you have seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved
person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter."

-- Albert Camus


Showrunners and Television Series

The writer-producers who generally create and develop pilots or conceive the overall series concept are hired by studios and networks to run the show. Showrunners are responsible for overseeing every aspect of a television series including:

Development/Pre-Production Phase

Showrunners do the following:

Consult with the network, studio, and production company about developing the pilot or series. They also are involved in pitching the project to prospective buyers.

They negotiate in the network license fees (the monies that are budgeted to produce the series and any additional financing in order to produce the project.

They often conceive or help to create the series "bible."

They select and approve the pilot as well as help to select and staff the series writers. They're also available for consultation with the writers of the series.

They select and approve of all other series producers and consult with them as well.

They approve all story outlines and scripts that are generated "in house."

They supervise and participate in pitch meetings from free lance story writers.

They select and approve of all freelance script assignments.

They supervise and participate in all story and script meetings.

They supervise and approve all script revisions.

They supervise and approve of all final shooting scripts.

SERIES DEVELOPMENT/PRE-PRODUCTION Page 2.

Showrunners (cont'd)

They supervise and approve all freelance episodic writing deals.

They serve as the primary point-of-contact for the network, studio and production company in helping to formulate and establish creative issues.

They select and approve the Pilot Director and consult with the director.

They select and approve of the hiring for all episodic directors and are available to consult with them at all times.

They select and approve of the hiring of the Casting Director and are available to consult with them as well at all times.

They consult with the Director, network, production company and studio regarding the casting of "series regulars."

SERIES PRODUCTION PHASE

Showrunners are involved as hands-on writer-producers in the following manner:

They are the primary point-of-contact for the network, studio, and production company for dealing with all business and financial issue. This includes license fee requirements and network "breakage" (generally reserve funds to satisfy deals with bankable stars).

They negotiate all contracts including the contracts for actors that are hired on an episodic basis: "star turns," etc.

They are available to consult with the principal cast members.

They select and approve the hiring of the United Production Manager (UPM) and are available at all times to consult with the UPM.

They select and hire the Art Director and are also available for consultation at all times.

They approve all set designs and set dressing for the pilot or template episode sets.

They approve all set designs and set dressing for sets created and built for the ongoing series.


SHOWRUNNERS/SERIES PRODUCTION (cont'd.) Page 3.


They select and approve the hiring of the Director of Photography (DP) and are available to consult with the DP at all times.

They select and approve the hiring of the Composer and are available to consult with the composer as well

They select and approve the hiring of the Editors and consult with them.

They select and approve the production staff including: Assistant Directors (AD's.) script supervisor, estimator, accountants, auditors, production coordinator, technical advisors (TA's), and location managers.

They select and approve the visual effects and mechanical effects team.

They select and approve the costume designer, head make-up person, and head hair stylist and consult with them.

They approve all other craft department heads.

They supervise and approve all "call sheets" and production reports.

They supervise and approve all shooting schedules.

They supervise and participate in all department pre-production meetings.

They supervise and participate in the pilot and episodic production meetings.

They approve all speciality elements: special costumes, props, set dressing, and appliance make-up.

They approve the shooting format (35mm, Super 35mm, 16mm, video, Hi-Definition) and rawstock used in the production of the series project.

They supervise the preparation of the series amortization and pattern budgets.
They also approve the final series amortization and pattern budgets.

They supervise and approve "hot costs" and series cost reports.

They supervise the day-to-day operation of the shooting company and all talent and crafts.

They supervise and approve the series overall production schedule, including start dates, hiatus schedules, shutdown days, etc.
Showrunners/Series Production Page 4.

They supervise and approve the choice of location (including city or State) when filming on distant locations.

They negotiate and approve union agreements, including "sideletter" type agreements when shooting on distant locations.

They supervise and approve the choice of stage and production sites when filming in major cities such as Los Angeles and New York.

They supervise the selection and approve all locations used during the series production.

They negotiate the contracts involving studio and production office space for the series.

They negotiate the final contracts for key crew members such as the Casting Director, Production Designer, and Director of Photography.

They oversee and approve the deals for the principal components of the production.

Next week we'll discuss the Showrunners' involvement with series Post-Production/Delivery Phase.

Showrunners of series television have a moral responsibility to "encounter the hearts" of the viewing audiences. Television series often serve as a social barometer, depicting the values and mores of contemporary society. Series help to shape the lives of people in a positive or negative way. It's up to Showrunners and their peers to present series television that will serve as positive force.

"Few of us will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of these acts will be written the history of this generation."

-- Robert Kennedy


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