Support Our #creatives® Shares: What 4 Showrunners Look for When Staffing a Writers Room | Vulture

Mike Schur, Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch, and Nahnatchka Khan. Photo: Getty Images (photo from Vulture article)

 

Discussed in this post is a critical part of the production of a TV show: the writers room, where content for a TV show is born. 

The shared article in this post provides a take on what makes a good writers room. The shared article originally appeared in Vulture: “What 4 Showrunners Look for When Staffing a Writers Room”, by Priyanka Mattoo.

But first, some introductory material – what is a showrunner, and what exactly is a writers room?

The term showrunner is mentioned in the Code of Credits – Television Series – Producers Guild of America: Television Series – Primary Credit: EXECUTIVE PRODUCER. Here is an excerpt (this was discusses in the blog post What is an Executive Producer?):

The Executive Producer credit in television series is given to the individual(s) whose only reporting responsibility is to the studio and/or companies financing and distributing a television series. Subject to the control of the Owner, the Executive Producer has final responsibility for the creative and business aspects of producing the series. S/he will have direct authority over a majority of the producing functions throughout all phases of the series production. The informal title “Showrunner” has frequently come to serve as shorthand for a series’ Executive Producer [emphasis added by author].

Though television series are frequently writer-driven, the Executive Producer must undertake significant production responsibilities in addition to his/her writing services and responsibilities. Frequently, the Executive Producer is responsible for the creation of the series, including its concept, format and characters. In this special circumstance, the PGA gives considerable weight to such a seminal contribution, and supports the Executive Producer credit for such creators who remain engaged with the series in an ongoing supervisory capacity. – from Code of Credits – Television Series – Producers Guild of America

The showrunner is the leading television producer of a television series. Showrunner is a terminology limited to television; this term is not used in film production. A TV series may have multiple executive producers. Only one of those is the showrunner, but is listed in the credits as an executive producer (in the United States) (there is no “showrunner” credit). The term showrunner was created to identify the producer who holds ultimate management and creative authority for the program.

The media frequently mentions and/or interviews the showrunner when doing a story on a TV series. I have noticed that the showrunner is the most frequently interviewed person, besides the actors.

Here is one definition of a TV Writers Room, from Script Magazine:

The writers’ room is a room in which TV stories are conceived. On most shows, this is where the writers spend the majority of their time, coming up with ideas for episodes and then breaking those stories into acts and scenes and moments before an individual writer is sent out to turn the story into an outline and then a script. On a traditional multi-camera sitcom, the room is also where the script is rewritten by the entire staff working as a team to improve the jokes and story after the script is written. Some drama shows don’t have rooms at all — each writer works one-on-one with the showrunner to conceive and “break” their own episode.Script Magazine

The showrunner is in charge of staffing the writers room, and directs the creative process therein.

The shared article begins below …


What 4 Showrunners Look for When Staffing a Writers Room

As a former comedy agent at UTA and WME, Priyanka Mattoo represented numerous big-name writers and performers before leaving to start a TV production company with Jack Black. Now she writes and directs, but she still encounters a tidal wave of comedy hopefuls looking for the advice, information, and pep talks that only a former agent can provide. In show business, they say that it’s all about who you know. Well, you’re in luck because now you know Priyanka!

I’d like to write for TV someday (soon). I have a couple of samples I’m pretty happy with, and I’m sharing them with everyone I know, hoping to land representation and meet on shows. But what are showrunners looking for (specs? Originals?), and how are they getting submissions right now? Is the diversity push real? What do I do if I’m lucky enough to meet on a show? I realize that’s way more than one question, but basically: How does staffing work? —Andrea B., L.A.

Hi! Excellent timing!

[…]

Anyway, as for putting a room together, I spoke to my showrunner friends Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat), Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch (GLOW), and Mike Schur (The Good Place) about how they hire and compose their rooms.

[…]

Read full article>>

What 4 Showrunners Look for When Staffing a Writers Room | Vulture


Concluding remarks:

The showrunner and the members of the writers room play important roles in the production of a TV show. Showrunners told us how they hire and compose their rooms. The showrunners gave their thoughts about what a new writer should include in their portfolio; what the qualities are for a good writer; what makes a writer shine in the writers room; and the push for diversity.

Please provide feedback or questions in the Comments. I would really enjoy hearing from you. And let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover.


References:

Code of Credits – Television Series – Producers Guild of America

TV Writer’s Room – Script Magazine

Wikipedia – Showrunner

More about the writers room:

Scribes on ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘Westworld’ and 12 More Shows Reveal Secrets From the Writers Room


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