Report – Who’s Running This Show Anyway
This session focussed on the role of ‘showrunner’ – what a showrunner actually is, how crucial a role they play, and how the position differs in the UK and the US
- There is no one size fits all for the term Showrunner
- There is a difference of meaning in the UK and the US
- In general, a showrunner is responsible for the overall creative vision of the show
Each panellist came to the session with their own opinion on what a showrunner was responsible for. For Foz Allan, Executive Producer for Bryncoed Productions, the showrunner is usually the head creative in a group of talented people working together to deliver content.
Adastra Development’s Mellie Buse shared her experiences with the Jim Henson Company, who had the typical showrunner model. She believes a showrunner is a writer who has worked themselves up to a head writer position who then becomes responsible for the editorial vision of the show. Speaking of her time working on ‘The Hoobs’, she explained how as head writer she was trusted with the creative vision of the show, working across all the scripts for 250 episodes.
For writer Andrew Burrell the term refers to different aspects of production in the UK and the US. Having worked with the same showrunner in both countries he noticed how the role’s responsibility changed with the location. In the US a showrunner is responsible for more decisions including in marketing. But he said it can be useful having that one person who can give advice to everyone involved in which direction to take a show.
Juliet Charlesworth gave a producer’s view, saying: “There is no one size fits all”. It very much depended on the type of production and who was involved. She explained how it was difficult to know what aspects of a production the showrunner should be informed on, questioning whether they should know all the costs.
The main comparison made when discussing the differences between the UK and US showrunner models is the scale of productions. In most UK drama there are far fewer episodes than in a large American production, and the only area of UK production that has a similar scale is within children’s television.
For Foz and Mellie, a showrunner works as the champion of the show and a protector of the creative vision. It was concluded that the UK may benefit from following the American format of writers rooms in order to train new talent, with a head writer being able to keep the scripts following the same voice of a show.
Henry R Swindell
Adastra Development / Magic2 Media
Head of Drama Development, CBBC Production