Showrunners

I’ve been watching and listening to more conversations with creative types, particularly writers and people involved in film and TV. Creative people are fascinating – we all seem to think in really different ways, and it’s interesting to learn the way that others tackle their creative challenges and that the people on the top have just as many challenges as us little people. For example, I just finished listening to John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns) on the Nerdist Writers Panel, and one of the many great things he said was that he isn’t sure which is better: sending out manuscripts and getting rejected, or getting accepted and having your whole world change because of the success. He’s also pretty self-deprecating – which I can relate to, except that this is John fucking Green. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve incorporated Crash Course into my lessons … I’d be broke, obviously, because why would I be showing lots of YouTube videos in the classroom…? (I assume that my board overlords are always reading these. Shit, I’ve already cursed in this post … twice, now.)

Anyway, I also watched the documentary Showrunners, which examines the process of developing a TV show by interviewing and following folks like Hart Hanson, Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, and Robert and Michelle King. Seeing the process outlined from pilot to season finale really opened my eyes to how much work goes into developing a season of television. I mean, I knew it was a ton of work, but holy gods is it a ton of work.

The really neat thing is that while there’s a sort of SOP when it comes to writing for a network, every creative team has their own dynamic and way of doing things, and they all face the same challenges that any writer can relate to. For example, the struggle between trying to make something perfect and meeting a deadline – for a fiction writer, there’s no such thing as perfect, it’s just the point when something’s good enough and more tinkering is going to drive you nuts. Or wanting to do right by your characters, and not write yourself into a corner. Or the challenge of choosing which creative hill you want to die on, when the showrunner and the network (or the author and their editor) disagree on a particular element of the plot. John Rogers of Leverage and The Librarians points out that you only really get to choose one hill to die on, so you have to make it count – which is true of life in general, I suppose.

If you’re curious about TV development or you enjoy listening to creative people, I highly recommend Showrunners. It was especially good for me to watch because I’m in one of those cycles now where I feel like I have too many projects and ideas rattling around my head – and going back to what John Green discussed, there are ongoing developments that are leveling up my writing career, and that’s terrifying all on its own. But these interviews remind me that everyone goes through this sort of thing – Mary Robinette Kowal suffers imposter syndrome, and Joe Hill is certain that his next novel is going to flop, just like the rest of us. So this is sort of how I tell myself to just calm the hell down because, as multiple folks on Showrunners stated, it’s just writing. I love it and I want to do it for the rest of my life, but I’m not a brain surgeon or a UN diplomat. If a story of mine goes nowhere, I’ll just write another story. No one suffers.

That only happens when I mess with my students’ minds every day 😀

 

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