The title of this article is a question of immense importance to all of us noobs, so let’s get to the answers, from Stage 32, ASAP:
by Anna Henry
I recently attended a panel discussion on writer’s rooms and wanted to share some of the insights offered by the panelists who are two prominent showrunners from network and cable: A streaming network executive, and a production company executive.
The questions they answered were:
– What do showrunners look for when they hire writers?
– What is the process for hiring?
– How are rooms different in network vs. cable and streaming?
– What if you create a show and the studio wants to bring in an experienced showrunner to work with you?
– What do producers and executives wish writers understood better?
– How can you succeed in an interview with a showrunner for a staff writer position? Here are some tips from the pros.
Showrunners and executives agree that the number one thing they look for in writers is people with different perspectives.
Fresh Voices Wanted
New, authentic voices are in high demand both in rooms and as show creators. On network shows , the writer’s rooms are relatively big with several lower-level positions, so there’s room for educating up-and-coming writers. In cable and streaming, the new trend is toward the “mini-room;” a concept where 2 – 3 writers are assembled to break out a season in anticipation of a straight-to-series pickup instead of making a pilot. This type of arrangement works well to create an intimate space where the show creator can prove that there is something in the concept that will work in the long run. Executives prefer this arrangement over pilots, even though among writers it isn’t universally loved, since it results in short-term employment and lower overall pay.
There are also limited opportunities to “break in” unless you have a relationship with the show creator and a clear attachment to the concept. In both cases, however, showrunners are looking for writers who come at the material from a fresh point-of-view, who bring something new to the table….