TV’s Showrunner Crisis: Many Projects Struggle to Find Experienced Writing Producers

Interesting article. So is LB’s comment at the end:

by Nellie Andreeva
via Team TVWriter™ News Service via TVBizwire via Deadline

john shibaThe search for experienced showrunners around the end of the development season is becoming “an annual tradition,” writes Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com, with increasing numbers of newly picked-up series “in need of a seasoned showrunner every year.”

As an example, with NBC ordering four pilots to series on Wednesday, two of them — “Allegiance” and “State of Affairs” — don’t have showrunners.

So what’s going on? After all, it’s no surprise that the networks were going to make series orders, especially since many of the projects receiving orders were early front-runners.

“Industry insiders trace the problem back a decade ago when the studios cut back on staff writers, breaking the merit-based system for growing writing producers,” Andreeva writes. “The very few staff writer jobs started going to mandatory minority hires and friends of writers or writers assistants.”

Andreeva adds: “While there is nothing wrong with that, the overall dearth of entry-level positions readily available to up-and-coming scribes has resulted in fewer writers getting trained as they go up the ranks, creating a big discrepancy with a lot of senior-level writers and green ones and very few middle-level writers with some experience who are ready to take on a show.”

Additionally, experienced showrunners are either moving to cable or retiring, and there are few writers ready to take their place. “Cable has been a big A-list talent drainer, especially on the drama side,” Andreeva notes.

She points to John Shiban of “The X Files” as an example of that, as he was recently hired to serve as showrunner on the Starz series “Da Vinci’s Demons.”

EDITOR’S NOTE FROM LB: “Additionally, experienced showrunners are either moving to cable or retiring….” Retiring? Let’s get things straight here. I’d amend this sentence to read, “”Additionally, experienced showrunners are either moving to cable or being forced into retirement by age discriminatory hiring practices.” Because that’s what’s been happening since the ’90s – at least.

There, I feel better now.

TV Writers Room Diversity – Can It Happen?

That isn’t exactly the question the following article is asking. But it’s definitely the 500 pound elephant in the (writers?) room:

This image was produced by an application from HighWater Designs Limited.

Diversifying television with tax credits for the writer’s room
by Jenna Flanagan

Anyone watching television has certainly noticed an increase in the diversity of the casts of most scripted television shows. But what about behind the scenes? The Innovation Trail’s Jenna Flanagan finds out how new legislation in Albany aims to incentivize diversity at the very genesis of most television shows. The writer’s room.

Saturday Night Live made national headlines when Sasheer Zamata joined the cast making her the only African-American woman hired by the show in six years. What wasn’t as widely reported were the additions of LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones to the shows writing staff.

“It’s very hard for women and people of color to get their first or second or third jobs writing for TV and film.”

That’s Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America East, a union 4-thousand strong and fully supportive of Assembly bill 7373 and State Senate bill 5370.

These two pieces of legislation aim to increase the diversity amongst productions’ writing staff by modifying the state’s existing production tax credit. Production companies that hired women or people of color would be able to write off a portion of their salaries up to 3-point-5-million dollars a year or 50-thousand dollars per writer.

Peterson says if the legislation went through, it would really set New York apart in television and film production.

“There are no other states that currently provide an incentive to hire women or people of color to write and we think that’s a mistake. We think New York has a historic opportunity to do the right thing here.”

He says getting work as a staff writer is rare, and studio heads tend to hire people they know. Historically, that’s meant white and male, but if more writers had the opportunity to ‘get a shot’, Peterson believes more writers could develop careers in a highly competitive field.

Read it all

How to recognise, prevent and deal with burnout

Or, um, not.

Just kidding. Good stuff here: (And, yes, sadly we speak with genuine burnout experience. Sigh….)

burnout

by – Uh-oh, we couldn’t find a credited author, sorry!

‘Burnout’ is a word that we often hear in the creative industries, and not just from people who run their own businesses and freelance. It’s a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

Burnout leaves you feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with simple tasks. It can make you lose all interest or motivation in your work and you might also become helpless, cynical or even resentful. Eventually, you might want to hide under your duvet and never emerge from your bedroom again.

Because burnout affects your productivity levels and drains you of all energy, happiness and calm – it’s hugely important to recognise the warning signs before it’s too late. These signs and symptoms can be physical, emotional and behavioural…

The Physical Signs of Burnout

You’re constantly exhausted and drained. You have a lower immunity and suffer from regular colds and flu. You suffer from headaches, back and muscle aches. You’re struggling to sleep at night. Your appetite habits have changed. You keep sighing loudly, to the point where people notice.

The Emotional Signs of Burnout

You feel hopeless and have adopted a negative outlook on the world. You feel like a failure. You feel detached and like you’re all alone. You lack motivation and care less about things. You feel trapped and defeated. Your satisfaction levels have taken a nosedive.

The Behavioural Signs of Burnout

You increasingly isolate yourself from other people. You procrastinate and take longer to get things done. You turn to food, drugs or alcohol to cope with stress levels. You take out anger on others. You withdraw from all responsibilities and skip or avoid work altogether.

Read it all

LB: 3 Weeks Left to Enter the People’s Pilot

sshollywoodsign

…So don’t just sit there thinking about it – DO IT!

Members of the staffs of CHICAGO PD, CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, GREY’S ANATOMY, ROME, NTSF:SD:SUV, KILLER WOMEN, ANIMAL PRACTICE, SMALLVILLE, HBO’s upcoming THE LEFTOVERS, and other great, good, and, well, mediocre series have been entrants to this contest over the years and they sure don’t regret it.

(Well, they’re not telling us they do, anyway. But you know how writers like to kvetch, so. if they aren’t, then….)

Bottom line: You’ve got 3 weeks left in which to enter this year’s contest. The countdown to your destiny is in progress. Time to go for it, wouldn’t you say?

More about THE PEOPLE’S PILOT HERE.

More about the prizes HERE.

Read the Winning Scripts for 2013 HERE.

Enter the 2014 PEOPLE’S PILOT HERE.

See you in the Writers Room,

Larry Brody & Team TVWriter™

 

JOHN OSTRANDER: THE SUPER GLASS CEILING

Black-Widowby John Ostrander

Well, I finally saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier this past week. Yeah, I’m a Johnny-O come lately. Got to see it in my preferred format these days, IMAX 3-D, and I and My Mary had a really good time. To me, Chris Evans’ portrayal of the Star-Spangled Avenger ranks with Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman, and that’s top of the heap.

The movie also asked some interesting and morally murky questions. How far should we go to make things “safer”? CA:TWS was a political thriller as much as it was a big time action feature (and it was a bigtime action feature). It paid homage to its comic book roots, taking elements from comic book continuity, treating them with respect, and frequently bettering them.

There were also great performances all around. How the heck did they get Robert Redford to agree to be in it? One explanation I hear was he has grandchildren but I have to think that the other was he had a well written character and some great lines. It was a good part. Anthony Mackie made Sam Wilson/The Falcon a high flying character and more than a sidekick, as Sebastian Stan did for Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier. And, of course, there was Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, with some choice action sequences, some twists and turns, and a persona that places him morally between Cap and the villains. He was like a male Amanda Waller and I mean that in the bad-assest way.

And then there was Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow. The one question I had as I left the theater (in addition to “When am I going to see it again?”) was “When are they making a Black Widow solo film?” I already knew the answer to that. She’s scheduled to be in the next Avengers outing and she might be in the next Captain America or Iron Man film but there is no solo film yet scheduled for her.

That brings us to this week’s real topic: Why the hell not?

The Black Widow is as badass as they come. She is a consummate fighter and an accomplished spy. She is beautiful, sexy, funny, and with the suggestion of an interesting backstory, she can be ruthless and can hold her own with not only S.H.I.E.L.D. but the The Avengers as well. She’s played by Scarlett Johansson, who is gorgeous and sexy and an incredibly talented and accomplished actress. What more do they want?

They’re making a movie about Ant-Man, for crying out loud. Ant-Man. And a little later this summer they’re bringing out Guardians Of The Galaxy. The previews look like fun and I’ll probably see it, but The Black Widow has got to have better name recognition and so does Ms. Johansson.

Over on the Warner Bros lot, they’re making a film featuring Superman and Batman and shoehorning in several other characters, including Wonder Woman. There is no talk of a Wonder Woman solo film. I read the studio head make a wistful, “We’d like to do it” sort of noise but, again, nothing is on the horizon.

Why the hell not?

I’ve heard the past rationales: they don’t think the audience will support it. They point to Catwoman and Supergirl as proof. Here’s an answer: don’t make a sucky superhero film. Batman And Robin orSuperman Returns didn’t kill off those franchises. They gave them pause but both franchises got re-boots and started again. This time, they made good films that found an audience.

Would a movie starring a female protagonist sell? Look at Katniss inThe Hunger Games movies. Tough warrior, good with a bow and arrow, complex character and the movies sell. Role model for young girls everywhere. Do they seriously expect us to believe that the Black Widow or Wonder Woman can’t do the same?

We’re left with one conclusion: Wonder Woman, for all her powers, can’t punch her way through the glass ceiling. And that’s a damn shame.