October 24, 2019

Everything You Need to Know About Being a Showrunner

Showrunners are the most important people in television. Some rise to celebrity status. Others go unknown. But what do they spend all day doing? What is their actual job? Let's find out. 

Who makes all the decisions on a TV show? Who runs the writers' rooms, makes sure shows come in on time, and helps plan out how much money is spent on every episode? 

Imagine being the brains behind one of the most popular shows on streaming or television. You have so much responsibility. and it's not just story. Your title is "showrunner," and that all-encompassing word. You're part god, account, hostage negotiator, and writer. 

But there's even more than that. Today, let's talk about everything a showrunner does and give them even more accolades they already get. 

Showrunner definition 

A showrunner is a person who has complete creative authority and responsibility for a television program's writing and management. 

But what do showrunners actually do? 

Showrunners are responsible for making a budget for the season and episodes. They are the liaison between the studio and writers' room. They help deliver notes and polish screenplays. Their job is to make everyone and their contributions feel valuable. 

In an article on Business Insider, Remi Aubuchon, a producer and the showrunner for Playstation Network's "Powers," said: 

"It's a weird amalgam of a creative job and a management job that I'm sure exists in other industries, but I haven't yet come across the equivalent of it yet. It's pretty bizarre, I think." 

What are the showrunners' responsibilities? 

The main job is to protect the creative vision of the television show. That means standing up to the studio and/or the network when necessary. 

There are times when the show's creator is not the showrunner. When that happens, the showrunner is there to guide the creator and teach them the ways of the world. They mentor that person so that they can run the show someday. Or run their next show. 

Lastly, the showrunner is the person most held accountable for the show's ratings or views on a streamer. They take the praise when people are tuning in, and the blame when projects go awry. 

What's the difference between a showrunner and a producer?

As we mentioned above, a showrunner is usually the creator and/or executive producer of a television series. In fact, most showrunners are credited as the "executive producer" of the series. This is different than being a TV producer, who actually work with the more physical aspects of the show. Like helping negotiate with the cast, hire directors, and hire the crew. There are line producers, who do budgets, casting producers, who help cast, and production managers who help episodes get shot. 

Shows that have been on the air also have a few “writer-producers” who are key parts of the writers' room. 

Who are some famous showrunners? 

Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes, Vince Gilligan, and David Simon are all famous showrunners. They essentially become the face of the shows they work on and their names become synonymous with what happens on the air. 

Think about how The West Wing and Aaron Sorkin go hand-in-hand. Or Game of Thrones and EPs David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. 

They usually speak for the show, answer fan questions, and some even tweet along with their episodes. Showrunners are so important, that THR lists the 50 most powerful showrunners every year! 

What Is a Showrunner's Salary?

We are living during a time of insane peak TV New shows are popping up all the time, and so are new channels for them to exist on. We are hovering around 500 series every year. That's staggering.  

Spoiler alert: Showrunners tend to make a lot of money. For the most prolific writer-producers, nine-figure deals are now commonplace.

According to an article in Parade, Shonda Rhimes was said to be earning $15 million to $20 million a year at ABC. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss earned between $100,000 and $300,000 per episode for their work on Game of Thrones.

What if you're brand new to this world? First-time showrunners can earn between $30,000 and $40,000 per episode.

Not a bad way to make a living. 

What's next? Start your TV Pilot

Hundreds of pilots sell to networks and streaming services every year. What's stopping you from selling your idea? Want to learn how to write a TV pilot? You've come to the right place. 

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