1. Definition of showrunner: the leading executive producer of a television series. A showrunner has creative and management responsibility for series production, usually combining the tasks of choosing the crew and equipment (technical and artistic, including cast, directors, etc.). A showrunner is usually the head writer and is always the script editor.
2. Rumour has it that in film the director has the creative control over a production, but in television it’s the showrunner. It’s no rumour, it’s true.
3. There’s no need to go all Taliban here. Of course a director can be an excellent showrunner, as long as they know the language of television and discard the mantra that “a series is a long film”. TV fiction has its own cipher and this you need to know if your planning to get into it. In turn, if you’re a screenwriter, you’ll need to know how to direct. And directing isn’t just about composing a picture. It’s more about transforming the written emotions into an interpretation true to the intention with which they were penned. Because the actors are the ones who tell our stories.
4. If a screenwriter intends to write every episode, they ‘d better make sure they have the time to write at least 80% of everything prior to production. When it does kick off, the day-to-day toil will leave you ragged. If a director wants to direct every episode, they’ll have to ensure they have the time to film. And time is money (I tip my hat to those who have money to burn). So, a typical production can involve several directors and if one of them is the showrunner, they need to transmit their hallmark to everyone else and supervise their work. And one life isn’t sufficient time to direct everything.
5. In any case, being a good scriptwriter doesn’t automatically imply you’re a good showrunner or a good director. Being a good showrunner implies much more than that and involves learning about many other things, including budgets, human resources, producibility, etc., until you’ve got them down.
6. That said, the figure of showrunner in fiction TV is, historically, that of a screenwriter: Bochco, Fontana, Simon, Chase, etc., which first appeared in the 90s in exactly this form, later endorsed by HBO, who banked on the creator as the focal point of their series…
7. … just like the BBC did with Potter, Abbott, Mercury, Moffat, Milne, Wainwright … Historically, the BBC assigned its creators the category of author, presenting them in the credits like “Written by …”, as if they were the author of a novel. The same thing happened in Spain with Chicho Ibáñez Serrador, Ana Diosdado, Jaime de Armiñán … They controlled the product long before the verbiage of showrunner ever existed. As was the case with Zambrano and his excellent “Padre Coraje”
8. The crew. Find people who know about the areas you don’t. Choose commanding department heads (management, art, costumes, photography, montage …) who are responsible for their areas and who pick their own team to work with. Choose people who can work as a team and engage in developing ideas through open dialogue. Even if you do have the last word, you have to listen to everyone’s input and then make a decision.
9. You work for a client. If you think you have free rein to do anything you want, you’ve made a big mistake: become a poet. The producibility of the series, the window via which you exhibit to the world and the audience you are addressing are essential keys to the covenant you enter into when you produce a series.
10. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the client, the producer, the network, (the one whose money is on the line) who has the most creative audiovisual profession. It might be the person who pitches the original idea: the commission is as much an authorial source as the idea itself. But the true talent lies in having the gift of attracting the right talent, not in moulding the creative minds until their hallmark fades into insignificance. A great art gallery owner never tells a painter what or how to paint their pictures. That’s not their job. Their task is to choose the best painters, and then stand aside as they create their work.