Producing A TV Drama
Producing A TV Drama
Pamela Douglas (Screenwriter) gives expert video advice on: What is the 'show bible'?; How do I become a TV drama producer? and more...
What is the role of a 'producer' in a drama?
On television, producers are writers. It's completely unlike producers in movies, where producers are on the business and financial end and often have to raise money. That does not exist in television. Producers are writers who are experienced enough to have an elevated title. The difference between the work of a producer and any lower level writer is that the producer also may have responsibilities on set and be involved with casting.
What are the responsiblities of the 'executive producer'?
The executive producer, if that person is also a Show Runner, is in charge of every element of the TV show. It's like being the President of a corporation. Not only must that person deliver all of the stories, but you have to deliver every episode on time, complete, each week. This means you have to be on top of the budget and of the physical production as well as all casting and hiring. As executive producer, you're also where the buck stops on polishing scripts. If a show is not working, you need to figure out what to do to fix that. There are many show runners who are also show creators and find themselves writing or re-writing almost all the episodes.
What is a 'show-runner'?
A show runner is the person who actually runs the TV show. That person also has the title executive producer, and may or may not be the person who originally created the show. A show runner is actually the operator of the show, the management person in charge, who may also be the creative person in charge.
What makes a great executive producer?
A great executive producer is one who not only understands storytelling, but has a complete vision of where the TV show is going. Most of all, a great executive producer is quite able to manage the staff as well as the entire mechanical production process, so that it runs smoothly and stories can be told without the problems of the physical production.
What is a 'supervising producer' in TV drama?
Supervising producer is the title just under the Executive Producer. It's a writer on the show who may be responsible for running the writing room, helping to revise scripts, as well as perhaps advising newer writers.
What is the 'show bible'?
A “show bible” lays out the characters, the kinds of stories to be told and sometimes summarizes stories that have been told, as well as the needs of the show for the future. At one time, executive producers of shows would write “bibles” so that directors and outside writers coming in would understand the history of the stories and not accidentally repeat them, and also be able to fulfill the future needs of the show. Now, in place of “bibles”, most TV shows have websites that give all of that information.
Do drama producers still write episodes?
Drama producers primarily write episodes. The main job of producers, on television, is to write and re-write.
What is the size of the writing staff on a TV drama?
The size of a writing staff varies in TV dramas. Usually, there are one or two executive producers, who are at the top of running a show. How much they staff up has partly to do with how much they are going to write themselves and the complexity of the show. When you talk about producers on television, you really are just talking about the writing staff, because that's what producers are. So even though you may have one or two executive producers, you might have three, four, five or more producers who are actually just writers on the staff.
How is it determined which characters will or won't die on a drama?
There's no rule whether a character dies on a TV drama, except to the extent that an actor quits or dies. Tony Soprano's mother died precipitously because the actress died, and they had to figure out a way around that. I don't know whether some of the actors leaving Grey's Anatomy now are going to have death episodes or not. But there is no rule for that. This is all part of finding the way through story telling.
Who decides if a drama script will be produced?
The decision whether to go with a script or kill it is up to the show runner, except that there are times when a network will do battle. There are subject areas or kinds of material that a network may question. Then the show runner needs to have enough power to go to the network and argue in favor of that episode.
Is the entire season of a drama worked out before it begins shooting?
Some TV shows work out the entire season and some don't. Most serials have at least some kind of map, and sometimes a show runner takes the entire staff to camp for a week or two before the staff assembles to start writing the new season. During that week of retreat, they think broadly of where they want their series to go and the kind of very large arcs the characters may have. There are other shows where that's irrelevant. With the CSIs, for example, it wouldn't matter because each episode is free standing, so they don't do that.