Showrunners | review

Showrunners, documentary, full length, Des Doyle, IFI, Dublin, Ireland, Joss Whedon, JJ Abrahms, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, review, film review, about running a tv show - HeadStuff.orgFor those not in the know; ‘Showrunner’ is a term that has become much more widely used since we entered TV’s apparent golden age. If TV really is the new novel it’s about time someone talked to the authors. This documentary, made by Irishman Des Doyle, takes us through what it takes to be the one ”responsible for overseeing all areas of writing and production on a television series and ensuring that each episode is delivered on time and on budget”.

The film takes the form of a collection of talking heads interviews with the people behind some very well-known and some lesser-known TV. For every Boardwalk Empire or Lost there’s a Men of a Certain Age or Rizzoli and Isles. The variety does give you a good sense of the position of Showrunner as being a job. It’s tempting to see them as the auteurs of our favourite box sets but here we get a real glimpse of the slog. Given that the role involves overseeing day to day production it’s described by one participant as being like ‘Composing a song while writing a novel while doing your taxes’. People work extremely hard and hope that the end product comes out OK. Most have a few duds under their belt.

The film focuses too on just how demanding the job is. Most simply can’t make it past their fifties due to the strain. There’s a clear element of ‘find what you love and let it kill you’ going on.

Joss Whedon, Showrunner, Buffy, Firefly, The Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, documentary, filmmaker, marvel, comic con - HeadStuff.orgThe main flaw here is that there are too many interviewees for us to feel like we’re really getting to the heart of things. At times it feels like a huge infodump without much insight. Also, some are more interesting than others. Josh Whedon is consistently entertaining; others are just explaining what they do. There is a sense at times that the filmmakers might have pushed them further. The result is something that at times resembles a DVD extra rather than fully formed feature.


That’s a minor enough complaint though. What we have here is a selection of mostly interesting people saying mostly interesting things. It’s amazing that someone didn’t think to tackle this subject sooner. If you’re in Dublin this Sunday there are a lot worse things you could do than pop into the IFI where this will be screening with a Q&A as part of the Stranger Than Fiction Festival.



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