SHOWRUNNERS: The Movie (Yes, it gets its own sneak peek, too!)

While we at TYLL like to shine a spotlight on fabulous fictional ladies, we also like talking about TV in general. What follows is something cool that might pique your interest. After all, it highlights the people who bring to life the characters and shows we love and adore.

Have you ever wondered about the masterminds behind your favorite TV shows? Or, more specifically, about those who created and run them?

Then, you are in luck.

In a few days (this Friday, October 31st!), there is a documentary coming out you might have heard about: Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show, by Des Doyle. It’s the first feature documentary to ever focus on television showrunners and the creative forces around them.

Want to know a bit more about it? Then click ahead.

Hart Hanson in the official Showrunners doc poster.

Hart Hanson in the official Showrunners doc poster.

Firstly, you might need to know what a showrunner is. I think that the website’s synopsis covers the definition better and more concisely than I could ever begin to explain: “Often described as the most complex job in the entertainment business, a showrunner is the chief writer/producer on a TV series and, in most instances, the show’s creator. Battling daily between art and commerce, showrunners manage every aspect of a TV show’s development and production: creative, financial and logistical.”

This documentary, specifically, has some big names (if you’re a fan of TV). A sample of the visionaries profiled: Hart Hanson (if you are reading this site, there is a small chance you know a little show of his called Bones or even The Finder), JJ Abrams (Felicity, Alias, among others), Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory), Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly), Jane Espenson (Caprica, and a writer of everything in sci-fi/fantasy you love), and Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Chicago Code, Terriers), along with just about every showrunner you can imagine. We could be here for a while — that’s how deep the talent pool is, and probably the main reason why I’m so excited to get a better insight into this world.

Not going to lie: the first time I read about what the documentary was about and all the fabulous people involved, I was already in. For the last few years, I’ve been quite interested in following as much of the creative process behind my favorite TV shows as much as possible. So, when I heard about this in the fall of 2012, I was quick to contribute to their successfully funded Kickstarter campaign.

I am so glad I did.

I am excited for the film to finally come out and I truly envy those who have been able to watch it at either the San Diego or New York Comic Cons, or other festivals in which it’s premiered already.

The Companion Book

The Companion Book

Luckily for me (and everyone else), the people behind the documentary released a companion book to the movie last month (on September 2nd) to tide us over until the film comes out. I was so excited to get my hands on it I devoured it all on that same day it came out. The book, written by Tara D. Bennett, is a detailed account of just about anything related to running a show: from what the job entails (both good and bad), to the creative side, to the business realities, to the whole new world social media has opened. It also offers some in depth exploration for certain topics, such as the differences between American and British show running,  or how one of the greatest showrunners in recent memory came to helm his series. I particularly enjoyed hearing them all offer their own unique viewpoints to these same topics, demonstrating how many different approaches there are to creating this lightning in a bottle.

It is such a great read, full of entertaining and insightful anecdotes — as I said, I seriously could not put it down. It is addictive and informative, and you get sucked right in: you delve into these talented people’s minds and understand why they have approached things they way they have. (In some cases, it will be tidbits you did not know about until now).

Like many, I wish Shonda Rhimes or more women had been on hand to contribute to it, but the great selection of showrunners profiled is still insightful and there is a particularly engrossing detailed section delving into the women and minority showrunners. (It does further reflect the fact that this unfortunately remains a male-dominated industry.) This is not a critique, as I actually understand the reasons why she was unlikely to  contribute, given her demanding schedule for one. The upside is that things have changed a little bit since most of the principal photography for the documentary was completed; some fantastic new shows (some created by women!) have hit the airwaves, so I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel already.

Bottom line is, if you get a chance to read the book – do it. Not just because of a delightful foreword (I would’ve known right away who penned it had I not read that in the cover*) and a really wonderful introduction to the book and the world of television showrunning, but because if you really like your TV shows, you will really appreciate learning about the amount of effort that goes into making them.

(* It’s been more than a month and a half and I’m still in awe of such a great analogy. Honestly, it had never occurred me to compare showrunning and sex, but it oddly makes sense.)

I can’t wait for Halloween, but for different reasons than most.

Watch the final trailer for the documentary below! You can pre-order the film on iTunes here.

Useful Links: Website || Tumblr || Book on Amazon

We don’t want to make any promises, but we will definitely try to discuss more about this after the movie is released.



… is a young graduate student that has been way too passionate about television ever since she was little. While she insists she doesn’t have a specific type of show, they all usually have strong but flawed lady characters, some derivation of the stubborn friends-in-love/friends-to-lovers trope, and they all make her yell at her tv a lot. She just wishes she had more hours in the day so she could actually write about this.
You can usually find her on Twitter, Tumblr, and at cassidy at

4 Responses to SHOWRUNNERS: The Movie (Yes, it gets its own sneak peek, too!)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I devoured the book as well and I’m SO looking forward to the film. The kids in my neighborhood are going to do without Halloween candy this year because I’ll be watching Showrunners! I’m not a writer but I’m a fan of TV and I always enjoy learning about the creative process and what goes on behind the scenes. The companion book was insightful and a joy to read.

    • Nels Nels says:

      That’s so great to hear! I know Cassidy can chime in with some more thoughts, but I can’t wait to get a chance to read the book myself, or see the movie, as a former media student and above all a lover of all things TV.

      • Cassidy says:

        Whenever you can, grab a copy. It is pretty wonderful and I think you’d particularly adore the BTS aspect of it. It is very good.
        Also: We should watch the movie sometime this weekend and discuss it together! 🙂

    • Cassidy says:

      The kids can do without some candy 😉 I’m not a writer either but the whole process behind the making of TV has always been fascinating to me.
      I wasn’t planning to read the companion book all in one afternoon, but it was such a compelling read I just couldn’t stop. I agree though – it was really a joy to read! So full of interesting information. 🙂

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