I caught part of Friday Night Lights showrunner Jason Katims‘ Master Class here at the Banff Television Festival, but Karen Hill got a lot more access to his fabulousness thanks the CanWest Showrunner Training Program. Here, courtesy of Karen, are Katims’ Twelve Rules for Showrunners:
1. Decide what you need.
Look at your skill set critically and determine your weaknesses. Then, hire accordingly.
2. Embrace input.
Even if your initial input is to push people away, fight that impulse. Embrace the collaborative nature of the medium. Listen to your actors, execs, keys.)
3. Give yourself permission to say no.
Once people feel they’ve been heard, then you can tell them it’s not the way you envision the show.
4. Success is determined before principle photography.
Once you put together your team, most of your work is done. When you interview folks, really pay attention. You’ll learn what you need to know in the first five minutes.
5. Be open to change when reality hits.
For example, if you’re in editing, don’t hang onto your fantasy version of the script. Deal with the material that’s actually been shot and cut the show accordingly.
6. Not everything is your fault.
7. Some things are your fault.
When you can cop to your fuck ups, it’s a good thing. It fosters an atmosphere of trust. Own your mistakes so it won’t happen again.
8. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Pay attention to lifestyle stuff. Katims prides himself on being able to go home and have dinner with the kids. Losing perspective from overwork doesn’t help the show. Hiatus is a sham.
9. Believe the cards.
Put the story up on a board on index cards. If you can’t talk your story from start to finish, it’ll show up on the screen. Story holes always show. Be willing to throw out the cards and rewrite. Know how your story tracks.
10. Be honest when conflicts arise.
If an actor complains about their character and you disagree with them, tell them. Be honest. People will respect you. Nobody wants to tell the truth but you need to remember you are being paid to do the things that are hard. No exec has ever said anything wrong. When a show fails, it’s because of us.
11. Empower your team.
Believe in the people you hire. Don’t make it seem like you’re indispensable. You will be rewarded by empowering talented people. They’ll do better work.
12. Don’t hire anyone who wants your job.
They’ll make your life difficult as they try to take your job.