From Shonda Rhimes's MasterClass

Showrunning

Becoming and being a showrunner is exciting, but it comes with immense responsibilities. Shonda talks through how she learned to become an effective showrunner.

Topics include: Studios • Delegating • Communication

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Becoming and being a showrunner is exciting, but it comes with immense responsibilities. Shonda talks through how she learned to become an effective showrunner.

Topics include: Studios • Delegating • Communication

Shonda Rhimes

Teaches Writing for Television

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What is a showrunner? A showrunner is, a lot of people say it's different things to different people. But to me, a showrunner is somebody who keeps a show running. They keep a television show running. And that is a very important way of putting it. And most of the time, a showrunner is a writer, not necessarily always the creator of the show, but always an executive producer. And they're the person who's responsible for basically keeping the trains running on time, making sure the scripts happen, making sure you're staying on budget as prescribed by the line producer, making sure the actors are as happy as they need to be, working with the crew and the line-producing side of the team, talking to the studio and the network, making sure the writers' room is moving forward, making sure that the scripts are creatively what the studio and the network are hopeful for, but also protecting the creative vision. It's a big job. I'm a fairly fierce showrunner, I like to say. For me, I feel like my best work is about being keeper of the story. My commitment, my real most important job for the audience is to be fully committed to the storytelling. And so when it comes down to it, that is where my allegiances always have to lie, the story. And so that is where all my decisions come from. There can be a big conflict when you are a showrunner between the creative and artistic side and the financial side, and the sort of business side of things. There's the financial side, you're given a budget for every episode. It's like a little movie. You have to stick to it. You're given sort of a mandate by this studio network of what they want creatively. And I don't mean they're dictating to you what the episode should be about. But say you've promised them a show about Meredith Grey, she's a surgeon, she's working as hard as she can to make it as a surgeon. You can't then deliver them a show about Meredith Grey who's become a surfer and she's working as hard as she can to surf and not going to the hospital very often, for instance. And then you have your creative side, which is you have to follow this story as the story is dictated in your creative spirit and soul and as the characters drive it. And all of those things have to work together. Now a lot of it is for me, sticking to the storytelling. Storytelling is the most important thing. I have to follow the characters. But I also have to stay within the millions of dollars of budget that I've been given for the season, and I cannot go over that. Because if you go over that, then you are being fiscally irresponsible and you are messing with the studio network's money. I think the skills necessary to be a successful showrunner really have to do with the ability to communicate honestly. What happens to a lot of people is they get afraid. And this, frankly, is for everything in life. People get afraid...

Make Great Television

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her screenwriting class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Fences have an outside and an inside and those build them get to decide

Even though I'm absolutely not a Shondaland fan, I found Shonda Rhimes to be a great teacher. Most of it is very useful and already helped me develop a series bible. Thank you Shonda!

The class was amazing. I've been a fan of Shonda for a while and to gain advice from her was very useful. I'm glad she was willing to share her craft with me.

I learned a lot about tv, stuff that i was so desparate to know and stuff that it would have taking me years to know with the traditional way. Thank you very much.

Comments

Graeme R.

Shonda is as kind and generous as she is knowledgeable and competent, and that is astonishing.

ernest C.

... then i need to start making your coffee (tea) or serving you scotch. And, you can ask to read the script of the person who makes it now; i'm sure they're ready to make room for new blood in the PACK.

Donna S.

Wow, making people feel valued, and welcome. What wonderful concepts for someone in leadership. That is how it should be for everyone, but unfortunately, for too many people, they do not feel valued in their job. I never felt valued at any job I have had.

Robert H.

This was one of the best and most wide-ranging lessons. In part because about the meaning of leadership and wisdom in working with people. I'm also impressed, despite my lack of experience but abundance of friends, that what she relates is what I've heard from experienced producers. Much of which is not common enough sense.

Betty M.

Another invaluable class. Some take aways: (1) Being a show runner can be difficult. If you are not the showrunner you will end up working for someone else; (2) Ms. Rhimes likes helping and empowering others. EXCELLENT!!!

Ryan L.

There were a few times here where I thought of the experience of Russel T. Davies when he brought Doctor Who back. Up until then he'd done purely real world shows and had no idea how to budget the increased special effects that sci-fi calls for, and ended up blowing almost the entire budget for the first season on just one early episode. If he hadn't had such a successful previous career backing him up, that might have been the end of him in the business. Luckily, he was able to stay on and learn from it in future seasons.

Stefania G.

Making opportunities for women and POC and people who didn't have the means or know how to find their way through the door. That part made me cry!

Lisa S.

Thank you for speaking truth to showrunning. It's often glamorized on panels and other industry events. And... it is a tough job. I realize even at the low level I'm writing and producing scripted content online, I am the show runner. I keep laying the track and making sure we don't go over-budget and communicating when I'm concerned. I love being the ring leader of my family of cast and crew. And while showrunning isn't always fun, it IS in my DNA. Thank you for reflecting that to me!

Cherise A. W.

This is an amazing lesson. I like how Shonda explains the importance of staying committed and within budget. I like how she breaks down the executive producer role. The importance of delegating and empowering others around you is an attractive skill to have. When you can delegate and empower, you are entrusting your crew and you care about the project you have given them by making them feel valuable and helping them win around you. In addition, I love making opportunities for others. Helping others evolve and grow is amazing. You're amazing Thank you, Cherise A. Williams

Susan K.

She's the ultimate mentor. I've never heard such advice on showrunning. I particularly found it encouraging when she acknowledged that it's hard to break in and to learn that she actually believes in training new writers. That's the position I'm in. I've got a portfolio and am adding to it, but now I'm submitting to contests and asking people to take a look at my work. It's not easy to get a yes on that.