Showrunners quietly head back to work

Many of TV’s top showrunners headed back to the office this week, resuming their non-writing chores (such as editing, supervising post production, etc.). One studio exec said “more than half” of his series’ showrunners were back at work, both on the comedy and drama side. 

Fueling the return: The revived talks between the Writers’ Guild and AMPTP. That follows through on an arrangement proposed by many showrunners earlier this month, in which the multi-hyphenates agreed to return to work only if the studios agreed to return to the negotiating table.

The united front by TV’s showrunners to halt their work forced several series to stop production sooner than expected, and is seen by many as having helped the WGA’s cause — serving as a catalyst to jumpstart talks.

With those negotiations back on, several showrunners were itching to return to work to finish off already written and produced episodes that nonetheless needed some supervision before completion. Also convincing some showrunners to return: The round of legal letters sent out to many showrunners warning them that by withholding their producing duties, they were in breach of contract.

Some exec producers had already returned to work to oversee non-writing production, including “Lost’s” Carlton Cuse. Many more hit the office following the Thanksgiving holiday. But most of the returning showrunners are hoping to stay under the radar to avoid the appearance of picket crossing.

“I wouldn’t disagree with your statement,” said one showrunner — who we’ll keep anonymous — when asked if they’d returned to work. “Generally I’m trying to keep a low profile.”

— Michael Schneider

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  1. Whatever says:

    Friend: Thanks for a laugh!
    Insiders: thanks also for a laugh, but I know you didn’t intend yours to be funny — I just think it’s rather farfetched to assert that Variety is part of a studio conspiracy to divide showrunners in posting this thing on Scribe Vibe. It seems to me that the showrunners are pretty well-informed about what’s going on and who is doing what– they’re not going to be “spooked” by rumors that some of them are back at work as producers, whether false or true. They’ve been fairly coordinated with one another, and they are not breaking the strike line to write– just to do their Producer duties per their contractual obligations. But given how WGA people jump on anyone who doesn’t toe the line, and the vitriol that they use against even mild dissenters, it is no wonder that the showrunners are trying to stay under the radar. I laughed out loud that you addressed your response to “Outsider/studio plant.” That’s silly, and surely the evil studios would take a stronger position than Outsider (who asserted just that the showrunners were not being so bad), if the studios felt that having a “plant” on Scribe Vibe was useful. I also think, as OUtsiders pointed out, that you were rather hysterical in your reading of the text of the original post. This just isn’t the stuff of evil conspiracies.

  2. friend says:

    A lot of people don’t know this, but many years ago in high school I convinced Michael B. Del Camp to become an “Idea Man” instead of pursuing a career in textiles. The rest, as they say, is history.

  3. outsider says:

    Nice. We can’t trust Variety, but we can all bow down and praise the unbiased journalistic integrity of UnitedHollywood! The two “incorrect parts” outlined are entirely overstated and misrepresent the statements in the article. And if the anonymous “studio exec” is the problem, I haven’t noticed your complaints in other Variety articles from anonymous WGA sources about the big bad AMPTP! Both sides of this little exercise in chest-beating are using the media to further their agenda.
    But, leaving that aside, you imply that the article is not factual. Care to back it up with your own facts? Do you know that many showrunners have not gone back to the office? And anonymous sources are a way of journalistic life. It is a good thing you weren’t around to keep Woodward and Bernstein from publishing their articles. Little wonder that showrunners would want to keep a low profile when people are poised to make a public display of them for doing their job!

  4. truth says:

    OUTSIDERS
    By using the phrasing “MANY showrunners”, it explicitly means more than “A FEW”. Three (your number) does not make a few.
    If under ten are back at work, just at the five broadcast networks, that wouldn’t constitute “many” in proportion to the total number of shows there.
    Word choices aren’t arbitrary here.

  5. outsiders says:

    Rumor Patrol: All the Showrunners Went Back to Work
    ** Variety never reported that all showrunners went back to work. Read it again: Many of TV’s top showrunners headed back to the office this week, resuming their non-writing chores (such as editing, supervising post production, etc.).
    Rumor Patrol: Some kind of arrangement to go back was actually adopted by the showrunners as a group: False.
    ** Variety never reported that an arrangement was adopted. Read it again: That follows through on an arrangement proposed by many showrunners earlier this month, in which the multi-hyphenates agreed to return to work only if the studios agreed to return to the negotiating table.
    Anonymous sources close to the situation (what works for Variety works for us) laughed off the “about half” figure for one network. Across ALL the networks, one source said the number was in the single digits — as in, under ten. It’s certainly nowhere near half, we’re told.
    ** Variety never reported anything about networks. It wrote “studios.” BIG difference. Average studio produces around 5 or 6 shows in primetime. Half would be 3. Read it again: One studio exec said “more than half” of his series’ showrunners were back at work, both on the comedy and drama side.

  6. Michael B. Del Camp says:

    I never finished college after many years of trying, and have been “lumping it” in all my adult life, to current Age 53, when I cannot get another corporate job (or decent Agency job) to save my life. I have not had any health coverage for years, and as we all know, pensions for workers are a relic of the past.
    However, not so much as a Writer, but as an “Idea Man” as I would call it, I have created much wealth for Hollywood and for America. I came up with the IDEA for the Batman Trilogy, having answered former Warner Bros. Studio Chairman Steve Ross’ question of me: “What movie would you like to see made?” Similarly, in my brief encounter with Matt Damon and his Girlfriend at the time, Minnie Driver, in a Harvard Square bookstore, I came up with the idea for his recent Bourne Trilogy hits. I met briefly in person with John Cameron and shared my idea that the story of the Titanic sinking from history would make a great movie idea. Similarly, I thought that Troy/Odysseus, 300/Thermopylae, Gilgamesh/Beowulf and War of the Worlds/World War II would make great film stories.
    Who came up with the idea for rehiring Steve Jobs at Apple? I did. Who then came up with the idea that Apple get into digital music? Moi. Who suggested the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be focused on vaccinating children overseas? Moi aussi. Who got funding for satellite radio? Not me, but I thought it was a good idea, and said so. Same with the cell phone industry. I did coin the terms “Verizon” and “Genuity” when typesetting business papers to form these two, new telephone companies at the time. Also, I did work for a Sprint Company Director and 200 Sprint managers, in the second half of 2004, in Burlington, Massachusetts, as the only guy in the Mailroom, until their subcontractor, my direct Employer, Pitney Bowes Management Services – PBMS – from Christopher Dodd’s home State of Connecticut, fired me for taking my well-deserved, two weeks’ vacation time at the end of that year. I worked for R.R. Donnelley, the largest American publisher and printer, until they mistook me for 1/2 year in 2002 as the miscreant coworker who was visiting XXX rated online websites, passed me up for several promotion opportunities (job security), and then layed me off. Non-union R.R. Donnelley steadfastly refuses nationwide to consider me for rehire to this day. That was the best-paying job I ever had, but the management got worse, and worse, and worse until, well, end of story. While working there in Financial Printing, I was able to suggest funding the Roomba – American Robotics – and funding the Radio Frequency Identification Chip – RFID – and even went so far as to suggest it’s introduction through Walmart and Suppliers, to help prevent stock shrinkage and improve market efficiencies.
    I should mention that I came up with the IDEA for McDonald’s Restaurants franchising as a kid, with my neighborhood Friend and Restauranteur, Ray Kroc. That business model, franchising, is now responsible for ten percent of the World’s successful business activity – and growing.
    I came up with two million-dollar ideas, can you guess which ones? 1-800-FLOWERS and 1-800-DENTIST.
    I met Dean Kamen of DEKA Corporation here in Manchester, NH and suggested the idea for the Segway people moving motorized pogo stick on wheels, servo-gyroscopically balanced on three planes. At $5,000 a copy, these things remain out of my own price range today.
    I met with Liv Tyler, before she was Liv Tyler, and christened her with that stage name. The success in this, was that she had to visit with her Father, lead Aerosmith Singer Steve Tyler, in order to gain permission to use his surname. As a result, her Family is reconciled, which is an even bigger achievement than her successful movie career. Also, I met once with Aerosmith Lead Guitarist Steve Perry, and suggested to him, that Aerosmith had not even scratched the surface of their success, while dispagaging the band as “Chicago blues rip-off artists, like the Rolling Stones.” To be honest, I did not know who he was, at the time. By the way, a Roadie with the band Kiss has a new book out now, about his struggles with a disabling condition. It is an excellent book as a “How-to” in electronics, as well as a story about real success in life itself, however problematic your origins. The Kiss band is friends with this Author, although one of them called me vituperatively, to insult me personally, after I wrote his pretty wife a salacious fan letter (I did not know she was married, at the time.) I hope he framed it over his bed. If not, there’s always more where that came from.
    Finally, for now, I mapped out Adam Sandler’s entire successful career for him, from the very beginnings, while talking with him on the Maple Street, Manchester Central high school sidewalk. I would give the Kid some credit, too: He makes $20 Million (my estimate) per movie, and owns his own Hollywood production studio now. Congratulations, Mr. Sandler. Let me ask you a question, Adam: Have you ever read the book, “Mr. Sandler’s Planet”? It was written by Saul Bellow, and by me.

  7. insiders says:

    Outsider/Studio Plant – If a major publication is going to publish an incendiary article, it cannot base it all on “anonymous” sources and shadow subjects. Be grateful for what? Further, the comment never said we didn’t agree with anyone’s position, but that FACTUAL stories should be printed and with journalistic integrity. If you are an outsider, you know nothing about the veracity of Variety conspiring with AMPTP, so don’t discount what you don’t know about. This story was factually wrong, greatly exaggerated, and THAT is not journalistic neutrality. Read below from United Hollywood and take your ignorant snark somewhere else.
    Rumor Patrol: All the Showrunners Went Back to Work
    STATUS: False.
    Several people called and/or emailed under the assumption that because negotiations had resumed, all the showrunners were back on the job. I’m guessing the origin of this rumor was a post on Variety’s Scribe Vibe blog from the 26th:
    Many of TV’s top showrunners headed back to the office this week, resuming their non-writing chores (such as editing, supervising post production, etc.). One studio exec said “more than half” of his series’ showrunners were back at work, both on the comedy and drama side.
    Fueling the return: The revived talks between the Writers’ Guild and AMPTP. That follows through on an arrangement proposed by many showrunners earlier this month, in which the multi-hyphenates agreed to return to work only if the studios agreed to return to the negotiating table.
    Multiple sources told UH yesterday that this is a delicious cocktail of spin, one part exaggeration mixed with two parts incorrect information. (Just add some sour mix and a dash of bitters!)
    Anonymous sources close to the situation (what works for Variety works for us) laughed off the “about half” figure for one network. Across ALL the networks, one source said the number was in the single digits — as in, under ten. It’s certainly nowhere near half, we’re told.
    So that’s the exaggeration. The incorrect parts are these:
    1. The AMPTP’s return to the table was the criteria for showrunners to return: False.
    Our multiple sources say the proposal was actually to return to work if the AMPTP “began negotiating in good faith.” Simply returning to the table was not the threshold being considered. The threshold was some evidence such as a joint announcement that “an agreement in principle” or even “a tentative agreement” had been reached. That was to be the signal that genuine progress was happening and that the companies were serious about making a deal.
    2. Some kind of arrangement to go back was actually adopted by the showrunners as a group: False.
    Apparently, the backers of this proposal were a “very small faction” of the showrunners. The group at large did not think it was a wise strategy, and so the idea was never declared “the official policy of the group.” It was left up to individual consciences when to return.
    As best we can determine, the few showrunners who have returned do not even constitute the entire group that proposed holding out for the evidence of “good faith.” It’s a subset of a subset.
    So speaking of “good faith” — and bad faith — why would an anonymous exec want to spin Variety this way?
    One possible reason is the hope that the spin could be self-fulfilling. If you keep repeating that all the showrunners are working, a bunch of them just might get spooked and go back. The other strategic reason is to split the showrunners and have them turn on one another. What no one on either side of the strike disputes is this section of that same Variety post:
    The united front by TV’s showrunners to halt their work forced several series to stop production sooner than expected, and is seen by many as having helped the WGA’s cause — serving as a catalyst to jumpstart talks.
    So it would be a huge coup for the conglomerates if they could break up that unity. Thankfully, we’ve been told that the showrunners are respecting each other’s choices, even if they disagree with them. “The showrunners are all doing what they think is best to end the strike. And a small group believe that going back to work is going to help; a larger group feels that since staying out was such a powerful tool in bringing the congloms back to the table, it’s best to continue staying out.”
    Due to the news blackout, we have no idea if the companies are negotiating in good faith. And we won’t know until there is some sort of joint announcement of “agreements in principle.” Once that happens, some showrunners may go back to work, a lot won’t. But the longer it takes for that moment to arrive, the more inclined we are to believe the reports from Nikki Finke that there’s a lot of corporate foot-dragging going on.
    AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget
    Posted by John Aboud at 2:59 AM
    Labels: Rumor Patrol

  8. outsider says:

    Oh please. It is not appropriate to list names just so WGA members can intimidate and ridicule those people who are still contractually obligated to do their jobs. Many showrunners have provided a huge service by being as supportive as they have. Be grateful and stop finding conspiracy in everything that doesn’t agree with your position.

  9. insiders says:

    This is lame, Variety.
    You know a story like this could stir divisiveness and resentment amongst WGA ranks. Therefore, you have a greater duty not to be all cloak and dagger, and to cite names of ‘picket crossing’ showrunners rather than keep it all innuendo.
    This article has AMPTP agenda all over it. True or not, we won’t trust it unless we hear it elsewhere than Variety

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