WGAW’s Showrunner Training Program Preps a New Generation of Television Creators
LOS ANGELES -- The Writers Guild of America, West’s annual Showrunner Training Program continues to build on success. The six-week industry training program, a partnership between the WGAW and television networks and studios, is designed for senior-level writer-producers to develop the essential skills necessary to become successful showrunners.
Since its inception in 2006, six SRTP graduates have gone on to create their own shows and/or have been elevated to executive producers, including such members as show creators Sam Baum (Lie to Me), David Hudgins (Past Life), Glen Mazzara (Crash; Hawthorne), Matt Nix (Code 58, Burn Notice), Jon Steinberg (Human Target), Janet Tamaro (The C Word), and executive producers Steve Callahan (Family Guy), Jennifer Johnson (Cold Case), Scott Rosenbaum (V), John Stephens (Gossip Girl), and Darren Swimmer & Todd Slavkin (Melrose Place). This year’s current participants, Matt Corman & Chris Ord, just received a series order for USA’s Covert Affairs.
“I was thrilled to be a part of the 2009 Showrunner Training Program,” said SRTP graduate David Hudgins, whose freshman show, Past Life, premieres February 11th on Fox. “The information I learned and the friendships I made were invaluable, and helped me greatly when my pilot was picked up. I think the SRTP experience made me much better prepared for running my own show.”
“I can't think of a more important, valuable or worthwhile opportunity for aspiring writers than the Showrunner Training Program,” said Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth, who participated as one of the keynote speakers during the kickoff session in early January. “From my perspective, it should be a requirement for everyone – executives, writers, and anyone who aspires towards making better, more compelling, more efficiently produced television. This outstanding workshop, led by some of the best, most talented, most knowledgeable, most proven showrunners in the business, is a gift for any writer who dreams of one day becoming and, more importantly, succeeding, as a showrunner.”
Each year’s program features high-profile speakers from various areas of the industry. This year’s 45 speakers include Steve Levitan, Shawn Ryan, Joss Whedon, Bill Lawrence, Phil Rosenthal, David Shore, Jason Katims, Paris Barclay, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Nix, Yvette Lee Bowser, Glen Mazzara, Lifetime Television President JoAnn Alfano, and actor Blair Underwood. Additional sessions include other industry professionals such as actors, directors, and teamsters, as well as a visit to a post production facility with presentations from editors and Alicia Hirsch, Senior VP of Post Production at Fox Television Studios.
During the January 9th opening session, titled “From Writer to Manager,” WGAW Assistant Executive Director Ann Widdifield welcomed the diverse group of SRTP participants. Keynote speakers included Roth, SRTP program co-founder and chair Jeff Melvoin (Army Wives), and SRTP co-founder and WGAW President John Wells (Southland, ER, The West Wing). The second session, “Managing Writers & the Script Process,” held this past Saturday, included presentations from Bill Lawrence, Yvette Lee Bowser, and Glen Mazzara, and panel discussions on Diverse Writing Staffs and Running the Writing Room.
“In the fifth year of the program it’s exciting to see that more and more shows are able to increase the number of properly trained executive producers,” said Wells.
“The Showrunner Training Program has been universally well-received. The Program is a great example of the Guild and the networks working cooperatively for the benefit of the television community,” said Widdifield. “We are grateful for the generous participation of our showrunners and the funding provided by the companies which make this program possible.”
Upcoming SRTP sessions are all-day seminars on four Saturdays, running through February 20. Employing lecture and interactive test-case scenarios, as well as large and small group discussions, the program gives participants an intimate setting to interact with some of Hollywood’s most successful and experienced showrunners.
The innovative program’s core curriculum includes the following topics:
Session #1: From Writer to Manager (held January 9th)
- Session #2: Managing Writers & the Script Process (held January 16th)
- Session #3: Managing Production & Directors (to be held January 23rd)
- Session #4: Managing Executives & Actors (to be held January 30th)
- Session #5: Managing Post-Production (to be held February 6th)
- Session #6: Managing Your Career (to be held February 20th)
The program also includes two half-day “break-out” sessions with Wells talking about “Budget & Scheduling,” and Stephen J. Cannell (The Rockford Files, Wiseguy) on “The Pilot Process.”
To select participants, writers on the Showrunner Training Program Committee considered more than 60 eligible applicants and accepted 21 writers and/or writing teams, all of whom were recommended by television showrunners and/or network and studio creative executives for the in-demand seminar slots covering both comedy and dramatic series.
The Showrunner Training Program is the brainchild of Jeff Melvoin and John Wells. Melvoin and Wells, along with other SRTP committee members, as well as program director Carole Kirschner, played integral roles in developing the Guild’s current program. In addition to Wells and Melvoin, the SRTP Committee includes showrunners Bowser, John Wirth, and Nicole Yorkin. Also on the SRTP committee are television executives Harry Isaacs (CBS) and Marc Sandman (Touchstone), who continue to serve as program consultants.
Participants in the WGAW’s 2010 Showrunner Training Program are:
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Photo credit: Leroy Hamilton
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.