“Managing up,” 12 Monkeys showrunner Natalie Chaidez said when asked what was the most surprising thing she discovered about being a showrunner, during a Q&A at Winter TV Press Tour 2015 with showrunners working on series for Universal Cable Productions. NBCU Cable Entertainment president and chief content officer Jeff Wachtel, sitting next to her, did not flinch.
How much time I spend managing up and dealing with the studio and network.” Chaidez elaborated. “That was a real awakening for me.”
Twenty-minute “pettiness breaks,” got Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce showrunner Marti Noxon’s vote for most surprising lesson of the job. “To me the lesson hard won — we put it in the show, in Episode 6 — nobody interesting is universally liked. And, maybe more so as a woman, I really wanted to be liked. I had to learn that goes out the window when you’re a good showrunner. I have to fight for [the series] every day — and it’s also really important at the beginning of the process to know what [the show] is about.”
“Sitting in on workman’s comp depositions,” Dig showrunner (and former Heroes showrunner) Tim Kring chimed in. “It’s an odd business…You pace around in your office, you might be in your underwear, writing scripts; it’s the most solitary existence to create something…So they take that guy, that writer, and anoint him with, in the case of a show like Heroes, a $100 million budget, and 250 people to work with…without so much as a pamphlet.”
“Usually most runners can barely manage themselves,” continued, warming to his theme. “It’s managing other people that’s a very shocking thing,” Kring said, adding that “generosity becomes a big lesson – big of spirit and heart and bigger than pettiness, that’s the thing you have to learn very quickly if you want to do the job successfully.”
Sean Jablonski, Satisfaction showrunner, said his biggest surprise was learning “how important my family is,” and “keeping that perspective and balance” given “the amount of time you have to spend away and be selfish with your time and energies.”