It’s nice to be wanted. Really. Over the past few weeks, my agent has brought me no less than three potential show running opportunities on projects (presumably) ready to go. All are interesting possibilities. Of course having said that, interesting things generally command closer scrutiny, and closer scrutiny commonly yields explanations, details, and demystification. What at first may seem very interesting often ends up being much less so. For a variety of reasons. Well, in the case of show running opportunities, two: creative and production. Creatively: Is it any good? Am I on the same page with the producers/broadcasters? Do we all want to make the same show? How willing are they to allow me to address some of the issues I have with the show’s premise or the existing scripts? Will they trust me to make the best show possible? Production: How much money will we have to make the show? Given the concept and the existing scripts, is it possible to make the show within the established parameters? Where will the show be shot? Will they trust me to make the best show possible?
Ideally, the answers to all these questions will be yes, yes, yes, very, yes, a lot, yes, somewhere I’d enjoy spending time, and yes – but, realistically, you’ll probably have to compromise on a couple of these points (and sub-points). And just how much you’re willing to compromise will depend on several things – like how much you love the project, how much control you’ll have over it, whether or not it’s a good opportunity, and whether it will be worth your while. So far as I’m concerned, the easiest type of project to say no to is one that fails the creative questions, especially the first one: Is it any good? I have to like a show to work on it. I know, I know. It seems obvious, but I’d hazard to say that there are a lot of people out there working at jobs they hate. Film and television is no different. Still, after 11+ years on Stargate, I’m thankfully in a position where I can be a little choosey. I have to like the show I’ll be working on. Unfortunately, liking a show isn’t enough. There’s nothing worse than being offered a fantastic show and then not being given the tools to properly execute its potential.
So many things can go wrong on a production, but when they go right, the results are spectacular. And, looking at some of the spectacular shows I enjoy, I see the same like variable: a strong creative show runner driving the production, whether it’s David Chase on The Sopranos, Vince Gilligan on Breaking Bad, Shawn Ryan on The Shield, Mitchell Hurwitz on Arrested Development, or Larry David on Curb You Enthusiasm. I’m not saying that all shows with strong creative show runners are necessarily great, but I am saying that every great show I can think of had a strong creative show runner at the helm. All extremely talented; all obviously very passionate about their respective series.
So, in the end, that’s all I ask for: the opportunity to work on a show I can feel passionate about; a show that will prove as interesting on its first day of production as it did on the day it was first pitched to me. Is that too much to ask?