Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show

For TV fans, showrunners like Joss Whedon, Damon Lindelof, Kurt Sutter and J.J. Abrams are just as famous as the stars on their shows. A new documentary, available Friday on iTunes and Video On Demand (and in select theaters), takes an inside look at their jobs and what it takes to make a hit series.

Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show is the brainchild of Irish filmmaker Des Doyle, who spent more than four years shooting the documentary. "It was borne out of the fact that I'm a huge, über TV fan," Doyle says. "I grew up loving and watching American TV my whole life. I was always fascinated by the people who created and wrote TV shows and the whole process."

Doyle pitched the idea to the Irish Film Board, which sent him to Los Angeles to see if the idea was viable. It took four months to land his first interview, but it was a big one: Lindelof, who was then fresh off Lost. "He gave us a great, candid interview," Doyle says. "That's one of the selling points of the movie to me is everyone speaks with such candor about the job and what's required."

Lindelof says he was drawn in by Doyle's passion for the project. "The idea that he was interested in our lives, it's immensely flattering," he said at a premiere event for Showrunners. "To take a deep dive into what our lives are like, he gave us a chance to talk about our misery in a real way."

Eventually Showrunners was given access to several writers' rooms and sets, including Bones. "They made me believe they would get something toward the truth of what it's like [to be a showrunner]," Bones executive producer Hart Hanson said at the premiere. "And I would like to see that. Running a show is a bit like having sex. You don't really get to watch a lot of other people do it. Now I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it very much."

Some of the interviews, like Whedon, also came out of happenstance. "By sheer total fluke we were at a meeting with some people from [Abram's] Bad Robot and we walked out the door and [Whedon] was standing right in front of us," Doyle says. "We seized the opportunity to pitch him for 30 seconds. Fantastically, he agreed to take part. That interview we filmed him the morning after the weekend opening of The Avengers so he was in a pretty good mood."

Others interviewed include Abrams, Sutter, Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus), Ali LeRoi (Everybody Hates Chris), Ronald D. Moore (Outlander), Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory), Mike Royce (Enlisted), Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Janet Tamaro (Rizzoli & Isles) and Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire).

Doyle also followed House of Lies executive producer Matthew Carnahan from the moment the show's pilot was ordered, up to the premiere party. And the cameras are there as Royce faces the cancellation of TNT's Men of a Certain Age.

"We do have to pinch ourselves how fortunate we've been in meeting the right people," Doyle says. "I hope people get a sense of how hard these people work, and what really goes into making their favorite TV shows."

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