Showrunner 101: ‘Narcos’ Co-Creator Offers a Writing/Producing MasterClass

Chris-Brancato-Narcos-PatheosThere’s an old saw that says, “Them that can’t … teach.” Writer/producer Chris Brancato is proof that isn’t always the case.

As the creator of the science-fiction series “First Wave,” and co-creator of Netflix’s “Narcos”; writer and/or writer-producer for such shows as “Of Kings and Prophets,” “Hannibal,” “The Firm,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “True Calling” and “Boomtown”: and writer of such movies as “Species II” and “Hoodlum” — and now as show-runner for the ABC pilot “Las Reinas” — it’s obvious that Brancato can do.

But, he’s equally good at explaining what he does and offering advice to others.

Below find an excerpt from a recent essay at DramaQuarterly.com, taken from a speech at the 2016 European TV Drama Series Lab, called “Anatomy of a Showrunner”:

The DNA of a showrunner begins with being a writer, but it is also about having the ability to do one of a bunch of different things, not necessarily all with equal skill.

The first is to write good, producible scripts – ‘shooting drafts.’ What separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls is the ability to deliver drafts that are actually shootable, meaning they are coherent and producible to the show’s budget. You would be amazed at how many writers in Hollywood deliver drafts that are not shooting drafts; that if produced would either be wildly over budget or, even worse, somewhat incoherent or flat.

So, you’re a writer, you’re a creator – and then you must be a re-writer. You need to be able to read scripts and, rather than just offer a general assessment, make a specific assessment – for example, ‘The dialogue is stilted, real people don’t talk this way,’ ‘I expected it; I knew that was going to happen,’ or ‘It’s trying to be funny but it isn’t.’

Brancato goes on to describe how you also have to a be a director and a producer — and a diplomat in dealing with network executives. By all means, click here and read the whole thing.

Also, last November, Brancato was kind enough to come and talk to a monthly event held at Catholic production company Family Theater Productions, where I manage social media, blog and produce videos.

Before the talk, he sat down with me (and my camera) in his offices at Walt Disney Studios and gave a masterclass in miniature on the following topics. It’s the best education a writer/producer can get in a few minutes:

Click here to see more at Family Theater’s YouTube channel.

Image: Family Theater Productions

Don’t miss a thing: head over to my other home, as Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions; and check out FTP’s Faith & Family Media Blog.

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About Kate O'Hare

Social-media manager for Catholic production company Family Theater Productions; pop-culture addict; recovering entertainment journalist.

The Family That Prays Together Stays Together -- FTP founder Father Patrick Peyton