The world is in the midst of a television renaissance. Why? Streaming services have indelibly changed the way in which audiences consume episodic material. Producers are increasingly unfettered by traditional content restrictions. Perhaps most importantly, A-list actors, writers, and directors are flocking to the format in droves to take advantage of its newfound position as the premiere medium for storytellers.
In short, it’s never been easier to watch TV, and it’s never been more attractive to create it. If you’ve ever wondered how a television show gets from concept to camera (and then to your screen), Caroline Framke at Vox offers this excellent behind-the-scenes piece exploring the workflow of the team behind FX’s critically acclaimed Cold War drama, The Americans.
“A two-hour movie might have anywhere from a few months to a full year to shoot footage. A 40-minute episode of television usually has about a week.”
Framke was offered unfettered access to the entire production of The Americans’ fourth season, gaining firsthand insight into the herculean task of writing, planning, shooting, and editing nearly 13 hours of television in a matter of months. It’s a hard-charging endeavour with very little downtime – from breaking the story and table reads to the shoot and eventually the editing suite, every stitch of the series is supervised under the watchful eyes of showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields.
“In a way, the script is more like a never-ending continuum.” – Joe Weisberg, Showrunner
As individual episodes are helmed by a rotating crew of directors, showrunners assume the ultimate creative control of a television production. Their job is to ensure that the vision, style, and substance of the story remains cohesive and properly executed throughout the entire process. This means keeping a Gods-eye view of everything going into the on-camera elements of the shooting day, overseeing the multiple cuts of each episode, and taking the lead on writing throughout every revision – of which there are a lot. Framke describes getting six revisions of a single episode’s script over the course of one week, some arriving within hours of the previous one.
Intense collaboration and constant refinement are the name of the game by Framke’s observations. With limited time, huge quantities of material, and the necessity of grounding a long, intricate story in a piecemeal shooting environment, it’s no wonder that the creative brass behind The Americans make great efforts to keep themselves singular in vision and working from the same page (and sometimes, thirteen pages at once).
Sounds daunting, right? That’s because it is. However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t tools available to streamline the process. If you’re considering striking out for the small screen, consider the following:
Your Studio’s episodic project feature gives everyone on your team the “God’s-eye” view required to develop and maintain a television production – from breaking the story with our index cards to tracking ever-changing script revisions, locations, shooting schedules, and budgets. You’ll be ready for a table read in no time.