Neil Landau authors second edition of “The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap”

Interviews with 19 of the most respected showrunners in television today are at the heart of the all-new second edition of “The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap: Creating Great Television in an On Demand World” by Neil Landau.

Landau, founding director of screenwriting for the UGA MFA Film program, follows the success of the bestselling first edition of his book, supplemeted by interviews with today’s most trailblazing showrunners, including Issa Rae of “Insecure,” Chris Mundy of “Ozark,” Noah Hawley of “Fargo,” Jesse Armstrong of “Succession,” Liz Feldman of “Dead to Me,” Sam Levinson of “Euphoria,” Steven Canals of “Pose,” and Daniel Levy of “Schitt’s Creek,” among others.

“This book reflects the enormous changes that have occurred since the first book came out in 2014,” Landau said about the new edition that focuses exclusively on streaming shows and features several international shows.

Among the topics covered in the new book are a conversation with Hawley about reinventing the Coen Brothers’ classic film; insight from Damon Lindelof of “Watchmen” on world building, and an interview with Alex Pina of “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) on non-formulaic episodic story structure. Other topics covered by Landau include the power of empathy, family dynamics, antagonists and pitching projects.

Landau explained that at the time the first edition came out, there were very few books about creating and writing an original TV series, and few people know the role of a showrunner, or the person who is the head writer and executive producer of a television show.

“This book is for people who may someday be showrunners,” Landau, who said he was raised on television, continues. “It breaks down the process of what the elements are to writing and creating a successful television pilot and how to sustain it over time. It’s a book for writers and creators.”

He added that the first edition was frequently used in the classroom, including the Sundance Institute Episodic Lab.

Several themes emerged while writing the current edition of the book, according to Landau, including the international impact of entertainment.

“The entire entertainment business, not just television, is global. It’s not a Hollywood-centric business anymore,” Landau said.  “You cannot sell a show if it doesn’t have international appeal.”

He further explains that most of the growth happening with Netflix, HBO Max and Paramount+ and other streaming services is occurring because and they are opening offices in cities all over the world and their focus is local programming produced by people who live in that country using the local language of that country.

Landau also said that intellectual property is now driving the entertainment business. He said the Spider-Man and Batman movie franchises are prime examples.

“If you have a built-in marketing hook, like a show based on a best-selling novel or super popular characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, entertainment providers know that when they go to air it, they will have a built-in audience,” Landau said. “There are still original shows being written, but most are based on known source material. The value of intellectual property is more crucial than ever to break through the noise of over 560 scripted series across multiple platforms—an all-time record.”

Landau also notes that the lines between cinema and television have blurred.

“Television is not a lesser-form of creativity. It’s actually an artform unto itself.”

He continues: “Because TV is available globally, at its best, it can plant seeds of empathy, and reinforce that we all share a common humanity. Hopefully this book will show that we are in the midst of a creative renaissance and it will inspire people to participate, because your voice matters.”

Landau has numerous screen credits including “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” “Melrose Place,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “Doogie Howser, M.D.” His animated movie projects include “Tad: The Lost Explorer” (“Las Adventuras de Tadeo Jones”) for which he earned a Spanish Academy Goya Award, Gaudi Award, and Cinema Writers’ Circle Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2014.

This is the sixth book that Landau has published. Previous books include “TV Writing on Demand: Creating Great Content in the Digital Era,” “TV Outside the Box: Trailblazing in the Digital Television Revolution,” “The Screenwriters Roadmap: 21 Ways to Jumpstart Your Story,” “The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap: 21 Navigational Tips to Create – and Sustain – a Hit TV Series” and “101 Things I Learned in Film School,” reissued by Random House/Crown in 2021.

 

Neil Landau says movies premiering on streaming services will have lasting business ramifications

Warner Brothers recently announced it will premiere 2021 movies on the HBO Max streaming platform at the same time the films release in theaters.

The groundbreaking business decision affects distribution of many films created here in Georgia. We asked asked Neil Landau, associate professor in EMST and director of screenwriting for the MFA Film program, about the ramifications of this announcement and what it means in regard to evolving viewer habits.

Landau teaches a class at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester. (Photo: Sarah Freeman).

“This is a sea change that will have lasting, if not permanent, repercussions on the movie business — from P&A (prints and advertising) and distribution to exhibition and all-important opening weekend box office tallies,” Landau said.

He says home streaming offers advantages and access to some productions that audiences may not have previously had.

“Depending on the post Covid-19 economic rebound, I believe streaming movies at home is here to stay,” said Landau. ” Not only is it much cheaper for those on a budget, it’s also more convenient and offers more global choices.”

The relationship between movie theaters and streaming services will continue to be defined and Landau says there are some critical questions that must be answered through audience behavior.

“Can both cinemas and movies-on-demand streaming at home co-exist?  Will people, who have mainly been staying home to avoid contagion, be compelled to return to the communal movie-going experience,” Landau questioned.

“My hunch is that while the communal experience of cinema will survive, many movie megaplexes will downsize or go out of business (tantamount to book stores and shopping malls in the age of Amazon Prime),” Landau said.

Like all industries that rely on people gathering, Landau says the new landscape must be defined through the public response to medical breakthroughs as COVID-19 treatments are administered. However, he says many of the business decisions are made because streaming profits benefit movie studio groups too.

“We already had signs of what I call “Digital Darwinism,” but Covid-19 has made it impossible for movie theaters to compete,” Landau said. “Once we have a vaccine and we get the economy back on track, it’s anyone’s guess.  We all know for certain that sports will remain huge.  Ditto for video games.  But movies on-demand at home and relatively inexpensive monthly streaming subscriptions are not the competition for the major studios because they own or have a stake in most of these streaming platforms.”

“You could look at HBO Max’s decision to collapse theatrical windows as cannibalizing their own business —until you realize that they’re profiting from increasing their HBO Max subscriptions exponentially,” said Landau. “And a monthly subscription fee and access to customer data are both gifts that keep on giving, not dependent on what’s opening at the movie theater.”

Learn more about the UGA MFA Film program at: mfafilm.uga.edu.