On this week’s episode, I talk about all of the different types of “producers” there are working in Hollywood as well as what some of their specific responsibilities might be. Tune in for much more!

Show Notes

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
I would prefer to do another show like that as opposed to a big budget show faster. Let’s shoot it faster. I just like it better.

Phil Hudson:
Buddy. System was pretty quick too. I mean, we shot the In six

Michael Jamin:
Weeks. Yeah, buddy System was equally fast. And even still, it feels when you’re on set, it’s like, oh, this is so boring. Even still, it takes a long time to get each side.
You’re listening to screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin.
Hey everyone, it’s Michael Jamin, back with Phil Hudson for another episode of Screenwriters. Need to hear this. At least until we rename the podcast. We’re toying with that idea to open it up. But I don’t have an idea yet. I don’t have a name yet. So for now, this is what we’re going with everyone. That’s

Phil Hudson:
News to people. I don’t think people know that

Michael Jamin:
Yet. No, it’s news. You’re leaking. A

Phil Hudson:
Little hint.

Michael Jamin:
I’m leaking a hint and it’s because I want to open up the conversations a little to broaden out. So it’s not just about screenwriting, but also about people who are interested in the arts and reinventing themselves and just putting it out there. So we’re going to hang on to that, but for now, we’re going to keep talking about this subject, but we will, I’ll still talk about screenwriting, so don’t want to panic. I’m still going to talk about screenwriting. I just want to open up to more inspirational art stuff. And

Phil Hudson:
I think for you, two years into the podcast, it started as a thing during Covid to help people out with this specific space. But your social media has grown to include all creatives and a large percentage of the content that people are consuming on your social media. Forgive me for calling it content, but that is being consumed by people who are more in the creative fields. We have people who’ve signed up for your screenwriting course who are financial analysts, and they write about finance and they talk about the value of story and story structure. We got artists, novelists, all kinds of people. And so yeah, this makes sense to me, especially as you’ve kind of outgrown the persona of just being a TV writer and being more of a creative inspirational figure in the space.

Michael Jamin:
So that’s what the plan is. But until then, we’re sticking with this name. But okay, everyone, so today I thought we would talk about the title of today’s episode is What the Hell Is a Producer? Because no one knows. It’s like one of these terms in Hollywood that everyone, it can mean so many different things. It’s unclear exactly what a producer does. And I think everyone, when I post on social media, everyone gets it wrong. So we know what a writer does. The writer writes, we know what an actor does. We think we know what a director does, but often people get that wrong. But that could be another episode. But as far as a producer, it means so many different things. So I’m going to break it down and you’re going to help me with this. Phil. First we’re going to take a step back. So right now the Writer’s Guild is on strike against the producers, the Alliance of Motion picture and television producers or the A M P T P. So that’s very misleading. It sounds like we are striking against producers, but we’re not in this sense. The producers are the studios. So think about Warner Brothers, universal, Sony, Netflix,

Phil Hudson:
Amazon, yeah, apple.

Michael Jamin:
So they produce film intelligence shows. So we are striking against the producers of film and television shows, but we are not striking against film and television show producers, which would be, I know that’s confusing P G

Phil Hudson:
A, right? Is that where you’re going? Right.

Michael Jamin:
So that would be, when you think of the P G A, sometimes you watch a film and it says someone’s name, the P G a, that’s the Producer’s Guild of America. So those are people who are producers. They work on the show or the movie that’s being made. So anytime you have a film or a television show, you have a production staff and they are there every day and they are so on a TV show in particular, the writers will dream up a sequence or a scene or whatever it is, and then they’ll sit down with the producers whose offices are right next door and say, can we make this happen? Your job? We thought of it, but now you have to actually make it happen. And sometimes they say, we can’t. You have to. You’re going to break the bank. And sometimes they say, okay, we can do this. And those people are producers. Okay, but that’s in tv. I’m going to talk more about TV first.

Phil Hudson:
And there’s a note too here too about the P G A, I don’t know if you’re going to touch on this, but they’re not a union that is basically a group of people who have kind of unified or they’ve basically agreed to be an association, but because they are technically employers, they cannot unionize.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, really? And so are you in the P G A?

Phil Hudson:
I think I’m eligible, but I have not joined. I’ve not pursued it, but it’s definitely open.

Michael Jamin:
But don’t you get your don’t they help provide health insurance,

Phil Hudson:
I believe is the D G A and P G A. They’ve pooled. So basically these producers have agreed to pay into these funds and do these things to provide pension and healthcare for their members. But the difference is they are not effectively a union. I think legally they cannot be a union. So the term guild can be a bit confusing, right, because there’s the W G A, which is a union, not

Michael Jamin:
Really, I don’t think WGA is considered a union. I think it’s considered.

Phil Hudson:
I thought they were. I thought that’s why they’re able to strike because they are unionized. No

Michael Jamin:
Thinks

Phil Hudson:
The collective bargaining is by Definit definition of union. I thought there’s a great point.

Michael Jamin:
I thought there. There’s some what add. I thought there’s some differences, slight differences, but okay, so now we’re going to talk about producers

Phil Hudson:
Of, it’s two different unions. So it’s the east and the west combined forces. So there’re two different unions that are working together

Michael Jamin:
In what? Oh

Phil Hudson:
Yes. So the writer’s Guild East is a union and the Roger’s Guild West is a union. And then they join and that’s the guild. That’s what they represented, two different unions.

Michael Jamin:
So when we talk about producers on a TV show, this is so unclear and I’m going to try to clear it up and it’s going to be still confusing. So producers, like I said, on a TV show, their job is to, for the most part, make it happen. Make whatever we dream of, make it happen. So if we set a scene that takes place in the amusement park, the producer’s like, okay, how are we going to shoot there? How are first we got to rent out of Ineson Park, we have to move the cameras there, we have to license, have to buy the space out. And that’s producing it. If you want special effects, they’re going to have to make sure all those people are there on the set that day. They coordinate the whole damn thing. And there’s many different levels of producers, the line producers, the one who deals with mostly making sure we’re on budget, making sure. Then there’s also like you are, you’re an associate producer. What’s your job as an associate producer?

Phil Hudson:
So the saddle associate producer came up this season. It was recommended by an actual producer, savvy Kathy or Kathy, I always mess up her last name, but S’S awesome. She’s a 24 and they were trying to figure out a title for my new role. And there are specific titles they can’t use because they are managed by union. So facilities manager and things like that. And in basically live tv, anyone who manages the stages or the set or controls things on the ground, that’s an associate producer title. So she’s the one who encouraged everyone to give me that title. My role was very much, I was an assistant to the producers. I kind of handled anything that they wanted to delegate down. I had their authority to make things happen. My first day I fired somebody because that person was breaking rules and I had to do that. I handled plumber issues, I handled facility issues. I was in charge of making sure that everything got cleaned. If someone needed something, it was my responsibility to make sure that that got coordinated with the production office. So it was basically a liaison between the producers and the other people and the rest of the set. One thing that I found funny is there’s this, I might’ve talked about it on the podcast and forgive me if it’s redundant, but there, do you know who Jordan is on Conan Conan show? He’s one of his associate producer?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I think so. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
So his skit came out of, I believe this came out hearing it from Conan. It came out of the last writer strike where they didn’t have anything and one of the other producers was like, Jordan, you have such interesting interactions with him, maybe you should just record those. They’re just fascinating to watch. So he became a figure on the show and he had Jordan on a podcast and Conan’s like, what is your title? He’s like, well, I’ve had many titles. He’s like, but what is your title currently? And he’s like, it is associate producer. And Conan goes, if there has ever been a more meaningless title in all of television, it’s associate producer. I was like, it feels accurate. It’s an honorary title. You get respect on set, people respect what you say, but it doesn’t really come with many perks.

Michael Jamin:
Sometimes it might just be a catchall for something that they don’t know what to, I started my career as a joke writer on the Mike and Maddie show, which is a morning TV show. I was a writer, so I used to write jokes, but they didn’t want to pay me. If they had called me a writer, they would’ve had to pay me Writer’s Guild minimum. And so instead they didn’t want to give me that title, they just called me a segment producer instead. And so they could pay me less. But my job, I suppose, was producing segments of it’s morning TV show. And so the segment I was in charge of was the morning chat when the hosts are just talking from the camera and they’re making jokes about stuff. And then also sometimes we would do remote segments. We did one thing where Dr. Ruth was giving them a tour of some sex store. And so I was there on site just pitching jokes for the sex toys. So I was a producer, but did I really know how to produce? Nah, it’s really rare. No,

Phil Hudson:
But that’s a very typical thing. Even from cable shows, morning shows on cable, those are producers. You have producer titles. So my friend’s sister was dating a producer on the Late show and he was a producer, but what was he? He was effectively a joke writer. He wrote jokes for the show and he was responsible. But I know people in Utah and New Mexico who are producers and their segment producer, they go out and they like, we’re interviewing the person who makes the largest cookie in America. They make sure it gets done. That’s it right

Michael Jamin:
Now, here’s where it gets a little confusing in tv. If you watch a TV show, you’ll often see many titles that have the word producer in it, producer, supervising producer, executive producer. Many of those people are just mid to high level writers who don’t really have the same functions. They don’t do the same jobs as the producers do who work next door who actually make it happen. So is no overlap in the job responsibilities, but the job responsibility of say, executive producer who is probably also the showrunner would be, and also maybe some lower producers like supervising producer. You might be in charge of casting, you might have some editing responsibilities. You also have to know how when you write the whole season, you often will say, is this producible? And that comes with experience. So for example, if I was on a show and we’re breaking episodes one through 10 and I see too many locations, it’s my job as let’s say a co-executive producer to say, we don’t need all these, we can combine scenes with locations here. We can be more efficient, even though I’m not actually producing it. I’m wearing my producer’s hat that we say.
So just so know that it’s not all producers on a show or actually on the production side we’re also, yeah,

Phil Hudson:
I had a friend who was an actor and she made a comment once, she’s like, all those producers at the front of a show are just writers, don’t you? And I was like, that sounds great. I would like that. But the term for co ep, which is what you and your writing partner are on Tacoma FD have been many times, my understanding of this is you’re effectively qualified to run the show and often need to do that when the executive producer is off on set or dealing with the casting thing or managing calls with them. So you’re running the room, you’re making sure it happens. And I’ve heard that term referred to as the strong number two.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, the number two. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. So you’re the boss, you’re there to make sure that the ship stays going. I mean, yeah, it’s basically the showrunner’s, the captain, you’re the first mate you take over when they’re need arrest or break and you have the same authority to get things done

Michael Jamin:
Basically. So those are our producers. Now there’s a common misconception that sometimes people think in TV that producers are the people who raise the money, they put together the money for the project. I want to assure you, we don’t touch a nickel. It’s like we don’t spend our own money. The studios are the ones who are in charge of raising the money. It’s their money. So we never open our wallets only in rare exceptions. So for example, I’ve been involved in projects where someone might be an executive producer and they may put together let’s say 10 or $15,000 to shoot a presentation, which is like a down and dirty pilot, a cheap pilot just as a sales tool, but they won’t spend a lot of money. It’s like very little. They’re not investing. A TV show might cost a million dollars to shoot, we’re talking about 10 or 15 just to put it on its feet just to show people kind of what it looks like. And this doesn’t even happen a lot for the most part in tv executive producers are not in charge of raising money. They don’t touch it. We work for the studios. The studios, it’s their money that we’re playing with. So get that out of your head. It’s not a money position in television.

Phil Hudson:
And I think this is another definition thing too, where it can also be confusing because there is often another executive producer who is that guy who is doing that at the studio. They get that title, right?

Michael Jamin:
Well, they don’t usually get the title. They don’t usually get the title at the studio. So that’s the catch. They don’t get a title. They work for the studio.

Phil Hudson:
I thought I’ve seen, I think

Michael Jamin:
They might have a production deal, which is a pod. So for example, often this is why it’s so confusing. Often a producer will have what we call a shingle at a studio. So the studio Warner Brothers is paying their overhead. They give ’em a pod, which is a producer over overall deal, and they say for two or three years you have a pod at the studio where you will help develop TV shows. You’ll find writers, you’ll maybe put together talent, maybe directors, you’ll package it, you’ll kind of work on the package together and then pitch us the studio, the idea, and then if we like it, we’ll shoot it. And if not, we won’t. But the person who has the deal, sometimes they’re just a highly paid actor on a hit show. They may have a shingle. Sometimes they’re just really straight up producers who have a shingle and they will get an executive producer credit on the TV show. But the studio has their own people in charge who oversee the production on the creative side. Development executives or current executives do not get credit on it. It’d be a Warner Brothers show. So I don’t recall ever seeing them ever get cut credit on a show unless they sometimes get fired or leave the studio or whatever, and then they get her own production shingle. So that’s common.

Phil Hudson:
And that makes sense because the credit that I’m thinking about, that person who has that EP title, there are three of them and two of them are managers who sold the show. So they did that. They packaged things for Warner to come. So sometimes, and the other was the producer of this production studio making the show, and they were line producer, but also had a producer credit.

Michael Jamin:
Sometimes a manager of the talent of you, the writer or the actor may get a producer credit because they negotiate for it. It’s not uncommon. Often those managers, it just depends on what they do. Often they don’t show up. They might have a parking space right in front of the sound stage and they never show up a hundred percent.

Phil Hudson:
So that’s true for Taco fd. And they do show up. They show up for one, maybe two times this season, typically once they pop in, spend about half a day, bring their kids and then they go.

Michael Jamin:
So it’s not really, that’s just not their focus. Their focus is on kind selling shows, not actually making them, but occasionally I know some of them. Dave Miner is actually pretty active. I know he helps out. He’s

Phil Hudson:
One of the ones I’m thinking about. Yep, that shows up.

Michael Jamin:
He’s a manager at Three Arts who also has a executive producer credit on his show, and he’s involved more in the day-to-day, but not, it’s the degree that the runners want him to be helpful and he is helpful, but it just depends on really the relationship that the producer wants to have on the TV show and what they want to do and what the showrunner is asking of ’em. But I’ve been on other shows where they have done very little or I was on one show where the producer, the executive producer was a manager of the talent and it seemed like she did everything in her will to help get the show canceled because she was completely inept. And eventually the show was canceled. Then I was like, boy, are you dumb? But it happens. So okay. But again, they don’t raise money, and this is on the TV side.
They don’t raise money with the exception of occasionally, maybe they want to help make a presentation or they put some money together, but they’re not financing the show. In the rule in Hollywood, you don’t want to put your money. Now if you are creating your own TV show, as I’m talking to my audience, how do you guys break into Hollywood? And I’ll often say, Hey, put it on film, put it put up your YouTube channel. In that case, you are putting your own money. Yes, you’ll be executive producer putting your own money up, but this is until you break in. And even then, I don’t recommend you putting a lot of money. I’m talking about a couple of thousand, not a million

Phil Hudson:
Listen episode. Was it 99 where we talked about that? I think we hit on that 99 or 1 0 1. But yeah, think about that. Your story is probably not going to be worth but’s. Still a good learning experience, but

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s not a great return on investment. But on the film side, it’s a different story. Well, I should say it can be a different story. So if you’re making a film, a producer, or it might have a similar function as a producer overall, Dylan and tv, they help put together the project, they have a deal or a shingle at the studio. But again, they’re not putting together the money the studio is putting together the money. On an indie film, it’s a little different. Often people, the indie filmmakers have to fundraise and so they’ll often say, Hey, if you give $5,000, I’ll give you an executive producer title on the show. And so in that case, they are helping raise the money.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. They’re finding financiers to do it. And they’re typically the ones I know of from the indie films that I’ve been a part of or seen marketing campaigns. They’re typically made their money on pharmaceuticals or their lawyers and big time lawyers or their business people, dentists. And they just, again, we did talk about this recently, but oftentimes those people did not pursue their craft in order to pursue the paycheck. And this is their way of participating. Some of ’em, it’s a new venture they’re trying to get into. But yeah, that thing oftentimes, yeah. And oftentimes they’re looking at it as a tax. They have money they have to spend anyway. It’s okay if it takes a loss, why not put on a producer hat and help make an indie film?

Michael Jamin:
So this idea of when people say, I want to be a Hollywood producer, why? What exactly. Often you don’t even know what that means. At the end of the day, if you want to be a producer, you are a producer today I’m a producer. And it just means you are going to hustle to make it happen. And I’ve worked with many producers who were really just people who hustled. They didn’t have some great know-how. They were like, okay, I have a script. How am I going to get this script into the hands of this actor who I don’t know? Well, I’ll hide it inside of a pizza box and I’ll deliver a pizza with a script inside. I’ve known producers who’ve done that. They’re just hustlers and they’ve managed to put people together. And so that’s what a producer is. A producer just makes it happen.
And so sometimes when people say, how do I become a producer? You do it. You just do it and worked. I had on my podcast, Jim Serpico, who’s the producer of Marin, he, he’s just like a normal guy who hustled, who was always figuring out ways just to make it happen, to get, if you wanted an actor, he’s like, we didn’t have an in with the actor. He goes, I’ll figure out. I’ll call someone who I know, someone who might know someone who might know this actor. I’ll make some calls, give me a minute. And that’s what he was, he was just a guy who was hustling put to just kind of make it happen. And that’s how we learned that ultimately cervical learned a lot more about the business. He was very hands-on. He was helping scout and he knew how to shoot and he was really very helpful to have on set. But he really was just a guy who just wanted to do it. I’m here to get it done. That was his attitude.

Phil Hudson:
I’m thinking about Richard Perello, who is the producing partner of Broken Lizard, and I had the opportunity to be the producer’s assistant on Quasi. And when I was doing that job, the line producer, he’s U P M and line producer, and he was also a producer on Quasi, and he’s also that on Taco. He’s guy named Matt Melin. He sat down with him. He made it really clear the producers in film are very different than TV because you can have all of these producers in TV and you have to service them. But on film, there’s really one producer, and that’s the producer on set. They’re the creative producer and that’s very much what Perlo was. So his whole point was serve him. If the guys need something, get it done. But if you can hand it off to pa, do it. Just be there for Rich.
And that’s what I did. I was there. I was there before him. I had his coffee ready, I had his sides ready. I’d set up his chair. If he had something he needed done, I’d run it. I knew what time to go get his coffee after lunch, I’d go get his lunch order. I do all of those things. And at the end you think me, because he’s like, I just needed to spend that much time. You think you for taking care of me. It allowed me to focus on the set. And when I was there observing, sitting behind him in the chair in video village, he’s like, we need more greens here. We need this here. And he did the same thing. He worked with the guys through their indie films on all of their indie film projects and just learned with them negotiating, figuring out how to get things done. And like you said, they’re just hustlers. They get things done.

Michael Jamin:
So if you want to be a producer and you keep, and you’re asking, well, how do I break into Hollywood to be a producer, then you’re not a producer because the producer is someone who just gets it done. I will. They figure it out. And so I would say if you want to be a producer, you spend some time on set, learn what all the various jobs are, observe, and then find some kid with a script fresh out of film school or not out of film school and say, Hey, I want to work with you. Let’s produce your script.

Phil Hudson:
Now you’re I on the same line of logic. I had another conversation recently with a 24 because they’ve told me they want to push me down this producer path and they’re open to working with me outside of Tacoma depending on what happens if we get picked up. And I said, well, what would be, because the next step for me would be a production supervisor, which is part of this producer path. Then the next would be assistant U P M U P M, line producer, and then potentially producer. And I said, what would make me a good production supervisor? And they said, learn the production side. Learn budgeting. If you could be a line producer’s assistant, if you sit in on those conversations about money and how much that rig cost or that lens costs and how much we can afford to do this or that, said, there’s no way that’s not going to be helpful as a producer. And then she said, I know you want to be a writer. So the other thing is the best collaborators also understand production and budget because they are more willing to give and take. They know what to fight for the creative, they know what to let go of. So it’s only helpful as someone who wants to be a showrunner as well.

Michael Jamin:
Also 8 24, they make some really good stuff. I know it’s not exactly what you want to do in terms of writing, but it’s like

Phil Hudson:
It’s not something that I turned down no had conversations to about not bad. Yeah, we had conversations about me going to Houston to be a production supervisor on a film, but it was all dependent on the rider’s strike. And this was back in April, and I talked to her recently. Everything’s been pushed into next year on most of their production slate. They do have waivers from the Writer’s Guild, which I don’t think people, a lot of people understand. And the waiver is really that they’ve agreed to every single term the Writer’s Guild put out, and they’re a small indie film. They’re not one of the big studios. And because of that, the Writer’s Guild like, sure, if you’re going to meet our demands, go ahead and make whatever films you want to do. And they’re just continuing to make ’em happen.

Michael Jamin:
Hustle,

Phil Hudson:
They’re hustling. It’s same thing.

Michael Jamin:
Hustlers. Yeah. So that’s why anyone who wants to be a producer, you can be a producer and you don’t have to ask permission. Would

Phil Hudson:
You say it’s street smarts more than book smarts here? Because I know the book smarts are important from a budgeting and a finance perspective, but I also seems to me someone who can just make things happen. That’s the job, make it happen.

Michael Jamin:
For example, we’re on set on Marin, we’re shooting on book locations, the low budget show, we’re shooting some neighborhood, and the minute they see the people see these trucks, the film trucks, because everything comes in these trucks, all the equipment, for some reason the leaf blowers show up that day.

Phil Hudson:
Lawnmowers are on, they

Michael Jamin:
Call each other the minutes that the director yells action, suddenly the leaf blowers show up out of everywhere. You can’t shoot with a, and so the producers say, just hand out a hundred dollars bills. That’s what a producer do. Hand out a hundred dollars just to get ’em to go away. Yep.

Phil Hudson:
Because it’s costing him $10,000 every minute or whatever, every hour. It’s

Michael Jamin:
Definitely a shakedown with these guys. Do

Phil Hudson:
I think it’s 10 grand an hour on a low budget show? It’s 10 grand an hour for the set. I talked to this, I was talking to someone about the cost of that. It’s crazy. So it’s worth a thousand dollars to keep the machine running,

Michael Jamin:
But that’s what a good producer will do. Also, if it looks like rain, a producer will figure out, alright, we’ll work with the associate producer, first assistant. Yeah, first ad to figure out what the shooting schedule will be. Okay, we will move this around. And sometimes the director will get into that conversation as well as the showrunner, but often you’ll just turn to the producer. What do you want to do as a showrunner? I don’t really give a crap. What do you want to do?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s the other thing that’s interesting that I don’t think a lot of people understand is when you’re making these projects, I always in my head assume they would be shot linearly and they’re not. They’re blocked shot because they have to be because the expense of moving the equipment and setting up shots, it’s such a time suck, and you’re paying all those people for those man hours. It’s just easier to shoot. We’re in the garage, shoot everything in the garage right now. So you have actors coming in and they’re shooting the last scene of a movie, first thing, and they have spent maybe two or three rehearsals with their co-stars, and it’s this incredibly emotional moment, and then they have to jump right into the levity of the first act. It’s really fascinating that the complexity of a schedule, and that’s again, something I would’ve assumed a producer would do. And no, the first ad does it and then the producer vets it to make sure it’s going to meet the budget. Like the line producer.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And then before that, seen a shot. As the part of the showrunner’s job, we’ll run up to the actors and say, okay, just to refresh your memory, shooting so much out of order. Sometimes we’re shooting not just scenes out of order, but we’re shooting entire episodes. We’re shooting episode two and episode three at the same time.

Phil Hudson:
Block shooting episodes. We would do that all the time on Tacoma.

Michael Jamin:
And so we would run up to the actress before we’re doing, before each scene, just to refresh your memory, this is where we are in the storyline. This is what you’re playing here. If you read it, you might think, okay, I should be happy. But now you’re mad at this person from the earlier scene.
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Phil Hudson:
That’s another thing I’ve seen too, which I think is incredibly valuable, is really good showrunners make the actors sit down and read the scripts out loud with them to make sure that they read everything. Because I’ve seen a propensity for actors to just read their lines and they don’t understand how it fits into the full thing. That’s not all actors, it’s definitely not all actors, but I’ve seen a lot of actors do that.

Michael Jamin:
I have not worked on a show where that was a problem, but now that you mentioned, I have to probably keep my eye open it, but I’m sure in some shows actors can get lazy. But I haven’t worked on, because Marin was a little different. Marin, he was the only regular because of the budget and everyone else was a guest star, meaning we would hire that actor for maybe five out of 13 episodes. They were not regular. So regular means you’re on every single episode. So if you’re a guest star and you’re only doing five episodes, you you’re going to come prepared. You’re not going to sleepwalk your way through it. And so Mark was always prepared, and although often he was always prepared, but easily confused given how much he had to do in every single episode. So you had to go, just remind him where he was emotionally in each episode. But for the actors, the guest stars, they were always well, oh

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, you’re on it.

Michael Jamin:
You’re on it. Yeah, they’re on it. They knew they were not going

Phil Hudson:
To work. Hats off to circuit codes on that too. What is it? How many days? A two and a half days to shoot an episode.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And towards the end we got three. But that’s crazy.

Phil Hudson:
That’s wild. It’s crazy wild. We had, I think is it eight days? We would block, shoot. So over two weeks we’d shoot two episodes. So I think it comes out to be like five days per episode, and it’s still skinnier teeth getting by to get everything.

Michael Jamin:
So we were really running gun, and I used to say, as long as someone’s finger was in the lens, we got it move on. There wasn’t enough time. And so we would shoot everything in a, we would shoot, we block the scene, shoot the first thing in a first run in a master, which is kind like a rehearsal, but you’re in a master, so you’re everything, you’re wide. So if the actor’s not perfect, it’s fine. You’re only going to use the master to open the scene at the end, the scene, and then maybe a couple of times in the middle. And so we’d shoot the master and then go into coverage, which means going immediately to closeups. Wow.

Phil Hudson:
No mediums or anything like that.

Michael Jamin:
Very few. And then you

Phil Hudson:
Didn’t have time.

Michael Jamin:
You don’t have time. And occasionally in each episode we would give the director maybe one or two vanity shots like, all right, fine, you want to set up a crane or whatever. But you don’t have many of those. But I worked on another show, God, it was so annoying. It was the director, we had more time. And he decided to put a camera, it was a car scene. He wanted to install a camera on the edge of the car so he can get a closeup of the wheel as the car was racing down the street. And we used that chauffer half a second, and it took hours to set the stupid shot up. And I’m like, why are we doing this? What’s the point of this? Is anyone impressed by seeing a wheel of a car as it races down? Who cares? That’s not what this show is. So sometimes I feel like you can more, you can waste time with shots that are completely unnecessary for the audience is not going to appreciate it more. I don’t think anybody’s going to appreciate it.

Phil Hudson:
Well, anyone listening to this who is interested in indie film, what you’re describing, and the way you shot Marin is indie film. What is it like on average? And correct me if I’m wrong, I think it’s three pages per day is a good shooting day for a TV show or a feature. And a feature might be half a page because they’re doing bigger, broader.

Michael Jamin:
No, we were doing sometimes 11 pages a

Phil Hudson:
Day. Indies is 10. Yeah, I was going to say in is 10 you’re doing,

Michael Jamin:
Sometimes we did 11. It was like, man, we got a lot to do. A lot to do. It’s crazy. Oh yeah.

Phil Hudson:
I can’t imagine that the crew just hustling nonstop.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, they were hustling and there’s just no time to waste. But when you watch that show, no one thought. No one thought it was like it was sloppy.

Phil Hudson:
Felt like every other high quality film. And I think what’s cool about that too, and I think you learned this when you study indie film, is there’s a style that comes out of that. The minimalism almost adds to the value. And then we’ve talked on the podcast previously about the value of an art director or an art supervisor and how they can come in and really change things. In our Marin, we talked about the photos and they’re out of focus, and that’s where the art is. The Nissan Cent and everything else that’s happening in the scene, the music comes into play to pick things up. But yeah, it’s fascinating.

Michael Jamin:
The thing is, I would prefer, as crazy as that sounds, I would prefer to do another show like that as opposed to a big budget show faster. Let’s shoot it faster. I just like it better.

Phil Hudson:
Buddy system was pretty quick too. I mean, we shot the buddy six

Michael Jamin:
Weeks buddy system was equally fast and even still feels when you’re on set, it’s like, oh, this is so boring. Even still, it takes a long time to get each shot, so I don’t get it when, but also, there wasn’t a lot of people being self-indulgent on Marin. A lot of actors was like, no, stop horsing around. Know your lines. We don’t have time. So it forces people to focus. And you know what? The crew, they loved it. I think they got paid less than other shows. There was no overtime on Marin, but they loved it. They wanted to go home with their family. They didn’t want to spend their lives on set. They were happy to work 12, 13 hours a day. Go home.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, I want to highlight one thing that you were talking about here. What you’re describing as a showrunner is why the showrunner is the executive producer. You have to dictate what shots are important. You have to dictate the stone, the tone and style of the show. You have to make sure your actors are prepared. You have to make sure your actors understand what are going on. And I know there’s specific union rules about who’s allowed to talk to the actors and who isn’t allowed to. The doctors who can talk to the background and who can’t. But the fact that the showrunner is there to serve the entirety of the production rather than just the ego of an actor and understanding things at every detail, the nuances of which ash tray, what colors the car we’re using, you’re making all of those decisions to sculpt and build this that is a producer.

Michael Jamin:
And often you, let’s say a black car and the producer says that car’s going to cost a thousand dollars more than a silver car. He is, all right, let’s get the silver one. I’ll live with it. But also, there were times, plenty of times when we were running Marin where it’s like the director would set up a shot and I’d yell off, we’re not going to use this shot, so keep it going. I’m telling you, because the short winner has final say over cut, not the director in tv. So I’d say, I’m not going to use this shot. So don’t waste time getting it. Spend your time somewhere else on a different shot that you’ll like, but not this one. Because that comes

Phil Hudson:
From decade, a decade plus of doing the work of writing and being on sets. And I think that’s another main thing that they’re talking about with the strikes, the ability for writers to be on TV sets has gone away. Because unless your showrunner wants to invite you to the set, which praise to Kevin and Steve, they will always invite the writers when their episode is shooting and they can come sit in video village and hang the actors and watch their show get made. But a lot of productions, writers are not on staff and they have to work. So they go get another writing job and they’re sitting in another room writing. You don’t

Michael Jamin:
Learn any of this stuff. Yeah, you’re not

Phil Hudson:
Learning how to be a showrunner. That’s a lot of what the writer’s guild striking about right now too, is staffing minimums, but also standards of how many people you want to have on set so people can learn the job of running a show.

Michael Jamin:
Right? There were times where, let’s take, I see you’re shooting. It’s an emotional scene and they’re covering in a, well, let’s say they shooting in a wide, and it’s an emotional scene. I’m not going to play it in a wide, I’m playing in a closeup. It’s emotional. I’m going to be in a closeup or let’s say it’s a two shot. And also I know to make the joke pop, I’m not going to play it in a two shot. I’m going to play, jokes often have to play in singles or overs. So someone says a joke and the other person reacts to it, and it’s the reaction that’s funny. And if you play it in a two shot, it’s not funny. And so there are things like this that you learn on set as an experienced showrunner or whatever writer you’ll learn on set that you are not going to learn if you’re not there. And so yes, this is partly what the strike is over. Sometimes you’re getting shot coverage and they’ve crossed the line, and so these shots don’t

Phil Hudson:
Match. Do you want to define that for your listen, so

Michael Jamin:
Hard to explain without drawing it out, but basically,

Phil Hudson:
Do you want me to explain it or you want,

Michael Jamin:
I can explain it, but it’s hard to imagine what

Phil Hudson:
It’s, who will crossing the line? Because you’ll see an image of it. But I think for the listeners, you want it in their car.

Michael Jamin:
So imagine you’re shooting, okay, so imagine you are shooting a multi-camera that come on a stage or any play on a stage. So the line separates the actors and the audience. There’s a line there, imaginary line. And so the audience never crosses the line to watch come across that line to be on the actor side. And the actors never cross the line to the audience’s side. And so when you’re shooting a scene, imagine that the cameras are on the audience side. They’re always behind that line and they never cross the line. And the problem is once you cross that line with a camera, the images get flipped.

Phil Hudson:
So it’s very disjoint when you cut in post because all of a sudden someone was on the left and now they’re on the right. Right.

Michael Jamin:
So if I’m talking to you in this shot here, we’re doing this video podcast. I’m looking right at Phil, and Phil is looking left at me. That’s how it’s always going to be. I’m always looking right at Phil. And we

Phil Hudson:
Intentionally talked about that when we were setting up the video podcast. Who’s looking right? Who’s looking left? So that there was this line, so it wasn’t disjointed. I don’t set my camera up on the right hand side, and I’m on vacation, so I have this other camera. But normally if you look at it, it looks like we’re having a conversation looking at each other.

Michael Jamin:
For the most part. Maybe in a movie or TV show, the camera’s not going to cross the line because it becomes disorienting unless the director wants to disorient you, which is okay, that’s a creative choice. The

Phil Hudson:
Other place would do it. And there’s a book on directing. I read really early on in my studies that talked about this as principle, and it was really hard for me to understand. So that’s why I’m saying Google it like Michael was telling you to do. But imagine there’s a parade coming down the street and you’re watching it from this angle, and if you jump to the other side, it’s flipped. That’s the flip. But if your camera moves on a dolly around the other side in your brain, you now understand, but you can’t go back to the other side now. So you can flip it, but you can’t hop scotch back and forth because

Michael Jamin:
That’s the T. Yeah. Can reestablish a line. You can always establish a new line. But one of the most difficult things for a director to shoot, it’s not a car chase. It’s not an exclusion. It’s four people sitting at a dining room table. It’s wild. That’s really hard to shoot.

Phil Hudson:
The blocking in that is wild. You see, they literally chart it out in a CAD software and it says, this person’s looking here and this person’s looking here. And you have where your camera goes so that you remember meticulous about that,

Michael Jamin:
Which is why you’ll often see as a cheat, you’ll see if it’s a table one character sitting on one side and then two characters sitting on the other side, they’re not sitting all around the table, they’re just sitting on opposite ends of the table. And even that’s kind of difficult to shoot. And I’m not a director, although I have director, but I still, when I have to work on scenes like that, I have a pencil and pad making notes to figure out if we’re shooting on the right side of the line. It’s so complicated.

Phil Hudson:
Yes, it’s a three-dimensional chess. You’re just, yeah,

Michael Jamin:
It’s easy. A good DP can do it, no problem. They can see it and

Phil Hudson:
They’ll tell you,

Michael Jamin:
They’ll warn you. Yeah. And the script E, they’ll be able to help you as well. But often the director is not so much of a help because that’s just not what they’re worried about. Or maybe they don’t have the experience to worry about it. And so as a showrunner, I busied myself one season of Marin learning all about this, but it took a season to figure out how to do this because I dunno, I’m a slow learner. But anyway, so that has nothing to do with being a producer, but Well,

Phil Hudson:
It does because you have to pay attention to those things, and you have to know those things. So as an executive in your audience right now, that is not predominantly, we talked about the beginning, but largely screenwriters or people who are interested in film, I think that it’s really important for them to understand that you’re not just showing up smoking a cigar in a chair, barking orders. You’re focused and paying attention. You have binders with notes. You have everyone coming to you with a thousand questions over and over again.

Michael Jamin:
And I’m lucky because I have a writing partner. Well, if I don’t have the answer, I can punt it to him and he’ll probably have the answer. But we often divide responsibilities that way. So I understand the camera’s a little better. And he does. He does as much of the other. He’s really good at figuring out where we are in the script and whose attitude, who knows what at which moment. Like, man, how do you remember all this stuff? But he also looks at me the same way. How do you know all this stuff about the camera? And that’s why when people say, I want to be a showrunner, it’s like, hold on. Do you know what a showrunner does? It’s a hard job. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
The Rider’s Guild has training programs on this because it is difficult, and again, it’s part of the strike because they’re, is my opinion, just my opinion. But I think a lot of times, corporations, I get it. Their job is to maximize profits and their job is to satisfy the demands of their shareholders. And it’s a quarterly game four times a year. They’re just making moves to satisfy that. And the Writer’s Guild looking at it as 20, 30 years down the road, they see this hole where there’s going to be a gap where no one’s going to know how to run a show when this group of showrunners retires or moves on. There’s not going to be anyone with that skillset and that knowledge because they don’t have the repetitions and the time on set and the observation, and we haven’t even talked about post and the value of being in post to learn these things too. And we can’t use that shot because this, or there’s a better take. The notes that I have to manage and maintain for the showrunner in order to get, I give him the lemi so that he can sit and post and understand what shots were taken, all the scripting notes, everything. They’re going through everything to make those decisions and posts. And it’s largely that stuff. Then those decisions being made on the day when they’re filming. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
The thing is, you mentioned the showrunners program at the writer’s club. I had a guest on here, Alex Berger, who I worked with many years ago, and he’s at the level now where he’s ready to get his own show. He just hasn’t gotten his own show, but he took the showrunner’s program at the writer’s club. It’s a free program you have to apply for though. And he says that he learned a lot. And I was like, oh, tell me what you learned. And I was interested to know what he learned, run three shows, but it doesn’t mean I know. No, I’m doing it because I never went through the program. But I was like, oh, that makes sense.

Phil Hudson:
I found out about that show. And again, I’ve talked about this documentary many times, but it’s a showrunner, the Art of TV writing. But that’s great. And they go in and they talk about that program, and they interview the director of the program and what the job is. And the thing that really stood out to me was quality scripts on time. That’s the main thing. That’s your job. That is the linchpin. And my assistant, Kevin, I hired an assistant in my agency who’s a script coordinator, and he worked on a bunch of shows, but he was telling that one of the shows he was working on got canceled because the showrunner was not turning in scripts on time. And a very well known showrunner too.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it definitely happens. And on most of the shows we do, we try to get all the scripts done in pre-production. And the crew, the production staff is so grateful because that way they can plan ahead. They can decide which episodes to shoot. It’s a hard enough job as it is without getting the script the night before. Imagine getting the script the night before and then telling ’em, okay, now you have to find, I don’t know, a roller rink to shoot in the day the next day. How are they going to do that? So you have to get, this is when things get dangerous, when people are overworked or working late and cutting corners. So it’s the job of the showrunner. And I think what the problem is, is I’ve been lucky I’ve had studios because these low budget shows that the studios are very, for the most part, hands off and they let you do your job. But on a high budget show, the studio may throw out a script the night before. We don’t like it. And it’s like, well, damn, do you understand what kind of stress this is going to put? Not just on the showrunner, but the entire crew in

Phil Hudson:
The families of the crew and the showroom as well. I know there are people on our crew who are working on the reshoots of Thor Love and Thunder, and they were working 14 hour days, seven days a week for two weeks straight. Terrible. And it is just like, Hey, it’s going to make a billion dollars. We’ll pay all of the overages and it’ll all come out in the wash. We just got to get it done. And they did it shooting on a studio in Burbank, and then they have to drive home at three or four in the morning and then have turnaround.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Oh, I mean, these crew members really hard, hard, it can be a hard job. It could be a hard life. And so

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, you’re getting home at 4:00 AM and then going to bed, you miss your kids. You wake up. I mean, even just, and I’ll just say this, when I had my first kid, we were shooting quasi, my kid was almost a year old, and there were days I didn’t see my kid, weeks. I didn’t see my kid leave in the morning before she got up. And I’d come home before she went to bed or after she went to bed. That’s heartbreaking.

Michael Jamin:
Heartbreaking. I hate that. Right.

Phil Hudson:
So it’s what it was, and it was 30 days of that, and then it was over, and I was just very grateful

Michael Jamin:
At, you can see the end in sight. At least you can go, okay, it’s 30 days. I could. But if this is your life and okay, it’s 30 days now, but your next movie is also 30 days, and then 30 days after that, a different movie, that becomes really hard. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Well, I think that speaks to as well, what your priorities are and what you want out of life. We talk about how if you want to be a writer, you have to learn how to write and you have to write for free, and you have to get notes and get feedback. You have to learn all these skillset sets. But I don’t think a lot of people think about the quality of life that they want to have. And there are a lot of people, I think when I told you I was having a kid, you were telling me that you had an assistant or someone that you knew was a really good writer, really talented, and they just moved out of LA because it just no longer fit their family lifestyle. I can’t remember who you were telling me.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t remember who that was.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, I remember I had the conversation. It was like literally you were telling them that. And then I was like, well, by the way, I’m having a kid after that. Because things shift and things change. Priorities change when you have a family, priorities. If you don’t want to have a family and you’re happy and you just want to make a career awesome and good for you, it’s a balance. And I have a very supportive wife who lets me chase my dreams and do my things, and she hopes,

Michael Jamin:
But it could also be feast or famine. It can also be, you don’t want to turn down this job. You don’t know when your next job’s coming. So

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, imagine if I didn’t have an agency that I’d built for the last decade. I’d be in a real bad spot right now with two kids. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Exactly. Yeah, right. There are a

Phil Hudson:
Lot of people like

Michael Jamin:
That. I said, you’re smart to have this other income stream, multiple income streams in Hollywood. Yeah. Well, there we go, Phil.

Phil Hudson:
Good stuff. Any other thoughts on producing or

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know. I think I hit it. Do you have anything you want to add to this?

Phil Hudson:
No, I think it was a very helpful conversation. I hope people, I found it very enjoyable personally. I mean, just hearing you talk about these things and the nuances, it’s just kind of sets the stage for what the job really is. And I think the mistake or the folly we often run into as creatives is we have this delusion of grandeur that we’re going to make it in Hollywood and we’re going to win an Oscar, and we’re going to do these things. And you have to have a little bit of that suspension of disbelief, which is what we ask our audience to have. We have to suspend our disbelief about the reality of what our world looks like to chase our dreams and our goals, but we also need to be grounded and understand what the stakes are. And I think that’s one of the values that you bring in the podcast. And what we see from people talking about is just, we just read the reviews the other day, just going through a bunch of ’em, and you and I we’re really appreciative for anybody who’s leaving reviews. So if you enjoy,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, please go and leave us a review on Apple, if you like our

Phil Hudson:
Show on iTunes. Yeah. But yeah, it’s like people are just like, there’s gold. Every episode’s full of gold and wisdom. I just really think that it’s a credit to your realistic take on of this, Michael. I just think you’re just preparing another generation of writers and producers and creatives to just understand. You may never make it in the way you think you will, but it’s still worth pursuing if you want to just keep doing it.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah, and that’s a good point because I do know before I wrap it up, I have spoken with people who chase the money after college because for various reasons and all that may be completely legit, maybe they didn’t grow up with money, and so having money in the pocket really felt good, some stability, but then they reach a certain age where the money does no longer fill the hole, and so then they start chasing, they want to do something a little more creative with their life.

Phil Hudson:
There’s a Ben Fold song called The Ascent of Stan, and it’s talking about this corporate guy who gets laid off after 30 years and he goes home and he puts his slide deck in and he projects it onto the wall and traces it because he’s going to paint this thing and it’s just all pointless. What has my, basically when it’s like, what has my life been, I put 20, 30 years into this corporation and they just escorted me out one day and here I am just trying to find my art again. And it’s like, what’s the point? And that’s reality. But

Michael Jamin:
You don’t need anyone’s permission to start making your art today. Maybe we’ll talk more about that in another podcast, but yeah, don’t wait for, just start doing it. Start creating it. Love it. Alright everyone, thank you so much. We got a lot of good free stuff on my website. Go visit it and you can get all the things. You can get a free screenwriting lesson. You can get an invitation to my free screenwriting webinar, which we do every few weeks. Got another one coming up. Well, I dunno when this airs, who knows? There’s

Phil Hudson:
Always one coming up at this point, which is, there’s always one, a lot of really good feedback.

Michael Jamin:
You can learn more about my book, a Paper Orchestra. When that drops, you can see me on tour. You can just get the book, the audio book working on. You can get a sample script that I wrote or a couple simple scripts you could get. What else can you get,

Phil Hudson:
Phil? The newsletter, weekly

Michael Jamin:
Newsletter we give away. Phil’s in charge all giving Phil’s in charge of giving it all away. I

Phil Hudson:
Just take from Michael guys, it’s all

Michael Jamin:
He gives it away.

Phil Hudson:
I’m Robin Hood and we’re just handing it to the masses,

Michael Jamin:
But it’s all go to michaeljamin.com.

Phil Hudson:
Asked me to give it away. To be clear, everyone, Michael’s like, Hey, if I wanted to learn from someone, I don’t want to read their script. Can we put my scripts up here? I’m like, yeah, I’ll figure out how to make the form and the email auto drip campaign work and make sure the tags are functioning.

Michael Jamin:
Yep. He’s the digital marketer. So you go check out ruck ss e o as well if you’re all your digital marketing needs. Okay, everyone, thank you so much. Until next week, keep writing.

Phil Hudson:
Thanks guys.
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for Michael’s monthly webinar@michaeljamin.com/webinar. If you found this podcast helpful, consider sharing it with a friend and leaving us a five star review on iTunes. For free screenwriting tips, follow Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminwriter. You can follow Phil Hudson on social media @PhilaHudson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It was edited by Dallas Crane Music by Ken Joseph. Until next time, keep writing.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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