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What do you need to succeed in TV? Support networks and a trusted community

Running the Show alumni Raffaella Bonivento and Brid Cannon discuss the importance of community in this industry, and how their course cohort has grown to become a trusted network of professionals from around the world, supporting each other beyond the learning of the course.

INT. KITCHEN. MILAN /DUBLIN – EARLY MORNING

Raff & Brid. Morning exchange on Zoom. Excited banter. Coloured mugs. Disheveled hair. Disheveled minds.

Raff: Caffeine is a must for a writer-producer, isn’t it?

Brid: (Slurping from a mug that says “NOTIONS”) Absolutely, caffeine is the lifeblood of our industry.

Raff: (Holding a mug that says “CHAOS coordinator”) So our protagonist is an executive or a producer, a development producer, a young writer, an established writer, a freelance writer, a writer-director, a journalist… She dreams of heading up her own show one day. Or maybe has just landed her first showrunning opportunity and needs to gear up.

What does our protagonist want? An arsenal of showrunning tools to help her handle every challenge she will meet in that industry jungle! She also wants to learn from the best and find a map to help navigate her way. Pretty simple, right Brid?

Brid: (Still slurping) I think that’s a universal journey, Raff. We all start out with big dreams and a bad map.

Raff: (Waving her mug) Inciting incident: She signs up for a cool-sounding course called Running the Show with Jeff ‘The Emmy’ Melvoin and John ‘Structure Yoda’ Yorke. And settles back, expecting to be driven through the jungle with her new classmates. Then, out of nowhere, she smacks into a herd of elephants…

Brid: (Spills coffee) Ouch!

Support networks are crucial. Having a group to lean on – to share experiences and problem-solve together – can make all the difference in those tough, lonely moments as a showrunner.

– Brid Cannon

Raff: (Smiling back) Suddenly, she encounters a lot of obstacles. Week after week, module by module, this course throws everything at her and her classmates. Unexpected management challenges to figure out, difficult personalities to wrangle, addiction-addled actors! She and her classmates have to balance priorities, trying to be both scientific and artistic, hard-nosed and humane. They must reflect deeply on their personal experience with tight schedules, tighter budgets, high-volume output and human behaviour. And if there’s no personal experience to call on – must make some plausible stuff up…

Brid: (Gripping mug) Hard work!

Raff: Right. Maybe they meet in London, in person, to get to know each other better and engage even more honestly. Can they support each other? Not only now, but in the future?

Brid: (Nodding vigorously) Support networks are crucial. Having a group to lean on – to share experiences and problem-solve together – can make all the difference in those tough, lonely moments as a showrunner.

Raff: What I know is that our protagonist was scared as hell starting out on Jeff and John’s CPD course for showrunners and writer-producers. I can see her then, embracing the feeling that she is the dumbest person in the group, while connecting to like-minded professionals who challenge her and her thinking. But look where she is now, quoting legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson, ‘Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the “Me” for the “We”’.

Learning from the many different backgrounds and nationalities in the group – all the various perspectives on the same hypothetical problem set each week, from staffing your writers’ room [to] script and budget issues.

Raffaella Bonivento

Brid: (Slurping again) Trust is key. When you feel you can be vulnerable and still be supported, that’s when true growth happens.

Brid: (Raising her mug) Trust fosters collaboration and innovation.

PING!! Raff and Brid receive a text from their Running the Show alumni group. Exciting news! Two members of the cohort have begun a project – one in Ukraine and the other in the UK. Coincidence? Or the magic of collaboration that comes from trust? The unexpected really can happen when you are prepared to head through the jungle alone – then find companions to share the journey.

In Milan and Dublin, Raff and Brid sit back in companionable silence and smile at their screens, thinking about all the positive things that came from their Running the Show course:

  • Admiration for all the terrific assignments set by the tutors – exactly the kind of thorny exercises you are never going to set yourself and that even make production-related math-problems fun.
  • Priceless insight from well-structured training modules – with weekly practical homework assignments and generous feedback from Jeff.
  • Kudos to the cohort of classmates for their effort and brainpower – cracking scheduling tasks with awesome colour-coding – and for engaging so deeply in peer feedback, making thoughtful and constructive comments with a smile.
  • Learning from the many different backgrounds and nationalities in the group – all the various perspectives on the same hypothetical problem set each week, from staffing your writers’ room, script and budget issues, people management, right through to editing choices in post-production.

And above all, such a unique bond.

Raising mugs. In different countries, but so close.

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