True Blood's Alan Ball on showrunning and hiring writers

I'm very excited that Alan Ball is our first showrunner training program legacy subject he needs very little introduction you have his bio with all the details but Alan is an academy and Emmy award-winning writer producer and director and in addition to his powerful films he is also the creative force behind two highly acclaimed and favorite television series and so today Alan is going to share with us some of insights into how you do it your story of moving from a junior sitcom writer to a feature film writer and the creative force behind these two shows is inspiring for all writers can you tell us a little bit about your journey and the milestones along the way I was a playwright working in New York City and I'd written this play called five women wearing the same dress it was about bridesmaids at a wedding in Knoxville Tennessee and somebody from carci Warner TV saw it and I got offered a job on the second year of grace under fire so I spent a year on that I was not invited back I think I a lien Aidid the star or maybe they just didn't like me I spent three years on Sybil but after two years I was I thought I cannot do this anymore and they offered me so much money I said well maybe I can do it for another year but I'll you know I'll Bank this money and they'll take some time off and I'll rate I'll write a screenplay that's gonna you know and I I couldn't wait I would actually I spent that last year I was working on Sybil writing screenplay to American Beauty how did you find your staff you know that's one of the things that we talked about a lot which is how do you hire a staff a writing staff and put it together well you know on when I when I was staffing for Six Feet Under I read a lot of scripts and I hired I hired some people who wrote a you know I hired a guy who wrote a fantastic Sopranos spec I hired a guy who wrote a fantastic the practice spec and then we got into the room and they weren't the voice of Six Feet Under wanted to be and so I kind of learned oh I don't really need to you know hire people because they can match the voice of another show I want to learn out I want to learn what is this person's individual voice so I don't read spec scripts anymore I will read a pilot I'll read a screenplay I'll read a short story mm-hmm I'll read a play I do work with a lot of playwrights because I want to I want to see what is this person's organic voice that brings us to our next question which is about time management which is probably one of the biggest if not the biggest challenges that face showrunners how do you manage it how do you manage your time how do you take care of yourself on a day to day basis I usually go in around 10:00 and I get home somewhere around 7:00 so it's not bad it's really reasonable from everything I've heard that's a pretty reasonable timeframe and well part of it is like you know because I'm really good at delegating maybe and or maybe that's just me rationalizing how lazy I am but the fact that you know I that the writer of the episode is there on set and you know if if there's some big problem everybody knows how to get in touch with me how often does it happen that they call you down to the set oh well that happens occasionally but you like getting called at home like after I've come home that happens like maybe three times a season it's usually just a question mm-hmm and I don't believe in spending twelve hours in the writers room I worked on shows where people really did not want to go home to their families and basically we would you know it was like five o'clock in the afternoon I just don't know if the story is working and I'm just like oh Jesus we're gonna be here to midnight now because you don't want to go face your wife I just don't believe that I guess maybe because those sitcoms I worked on there was so much wasted time I just don't believe in it I don't I I know that you can change things and constantly change things but rarely do they get better they just get different you know if you're constantly changing everything and I sort of feel feel like again I have to go back to that mantra it's just a TV show mm-hmm it's not it's not worth going crazy or getting sick over yeah it's been really easy for me in terms of pilots for the two HBO shows for the ABC show it was it was a nightmare I I think we are so lucky to get to do what we do it should never be painful it should never be you know it's got it I I just feel like you have to really believe in what you're doing and it should be a show that you yourself would watch you

7 thoughts on “True Blood's Alan Ball on showrunning and hiring writers

  1. anyone notice Peter Gould, one of the main writers of Breaking Bad and Showrunner of Better Call Saul. 4:05

  2. some of the dialogue in Trued Blood was SHOCKINGLY bad. Could definitely tell the decent staff writers from the awful ones.

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