writing this while sitting in the office of our Co-Executive Producer, Rick Qualliotine—the only
person at The Wanda Sykes Show who has actually PAINTED HIS OFFICE… making this
easiest the coolest office in the place (one wall is a bright warm
Rick started his career in
theater, producing plays and stage shows, before moving on to television, where
he has helped get shows like The Showbiz Show with David Spade, HGTV Summer
Showdown, and now The Wanda Sykes Show, up on their feet.
the biggest challenges when getting a new show up on its feet?
what Rick says, in his own words…
1) NOT MENTALLY IMPLODING WHILE YOU WAIT FOR YOUR DEAL TO CLOSE.
Getting to the point where you actually start making something is a
grueling, pressure-filled, and sometimes a financially difficult time. Even if you’ve pitched and sold
something, sometimes it will take a long while for there to be any money. So frequently you’re waiting and
waiting for a deal to close… and waiting for production to start… and waiting
for any money to start coming. So
just getting to the point where you’re actually making something can be very
stressful and difficult.
2) You’d be
amazed how frequently it turns out that what you’ve sold isn’t what the buyer
wants. So going back and forth trying to
figure out what the show is, depending on the genre, can be very
challenging. What people
frequently forget is that when they say “I sold my show, I sold my project,”
that really means someone else owns it.
So when you start telling them what the show is and that’s not what they
want it to be, there’s a very difficult back-and-forth… and what the show is
and who’s gonna star in it and who’s gonna write it. After you’ve sold it, it’s somebody else’s. They need you to execute it, but it’s
on top of all the different pieces as it starts to move really fast. It’s a huge elaborate, collaborative process. I always go back to this David Mamet
quote, which I’ll paraphrase: “Producing a play or directing a film is like
running a marathon. Launching a
television series is like running until your heart explodes.”
When you make a TV show, you’re usually looking at making
13 or 22 episodes. Just doing the math, that’s either 7½ -11 or 13-22 hours of
material that you have to imagine, write, perform, and edit. It takes years to do that for a feature
film, to produce that much material.
And we generally have about 30 weeks. So that requires a huge team and lots of people writing
simultaneously. You must overlap
your writing, your production, and post.
So as soon as those things start to overlap, you have to—as a showrunner—move
in and out of those essential pieces.
That’s why, in television, directors take an episode or a couple
episodes; then, the next week it moves on to the next director, whereas
producers and writers stay on and generate all the material. So if you’re a showrunner, you must
have someone sitting in the [writers] room who you trust. You have to have someone on the stage
who you trust. You have to have
someone editing who you trust. But
you also have to be able to interface with all those people simultaneously,
while dealing with the network, and all the usual challenges of managing