Friday, April 22, 2011

Shane Brennan - Getting the run of the place

'THE producers get the money; the directors get the credit; the writers get the blame," the tough, bearded Australian writer is saying about the state of local TV, leaning forward slightly as if ready to move suddenly.

His name is Shane Brennan, and the 54-year-old just happens to be in charge of the two most successful scripted TV shows in the world, US military dramas NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. He continues as he signals a waitress, "something wet" being the request. "In general, Australian TV networks are suspicious of writers, who operate in a culture of disdain, seen vulgarly as merely employees, but in the American studio system they run the show." After a pause, he settles for a sparkling water. "Ice, lemon, the whole gamut," he adds.

We're in the small bar of Phillip Island's Silverwater Resort, about 80km from Melbourne, where Australian screenwriters are having their annual conference. Brennan is one of the special guests, along with British legend Jimmy McGovern, the award-winning creator of The Street and Cracker.

The thirsty Brennan has just spoken entertainingly at a session about the role of the so-called "showrunner" in US studio TV. Nearly all are writers -- though they're usually credited as executive producers -- and they have absolute control of the world's most popular TV shows.

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