Why Marvel Studios Isn't Using Showrunners For Its Disney+ Series (And How Hollywood Feels About That)
Marvel Studios isn't using showrunners for its Disney+ TV shows and instead appoints "head writers." Now, we have some insight into what that means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Hollywood itself.
Variety has a very interesting piece up about how Marvel Studios handles its Disney+ TV shows and the ripples that the studio is unexpectedly sending through Hollywood.
When The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was announced at Comic-Con, Kevin Feige introduced Malcolm Spellman as the show's "head writer." Despite that, he's frequently referred to as showrunner (including on this site), but it turns out there was a reason for Feige's choice of verbiage.
While it's commonplace in television for there to be a "showrunner" or "creator" who calls the shots, that's not the case in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, Feige is taking the same approach he does with movies, treating these shows like they're six-hour features.
That means having a head writer (likely joined by other scribes for different episodes as we've seen with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and WandaVision) and a helmer reporting directly to Marvel Studios. For outside writers, though, this signals a change they're not on board with, because if other streamers and networks adopt it, it could mean the end of the showrunner concept as a whole.
"At some point, it’ll bite them in the ass when it comes to recruiting top-shelf writer talent," one anonymous writer tells the trade. "If you’re a midlevel writer getting a giant bump to ‘run’ a Marvel show, of course you’re going to do it. But if you’re an experienced showrunner with multiple shows under your belt, are you gonna work under those conditions? Probably not."
One Emmy winner even says, "I will never work on a Marvel TV show. They do have a showrunner. It’s Feige - which is fine! I just wouldn’t want to work that way, that’s all."
"The alarm bells that go off in my head are just concerns that the habits and hierarchies of the film world will bleed into the television world where writers reign supreme," says one prolific showrunner. "Within the circles I run in of writers, there is an absolute concern about people returning to the idea that it is the filmmaker that makes the story special, and not the writer."
Ultimately, this could lead to writers being unable to take on that role as showrunner, and that means making less money and having less creative control when compared to the director (we've frequently heard of clashes between showrunners and directors over their respective visions). That's commonplace with movies, though, and as one showrunner puts it: "It’s great that Marvel invites writers to play in their sandbox. You just need to put the toy back the way you found it."