Marvel Studios has always done things a little (or a lot) different than the rest of the industry. They’ve dreamt big on their universe and delivered in an amazing way over the years, putting together an unparalleled lineup of movies through the first three stages of production. And now they are starting to introduce Marvel shows to the mix which will continue to expand the universe. But the rest of the industry is taking notice of how Marvel is going about these new productions. In a feature article, Variety is reporting how Marvel is upending some commonly used infrastructure with their shows. Namely, they aren’t using showrunners for these new productions. It’s a script-flipping move from the studio.
Though they are only two Marvel shows into Phase Four, but as the article points out the industry has definitely tuned into how Kevin Feige and company are running things. Now, you might see the term showrunner used around the industry to describe some of the Marvel shows creators or head writers. Understand that those are just used around the industry because of long-held beliefs and ideas around how programs are produced. Within Marvel, they aren’t using those titles. For instance, on WandaVision, the creator is Jac Schaeffer and the director is Matt Shakman. For The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the creator is Malcom Spellman and the director is Kari Skogland.
How this differs is that in a typical series, there will be a head writer/ creator/ showrunner who will oversee the entire story and will also coordinate with, typically, a number of different directors. But these Marvel shows are doing things a bit in a different way. They are working on these first shows as limited series with a production that more mirrors a movie set and timeline than your typical television show. That’s why we’ve seen the same director for each episode in the short series run. And it’s also why the head creative isn’t labeled the showrunner, they aren’t overseeing all aspects of the productions.
According to the Variety reporting, this does have some in the industry more than a little concerned about the future of shows and series on other networks and in other genres. Some have even gone as far as to say they would never work for any Marvel shows with this kind of structure, believing it doesn’t allow for the right level of in-show creativity for the head visionary. Though some interviewed did understand why Marvel was taking this approach from a logistical perspective.
For Marvel shows, It’s a different visioning process than you typically see on series and will lead to a different sort of show. For Marvel, it tends to make a little more sense because each Marvel show is part of a much (much) bigger world than standard television programs. There has to be connectivity in these series that you really wouldn’t see anywhere else. The vision, in this way, has to come from a much higher place in the studio.
And for what it’s worth, upcoming Marvel shows are working with the same setup. Loki, which is set to release its six episodes starting June 9th will have Michael Waldron as the head writer and Kate Herron as the director. This could be the new world television order when it comes to creative programming, or we could see it simply a function of the Marvel Universe and how they’ve set up such an expansive collection of shows. Time will tell, but it’s clearly a different approach.