Succession creator Jesse Armstrong has talked up the benefits of writers rooms for shows of “scale and length” as he threw his support behind the ongoing writers strike.
Armstrong was in conversation with journalist Marina Hyde on the final day of the Edinburgh TV Festival on Friday in the UK, and offered his analysis of writers rooms, which is one of the key sticking points for the AMPTP and WGA negotiations in the U.S.
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“If budgets are available and we can get supported, they’re a great way to run some shows of scale and length, so I’m very supportive of the strike,” he said, adding that residuals and AI were issues the WGA was right to be concerned over.
“It’s not like a training program when my fellow writers are on set with me. It’s to make the show better,” he added.
Armstrong famously led a unique style of writers room in the UK for HBO drama Succession, which ended this year after four seasons. He said having several writers with knowledge of a script meant one or more could “intervene” if something was not right during shooting. The Succession room included the likes of I Hate Suzie creator Lucy Prebble and Tony Roche, who helped write British comedy series The Thick of It and its feature spin-off In the Loop.
He said making the room feel “safe and inclusive” was important because writers would often be sharing “pain” with each other through the process. “There can be something vampiric about getting a group together and saying, ‘Give me your pain. I want to turn it into a TV show.’
The Peep Show and Fresh Meat creator later said that while being a showrunner can demand a person into making tough decisions, there was no excuse for bullying behavior during development or on set. “Making a TV show is tough but you don’t need to be a dick about it.”
Intriguingly, Armstrong said the big-budget Succession could have been made in the UK, albeit “with fewer helicopters.” He noted Armando Iannucci comedy The Thick of It was originally a BBC4 commission whose pilot episode was “absolutely nothing” but added: “You didn’t need crane shots of Westminster” for the script to work. “Could you create the same tone [with a British Succession]? I think you could.”
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