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HBO’s Francesca Orsi Discusses Directors Wanting To Be The “Final Arbiter” In TV – Series Mania

HBO was built on the back of showrunners such as David Chase, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and Jesse Armstrong but is now facing a new dilemma involving directors.

Drama boss Francesca Orsi lifted the lid on the “consistent tussle” over who is charge of a series as more and more “esteemed” directors move into television.

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Orsi, speaking at the Series Mania event in France alongside Jane Tranter, boss of Doctor Who producer Bad Wolf, said that high-profile directing talent want to be the “final arbiter” on the network’s originals.

“One point that’s been very tricky for us is esteemed directors coming in and wanting to be showrunners and the final arbiter of a project, when HBO has been built on the backs of writers and our showrunners,” she said.

She added that film directors are used to complete control.

“These days we need to ensure what we are getting into,” said Orsi. “It’s a consistent tussle about who we are ultimately going to go with if there is an indecisiveness on a creative path forward. That’s a very difficult position to be in, and we are in that a lot, so more and more we try to set it up by asking, ‘Who’s the boss?'”

HBO has changed creative leads on high profile projects such as House of the Dragon, when Miguel Sapochnik stepped down as co-showrunner for season one of the Game of Thrones spin-off, leaving creator Ryan Condal in charge.

Tranter, who has exec produced HBO series including Succession and His Dark Materials, said that the role of showrunner was “one of the big differences” she found when she first produced in the U.S.

“I remember HBO asking that [‘who is the boss’] question several times on a show I was developing with them,” she added. “To my mind, coming from the system I had, the showrunner was made up of a triangle of writer, director and producer. The reason that worked at the time in the UK was because the run of series was that much smaller and frequently the writer would write all episodes and the director would direct them all.”

“I gained a gradual understanding in the U.S. that when you are producing on a much bigger level that triangle does not work, and one person needs to be in charge… or at least one person needs to believe they in charge. I’m very keen on people believing they are in charge. It is a difficult balance to get right.”

Tranter and Orsi have a 20-year working relationship, and in recent times they have worked on other shows such as Industry. Their talk was held to celebrate Orsi receiving Series Mania’s annual Woman in Series Award and spanned numerous topics such as creating hits and the state of streaming.

On the latter, Orsi said HBO had “lost some shows to the fact other streamers are offering more money or a bigger commitment right out of the gate”.

“That continues to be a stress point and an unfortunate position for me at times because there are things I have lost that I would love to have doubled down on,” she said. “But I always trust the show will be different somewhere else, as we do things differently at HBO.”

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