Christopher Goutman: What it’s Really Like to be a Soap Opera Executive Producer

Oakdale ConfidentialChristopher Goutman: I had no desire to continue executive producing. But [Procter & Gamble Executive] Mickey Dwyer-Dobbin said, “Listen, we have other plans for you.” So I was thrown into As the World Turns; and lo and behold, 11 years later, unfortunately that show, as well, is going off the air. So, I think the lesson to be learned here is: Don’t get me near any show that has the word “world” in it!

Susan Dansby:  Actually I was thinking about this today – that also during that 11 years, World Turns has received a lot of critical acclaim, and a lot of awards for the people who work for you.

Maura West (Carly) ATWT

Maura West (Carly) ATWT

Michael Park (Jack) ATWT

Michael Park (Jack) ATWT

Julie Pinson (Janet) ATWT

Julie Pinson (Janet) ATWT

Christopher Goutman:  We have been blessed with, I think, close to 140 Emmy nominations and a whole bunch of awards.  Just this past year, the show received three major nods in the acting categories with Maura West, Michael Park, and Julie Pinson. And I think we gave a really good shot. It’s just a really tough place to do business right now not only from an audience standpoint, but from a business standpoint.  So, I think we are all very proud of the show and I don’t think we have anything to hang our heads about.

Susan Dansby:  Tell me a little bit about being an executive producer.  When you first went to Another World, what was the most surprising thing about that job for you?

Christopher Goutman:  It was all-consuming.  As a director, it was great.  You got to go in once, maybe twice, a week and you got to be a hot shot for a day. And then you sleep the next day.

It’s just all-encompassing.  I think, right now, having done it for – it will be close to 12 years nonstop of producing – it’s a seven-day-a-week job. And it’s just exhausting. And there is a burnout factor. I have just been very lucky and stayed healthy, and been able to deal with it. But certainly I think that it’s a marathon you are running, rather than just little sprints here and there.  So it’s a whole different way of looking at life, even.

But what it was able to do for me, which I loved about it – you know this, too, Susan, from going to Carnegie – it just made use of all the disciplines that I was taught – from design, to working with writers, and to all those other things that I really sort of loved as well.  So that was a great blessing about it that it used all the skills that is in the tool box.

Susan Dansby:  Absolutely.  I mean, each element of a soap opera is interesting because you have these people who are experts at very specific things and each person brings a very specific element to the plate each day. And trying to, kind of, combine all of those elements so that they are working at their very best is a huge challenge, and that does fall on the producers.

Christopher Goutman:  It is a sort of a division of labor setup here.  Each person has their own area of expertise, and there are all the pieces that need to fit into place and it is up to the producers to let all those pieces hopefully interlock in an integrated fashion.  So that, again, is the key.  So it is all connected. 

Of course, it all starts with the writing. But then again, from thereon out that’s where the real heavy lifting has to be done so that we not only deliver a product that the writers first hand us, but hopefully improve it during every step of production.

Susan Dansby:  For me, the best part of writing for television is seeing your stuff on air and having it come out better than you ever anticipated.

Christopher Goutman:  Well, we certainly try.  We certainly don’t intend to sabotage it, but that is basically the challenge. And – you know very well – sometimes, on the page, you go, ‘Oh, this is fantastic.’ And then when you get there, it doesn’t quite work for whatever reason. And it could be you don’t have the right actor who’s doing that. There are any number of things that can go wrong. And the idea is to sort of compensate for it rather than compromise – and that’s the key for me.  So that the number of compromises you make during any given day are kept to a minimum.

More on Christopher Goutman:

Christopher Goutman: On Working with Writers
and Saying Goodbye to As the World Turns

The Challenges of Getting Hired as a Soap Opera Director
How Does a Soap Opera Executive Producer Choose Actors?
Christopher Goutman’s Journey from Child Actor to Director to Producer
Christopher Goutman Bio

About Susan Dansby

Susan Dansby has received four Emmy® Awards and two Writers Guild Awards for her work on the soap opera, AS THE WORLD TURNS. She is the author of HOW DID YOU GET THAT JOB? MY DREAM JOBS AND HOW THEY CAME TRUE.
This entry was posted in Dream Jobs, Interviews, Television Jobs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *