So. My writing partner and I recently sold our fifth TV pilot. The other four were all dear children who weren't quite motivated enough to move on and actually be filmed. One of them, Heroes, seems to be on the TeeVee in some strange alternate NBC universe, where being a superhero is a drag and not fun at all. However, the creator is some fella named Tim Kring, and not us. Hmm. Only five years ahead of the curve on that one. We were a little more than five years ahead of the DaVinci Code curve, but that's another rant.
This isn't a rant. For those of you who don't know how TeeVee works (all zero of you reading this blog), here's a primer. After the upfronts in May, when the networks present their new fall shows to the advertisers, everybody in Hollywood goes to Hawaii. The writers get started on those new fall shows in June. Around that time, the executives come back from their vacations and start taking pitches for the following TeeVee season. By September (it's weirdly late this year), the networks have bought hundreds of scripts. The writers write them and the development people start getting scripts in by Christmas, which are kicked upstairs in January. Then starts the part of the process that has to involve some kind of black magic ritual -- choosing which scripts to film. Most of the scripts are rejected, but those either produced by Bruckheimer, written or directed by a feature writer/director or directed by David Nutter, are shot (the Nutter shows are now completely bypassing the process. He signs on to direct, the thing goes into production). Production is wrapped by April, the Bruckheimer shows are ordered to series at the upfronts, and the whole thing starts all over again.
Here's the thing -- when the execs buy scripts, the fall season hasn't started yet. So the networks have no idea what's going to work. If you've wondered why network schedules don't make much sense, that's one big reason. Say you have a nighttime soap that's kicking ass. You happily order companion shows for it -- other nighttime soaps. Then the soap tanks, and all you've ordered are soaps. See? Nightmare.
So the networks really have to straddle the line. There are a few things you can be certain of -- they'll always buy procedurals, and they will always hate genre. For those of us who aren't quite as enamored of CSI, pitching can be tough. You have to find a way to care about solving yet another murder, and then you have to get the executive excited about it. While most pitching is dreaded, I actually like pitching pilots. Because you get the exec engaged in the world you're creating and you make the characters real. When you've done that -- and the logline is clean and simple -- you'll sell a pilot.
Usually, you pitch to a studio and if they like the pitch, then you go to a network. The studio actually produces the pilot and the network pays a licensing fee to the studio for the right to air the show. Sweet, right?
We've always gone in with a studio but this time, we went to the network first and then backed into the studio with a production company. And I don't think we've had a smoother time. The network pitch went really, really well. They really got the show and we could be enthusiastic about the characters. Our producers championed this from the first time they heard it and believe me, these are guys who know what makes a show. So this pilot already feels a little different than the other four. A bit smarter, more motivated, perhaps...
Now that the pilot is sold, we have to, erm, write it. We're currently choosing a pilot story and when that's done, we'll break the story and write an outline. I'm not going to tell anyone what the pilot's about because dammit, this time we want to be ON the curve!
That's the process thus far. A few meetings, general discussion about the pilot, that sort of thing. Now the real work starts.
Oh, and I'll try to remember to do the music thing when I'm posting. So:
np - Bob Dylan, Modern Times.