How'd that happen? I am a bad blog person! But there are reasons. The main one is that it's now apparently development season, which means that all us writers who aren't busy with shows (in other words, every writer at midlevel) have to start thinking about pitching pilots. Well, less thinking about and more working out the ideas and figuring out what we want to do.
Here's the interesting thing about pitching. Executives always say that they want you to pitch what you're passionate about. Agents always want you to pitch what you can sell. Sometimes, these two things magically fit together but sometimes they don't. So what do you do? Do you whore yourself out right away, or do you wait until later, when the executives conveniently forget that you put your heart out there in the room? I think it depends on what kind of a writer you are. I think some people connect differently with ideas than others. And for some, it doesn't matter if they're passionate. If they've got a name or a name attachment (a director or an actor), they could probably pitch the phone book and sell it. I would like to think that everybody is passionate in the same way about their projects, but it just isn't true.
However. I would say to err on the side of passion, especially if you have to repeatedly prove yourself, which is what it's like when you're at this level. Every year, you have to remind the executives why they like you. We were lucky enough to be allowed to be passionate when we started out on staff, so we didn't have the shit kicked out of us early. We actually didn't get cynical and beaten down for a number of years! I do think it makes a difference when you walk into a room. You're always selling yourself and your ideas. And if you're not a giant ape or you don't have a development deal, you need to be twice as passionate and committed and unique. So get used to that, gentle readers.
Some people only have one idea. Some people have a plethora. Both have their issues. We tend to have a lot of ideas and it's easy to go, "Well, let's just throw these all at the wall." But that doesn't really work, even though when you haven't worked all year, it's tempting to want to cover all bases. It's just not possible, and you really don't have to. Your agent will always steer you towards the traditional, which in this business means procedural. He will also steer you towards network, not cable. Sure, if your show goes on network you're golden, but that's getting less and less possible now. Don't be afraid of cable. Embrace cable. Don't fall into the network-only trap.
Here's something I really love about cable that I think the networks have forgotten. I know what they're looking for based on what they have. Sci-Fi wants Eureka-type shows. Galactica's going away and there's just no way they'll do a space show if that one didn't work for them, ratings-wise. USA does character-driven light detective shows. A no-brainer. ABC Family does younger shows. Consistently. FX does darker, edgier shows. Lifetime does female-driven shows. See? You can tell what they'll be looking for. Now. Tell me what the hell NBC is looking for.
The biggest problem with pitching pilots is that you're pitching months before the new TeeVee season begins. So everybody's finished their pilots and they're well on the way to making shows. Nobody knows what will work, but the perception about that has already begun. There's almost no way for you to work with this. So don't even try. If you are a quirky writer, then do that. If you're not and you're hedging your bets about what's going to hit in the fall, DON'T DO IT. The truth is, you can't anticipate any of this. And the only perception that's going to matter is an executive's. Yours is irrelevant. Unless you have a blog. Then it's only relevant there.
Here's something to think about if you only want to appeal to the taste of others. This is the question we asked ourselves during our last pilot process -- If the show goes, do you want to run it? That's really the only question you need.
So, we're off and pitching. We decided to target some cable networks so we've got some ideas that are just for them, and a few network ideas. Yes, we have to sell something or we'll be out on the street, but it's no fun if there aren't stakes, right?
On to some comments!
Dan found the blog. Of course I remember you, Dan! And how damned flattering that you still have the scripts. I hope things are going well for you. And it's okay if you like Heroes. I won't hold it against you!
Mel wonders if people are finally tiring of torture porn. Lord, I hope so. It's good to see a movie like 1408 do well, because it's good. And it's actual horror, not torture porn. There are some terrific gags in the film and it is slavishly devoted to the end-all of a good horror film -- make us friggin' CARE about somebody. John Cusack is great in the film and we care about what happens to him. Eli Roth fucking WISHES he could do something like this. But he's just not capable of it, so he has to pretend that torture porn is really terrific horror. It's all he can do.
Speaking of horror, I've caught the first two episodes of the six-ep series Jekyll. It's a BBC series, a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde. Like, literally Jekyll and Hyde. VERY cool stuff so far. I wish we could do that sort of thing here but it would never happen. How nice to have that kind of freedom!
That's it for now, but I need to blog more than once a month. So I shall try.