What exactly is "shooting a pilot"? at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > And Now, For Something Completely Different... > The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media

The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
Let's talk about anything media related.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old December 27th, 2008, 02:05 AM   #1
Major Player
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Boston
Posts: 496
What exactly is "shooting a pilot"?

I get the impression it means an entire episode of something absolutely finished and ready for the TV minus the network logos.

I always wondered how one makes the leap from producing 20 minute HD travelogues short on story but long on footage to getting a cable network to want to sponsor you if such a thing even exists these days, lol. Thoughts?
__________________
Dave -
Dave Allen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 27th, 2008, 07:30 AM   #2
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Belgium
Posts: 2,195
It's shooting the first episode of a series.

And most of the times it's a test. They shoot a pilot, the network views it, and THEN considers if they want to order a complete series.
Mathieu Ghekiere is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 27th, 2008, 08:39 AM   #3
Major Player
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Boston
Posts: 496
And how does one determine if commercial breaks are needed, and is there a forumla for timing/frequency on that?

Thanks for the replies.
__________________
Dave -
Dave Allen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 27th, 2008, 10:52 AM   #4
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Allen View Post
short on story but long on footage
The first thing you have to do is reverse course...you need to make story and character the center of what you do. It's harder than you think.

Then you need to network like a fury....the old adage "it's who you know" applies hugely.

Every producer has specs that will dictate very specifically where commercial breaks should be -- you should get your hands on those, if you can. Not always easy, unless you're already contracted to them or to a client for whom you're making something.
Meryem Ersoz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 27th, 2008, 05:05 PM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: San Mateo, CA
Posts: 3,840
Are you considering a pilot for a travellogue, reality series, fictional drama? Thirty minutes or an hour?

Yes there are formats for breaks for each of these, as well as 'teasers' and 'tags'.
Richard Alvarez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 27th, 2008, 06:48 PM   #6
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Los Angeles, california
Posts: 228
Dave,

There are several books on the subject. If I were you, I''d hit the local Samuel French or The Writer's Store in WLA. The clerks are well-informed in both stores and will point you to the best books on the subject.

Kubrick said there wasn't anything you couldn't learn by reading about it.
Lori Starfelt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 29th, 2008, 01:37 PM   #7
sponsor: B&H Photo-Video
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 137
In Pulp Fiction, Samuel Jackson's character explains pilots to John Travolta's character:
Well, the way they make shows is, they make one show. That show's called a pilot. Then they show that show to the people who make shows, and on the strength of that one show they decide if they're going to make more shows. Some pilots get picked and become television programs. Some don't, become nothing. She starred in one of the ones that became nothing.
You may recall the "she" in question was Uma Thurman's character. Mia Wallace.
__________________
Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video
Henry Posner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 29th, 2008, 02:37 PM   #8
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Woodinville, WA USA
Posts: 3,464
Most importantly, it means shooting a sample episode *only if someone orders it and pays you for it.* You don't do them on spec and hope someone will bite.

Read this thread for more details about how the process works:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/taking-ca...roduction.html

Any format issues are determined by the Network, Channel or Station who ordered the pilot.

It's important to note that the pilot is actually one of the *last* steps on the road to your own series, not the first. Generally, the steps you must take are as follows:

1. You must have an agent. If you don't have one, get one. Check out the Hollywood Reporter's Blu-Book for lists of agents, and then call them all to see if they are open to new clients.

2. You agent then tries to get you a pitch meeting with everyone he knows. He will be pitching all his other clients at the same time, so you are lucky if you even get mentioned.

3. If by some miracle he gets you a pitch meeting, you then go into the network to pitch your idea. If they like it enough they may order a "treatment," which is a roadmap of how the show will go. Out of every hundred pitches, one or two treatments will be ordered.

4. If they like your treatment, they may order a script. Out of every thirty or so treatments, one or two scripts may be ordered.

5. If they like your script, they may order a pilot episode. This will entail a whole new round of negotiations. At that time, if you make a deal, they will send you over to business affairs who will give you all the necessary specs you must meet. About one in every thirty scripts get ordered as a pilot at a typical network.

6. Your pilot gets tested by the research department at the network. Out of about 32 pilots we used to test every year, five to ten got ordered as a series.

Sound like long odds? You have no idea.

Here's a briefly edited version of a very long post I made to that other thread:

Established broadcast and cable networks have a fairly short list of producers, production companies and studios they work with, and tend to take pitches only from them. They don't view "spec pilots" from anyone for liability reasons; they only consider people who get meetings arranged through an agent.

Many years ago when I was at CBS, it was a huge struggle to get this guy in to pitch who had a hit series on Discovery called "Eco-challenge." No one at CBS thought his bizarre concept had any relevance for the network. But a few execs and his agent kept pushing until this guy got a meeting with a low-level junior executive who believed in the show, and the following summer "Survivor" premiered. And this guy, Mark Burnett, was already an established producer who had a hit series on cable as well as an agent.

A show like "No Reservations" or "Bizarre Foods" will most likely come in as a pitch with the talent attached via an agent, and then the network will likely shop around for a production company to actually make the show if there isn't already an established one attached. It almost never happens that a guy shows up with a pilot and the network decides to buy the show and produce more. (Okay, it *did* sort of work that way with "Good Eats.")

Even with the democratization of the media progressing at breakneck speed, the old ways of doing things still tend to prevail. Not necessarily in all cases, but enough so that it's still a rule. Many years ago I used to teach a class at UCLA about how to build a career in the broadcast and cable TV business, and the first question in the first class was always: "I have a great idea; how do I get NBC to buy it?" And the answer always was: "You can't, until you work for 5 or 10 or 20 years as a writer/producer on someone else's hit show, and then you'll have a track record and enough credibility for them to let you in to pitch." And the truth is you can't and won't come up with an idea that hasn't been pitched a million times before, so your track record and proven ability to execute, not on one pilot but on 100 episodes, becomes even more crucial.

I say this not to throw cold water on anyone's dreams, but only to make the expectations of success more realistic. You might have better luck pitching your pilot/ideas to an established small production company -- look at the end credits of the shows on the channel you want to target to find out who they are. You'll see the same names coming up again and again. They are always looking for new ideas and talent, but even they will be hesitant to look at something that "came in over the transom" from someone who doesn't have an agent.
Adam Gold is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 30th, 2008, 10:57 AM   #9
Major Player
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 344
This thread was about pilots, and what is written is great info, but I’d like to mention that if you can FINISH a series, doc, or a one-hour standalones then:

Content distribution companies: They are entities that sell your show for you. The shows must be completed series, or complete standalone one-hours, etc. They obviously take a cut from revenue but you can focus on a production rather than business. And the exposure can be much larger than if you tried to do this yourself.

If you want your show on only one channel, hey that’s fine and is probably very doable with the advice given here. But what if you want wider, longer exposure… say another city, country or even continent?

Maybe a TV station will deal with you and hold your hand while you figure out if your lower thirds meet the broadcast requirements – OR you can go with a content distribution company who live and breathe selling TV, making sure everything fits broadcast standards – anywhere, in any language.

There are a whole slew of issues to deal with, dvd screeners, marketing, standards dubs, close captioning, foreign policies regarding televised material, music cue sheets, errors and omissions insurance, textless masters, mix minus narration audio tracks, blah blah blah. The list goes on and on and on...

If you’ve ever read the Discovery Channels or PBS’s vast technical requirements, the reason they are so strict is because they are in fact also a production companies – which sell world wide.

I live in china, but every night I can turn on the TV and see foreign produced non-fiction and fiction television shows… yes, discovery channel, food network, even, and I kid you not, little rinky dink fishing shows… I doubt that the people who produce those fishing shows are haggling with Chinese television stations and trying to find local sponsorship deals.

If you can get a pilot going, my advice would be to find an underwriter, who will foot the production costs, at the same time find a distribution company to sell for you… hopefully the royalties will come trickling in for many years! If you can finish a series, etc yourself then maybe a distributor might be for you.

And there are yearly trade shows dedicated this where TV stations, networks and distributors meets:
NATPE Events | Events
MIPTV 2009 - The World's Entertainment Content Market - Home
MIPCOM - The world's audiovisual content market
DISCOP : Content Business in Central & Eastern Europe

cheers
__________________
boxoutsidemedia.com
Mike Calla is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 30th, 2008, 12:35 PM   #10
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Los Angeles, california
Posts: 228
Mike,

What a great post. When I first discovered this site, I said in my intro that i felt like a kid in a candy story - so much great information to peruse and absorb. Just for feet-on-the-ground information, yours is one of the best posts I've read.

Somebody should sticky it because I'm sure it will get hundred of views in the coming year if it's easily accessible.

Lori
Lori Starfelt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 3rd, 2009, 03:53 PM   #11
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Woodinville, WA USA
Posts: 3,464
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Calla View Post
If you can get a pilot going, my advice would be to find an underwriter, who will foot the production costs, at the same time find a distribution company to sell for you…
I'd be very curious to know if Mike has sold anything this way, or knows anyone who has. While I think he's right on about this being what distributors do, from my time working with a couple of large ones I can say that when they are at these trade shows, they are sellers, not buyers. Having staffed NATPE booths for many years, I can tell you that the bigger ones, at least, are so busy trying to sell to clients (the broadcasters, i.e. local TV stations or groups at NATPE) that they'd kick you out of the booth if you asked them to look at something for potential distribution.

However, some smaller ones doing no business might be open to this, and you might have better luck during the rest of the year with the bigger ones.
Adam Gold is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 4th, 2009, 02:29 AM   #12
Major Player
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 344
Have I sold anything? Nope, not yet unless high quality corporate videos are suddenly in demand:) But recently I switched from corporate vids to producing a television show (still in production) and have had some consultations with some distributors. When I first started with an idea, then pilot, I knew nothing of how to actually get a show on TV. After countless months of cold calls to TV stations and networks, I met an old friend from school who was working for a large multinational film/TV company and I was given the best advice – the name of a distributor!

When I phoned the distributor, I was told honestly, frankly and candidly about the “how” of getting something aired. One way was the pilot route - going directly to production companies, or TV stations and trying to get funding for completion of a series using a pilot as the “sell”. The other was completing a production with high production values and finding distributor to sell it for me. - I choose the latter “how” because: I’m not a salesman, I’m not a pitchman, I don’t know how to deal with advertisers… I make moving pictures, that’s what I’m good at. So I’ll produce the best show I can and find a distributor to worry about the business of selling.

Adam is right: distributors are in fact distributors. Especially at trade shows such napte or mipcom, they are not interesting in buying a tv show at that moment, as they themselves have come to the trade show to sell to TV stations and networks AND the TV stations and networks have come to buy from distributors. Not us producers. As I mentioned in my earlier thread “this is where TV stations, networks and distributors meet”. You must contact a distributor directly and inquire about their submission requirements. They won’t accept unsolicited material.

The distributor that consulted with me gave me some great advice that really helped my workflow. My thinking was from the corporate vid world – where you deliver the master copy…that’s it, job done! But my consultation with them has been pivotal in providing me with information about broadcast deliverables and that greatly affected my workflow. I used to think that format was the most important part. In fact there are so many deliverables that are very much needed as well!

If I get permission I’ll post my distributors website url…
I can post some of my notes from the consultations either way:)

cheers
__________________
boxoutsidemedia.com

Last edited by Mike Calla; January 4th, 2009 at 02:35 AM. Reason: spelling: Who learned me how to spell:)
Mike Calla is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 4th, 2009, 07:56 AM   #13
Major Player
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 344
A distribution company will probably pick up a completed production for a number of years. Your show is still your show but you have now given them exclusive distribution rights which usually include: Television in all manner of broadcast including video-on-demand, IPTV, internet, in-flight, and possibly DVD rights as well.

But be warned there is no upfront payment, they merely charge a flat % rate of what they gross from the licensees – oh, they deduct expenses too – promotional and distribution. The flat %rate charge will depend on potential to sell, quality, age, exposure beforehand, and number of hours they are acquiring. It's not get rich quick scheme that's for sure!

The distributors invest in the marketing of your TV show, film etc . As distributors they have their own network around the world in all the major markets. They handle the money, collections, negotiate agreements, and handle the minutiae of censorship approvals. They are familiar with markets policy issues. They provide high quality masters dupes, musical cue sheets, marketing kits, transcripts, etc. They deal with legal issues, and errors and omissions insurance.

The producer must deliver the following: (this is not specific, and each distributor may have their own requirements)
Videotape masters - Two first-generation SD masters of the program, one each: pal and ntsc on Digibeta, labeled, if episodic, each episode has own tape. HD same applies but on HDCam SR.
The master must be seamless w/o commercials blacks. It should include any “lower-third” text/graphics and should include the audio tracks with audio track assignments as follows:

Channel 1: Full audio mix (full mix stereo left)
Channel 2: Full audio mix (full mix stereo right)
Channel 3: Full Mix without Narration: includes all music, natural and sound effects including on-screen dialogue, on-camera interviews, basically a narration free track
Channel 4: Music & Effects Only: Includes only music, natural sound and sound effects. There should be no voices mixed on this track.

Transcripts of all dialogue in a digital format.


That’s all I can remember now… but I know some distributors also ask for promo photos, dvd screeners, and additional material as well too.

cheers
__________________
boxoutsidemedia.com
Mike Calla is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 12th, 2009, 01:52 AM   #14
Major Player
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Boston
Posts: 496
The responses here are really great and helpful, I am soaking up this stuff like a sponge....

I am interested in travel channel type work that would include underwater. I used to watch a scuba travel show called "Divers Down". Here is 2 of their episodes, with the first one more representative:

Belize

Here is another of their episodes.

The video work underwater was, well, let me politely say there was room for improvement, and the underwater housing and videocam were all real low budget amateur hobbyist stuff, BUT, this guy was traveling all over the place to interesting dive destinations on a half hour cable show appearing every week, and in that he was quite successful which is why he is a superhero to the scuba community. He promoted the businesses and destinations that hosted him and his crew.

I am already traveling to exotic tropical destinations, but I am working on the formula and storyline and editing...and I will politely say, I have plenty of room for improvement, but the end game here is intriguing, and I was curious about how this guy got his type of work picked up.
__________________
Dave -

Last edited by Dave Allen; January 12th, 2009 at 02:34 AM.
Dave Allen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 29th, 2009, 02:16 PM   #15
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Phoenix Az
Posts: 69
Well i am also curious as to how the scuba show got picked up... it is home-video quality... what network did you see this show on?
John Brinks is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > And Now, For Something Completely Different... > The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 07:50 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network