Monday, January 5, 2009

The Next Step After Finishing a Pilot

Rochelle writes: So I've come up with an idea for a tv show and I've written a pilot script. What now?

Congrats on finishing the pilot! I think your first step is to send it to some trusted friends, professors, etc. to get some feedback. Nobody's first draft is perfect. After you've collected some thoughts, you'll probably want to take another pass at it.

After you're sure it's the most perfect thing it can be, then I think you should write something else. Write a spec episode of an existing show, or a feature, or something else that interests you. Maybe even a comic book or web series. Generally you'll need a portfolio of at least three scripts before anything will happen. It's not a hard and fast rule, but a common question that's asked by someone who likes your script is: "What else ya got?" Also, pilots are a great way to demonstrate your personal voice as a writer, but if you want to get staffed on a TV show (which is the first paying writing gig for many writers), you'll probably want to have a spec in your arsenal.

In terms of the pilot itself, you can enter it into contests if you like. Unfortunately, most of the studio-sponsored fellowships and workshops only accept specs, not pilots. There is debate over whether or not contests are worth their entry fees...but I have heard some people say that agents and managers noticed them as a result of them winning something.

You can also write query letters to agents or managers in which you pitch your idea and ask if they want to read it. (You'll probably need an agent or manager if you're going to sell your pilot or be considered for professional writing gigs.) I've warned readers before, though, that query letters are probably a waste of your time. Generally people get representation through relationships. A more likely occurrence is that you'll send your script to your assistant friend, who will like it enough to pass it onto their boss, or their newly promoted manager friend, or their friend who is an agent's assistant and eager member of the training program, and eventually you'll find someone to represent you. These personal recommendations all mean a lot more than a letter from someone nobody knows. A stamp of approval by a trusted colleague is the way a script makes it into the reading pile.

But like I said - even if you do break through and get your work to an agent, manager, studio exec, producer, etc. - he or she will probably want to see more than one sample.


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