Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What is pilot season?

Rj writes: How does an unrepresented writer with 2 specs and a pilot script take advantage of pilot season? Is it just for actors? I'm about to seek representation, so that's the first step, but I guess I'm just trying to figure out if pilot season means anything to me as a new writer.

"Pilot season" refers to January and February, when actors audition for the pilots that have been picked up. (You may have noticed that Deadline is filled with casting notices lately.) The seasons more applicable to writers are pitch season, development season and staffing season. In the summer and early fall, TV writers pitch ideas to producers, studios and networks. By October, generally the networks have decided what to buy. Then during the winter, writers develop the ideas and submit their scripts, and networks decide which scripts to shoot as pilots. After all the pilots get shot in the spring, networks will decide what shows to order to series and unveil their upcoming fall schedules at the Upfront presentations in May. Then begins staffing season, when agents submit their clients to be staffed on shows. However, by the time shows are ordered to series, many showrunners have already met with prospective writers and are just waiting to sign the already-prepared contracts and start up their writers' room. Writers need to be meeting people and submitting their samples well before the series orders come out.

If you can get an agent to read your stuff right now and throw you in the ring for staffing, great - but there's not one specific season for targeting agents. Do know that agents tend to be very busy in the midst of staffing; you might have the best chance of getting read in the summer (after staffing), or right before the December holiday break. Also, don't forget that many new writers get managers before they get agents, so you might want to target managers first.

Remember that cable networks run on different schedules; ABC Family, for example, announced series orders earlier this month. For more about how the television industry works, check out Small Screen, Big Picture by Chad Gervich.

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