Given that I work heavily in marketing and distribution, I get a lot of people submitting pilots to me. While I’m looking to move my business in more of an episodic direction, unfortunately a pilot doesn’t do me much good. Generally, when I tell this to filmmakers, they get surprised. So, like any question I get a lot I thought I’d write a blog about it. Here are the 4 ways to make a TV show.
1. Make a Pilot. (Or maybe don't)
I’m listing this one first because I think it’s one of the worst ways you can Go about making a TV Series. Most filmmakers assume that if they make their own pilot, they’ll be able to pitch it to networks and then get it picked up. Unfortunately, that’s not generally the way pilots work. Most pilots that compete for TV shows are commissioned directly by networks, and already have people on the inside rooting for them.
Apart from that, only about 1 in 10 (at the absolute most) pilots get made into a first season, and I think the last statistic I saw was something like 1 in 7 TV series make it past the first season. That means for every series that makes it to season 2, at least 69 pilots are created. Also: THOSE NUMBERS ARE ONLY NETWORK COMMISSIONED PILOTS. It doesn’t factor for idle filmmakers who try to make their first episode on their own. Those really aren’t good odds.
In fact, I’d be willing to say that this option is probably the least likely of the 4 paths I’m laying out to get your series made. Assuming that you’re not being requested to make the pilot by a major network.
2. Make a Sizzle Reel
If you want to do more of the institutional route, then you’re much better off making a popping sizzle reel and approaching an agent who can take it to get you to the commissioned pilot stage. I know that sounds like an additional step to the long road I outlined above, but it’s actually going to give you a greater chance at success since you’ll be working with people on the inside instead or shouting at the outside of the gate pleading to be let in.
If you don’t have an access to an agent, I wouldn’t recommend going this route either. I’d recommend you go with one of the two listed below.
This option is probably the 2nd most risky in terms of getting your full season financed and made.
3. Build an Audience with a webseries.
If you want to go a less institutional way to get your TV series made, you should consider making a webseries that’s very much in the vein of your planned TV Series, but perhaps on a smaller scale and definitely with shorter episodes. Once you’ve made the webseries, your goal is to market the absolute crap out of your series and get at least a million views on the content. Ideally on at least most of the eipisodes. If you can pull that off, you’ll often have people coming to talk to you instead of the other way round.
I’ll admit I first heard about this concept from another distribution company that I had on an old podcast. However, I’ve talked to several of their former clients since and I no longer feel like linking to them is appropriate.
I think this is the second safest way to get your TV Series made. Plus, if you go this route you have a piece of content you can use to build your production company’s brand and even get some level of monetization.
4. Shoot the entire series, then get someone to sell it.
Yeah, I know what I just said. I’m saying get to work and make anywhere between 8 and 13 full length episodes for a first season. If you’re doing 44 minute episodes that’s 9 and a half hours of completed content. (or a bit over 4 hours if you’re doing 22 minute content.) That’s a lot to shoot, and it’s a big up front investment for a filmmaker to make.
That being said, once this is done you’ll be able to sell your content quite easily, and you’ll have no trouble finding a sales agent who can take your content to television markets like NATPE, MIPTV, or MIPCOM. If fact, I’m looking to branch more into that market in a couple ways. (Link Below)
This is generally the safest way to get your series made (If you can pull together the money to make it happen.) In fact, I’d say you’re more likely to have a positive return on investment taking this path than you are in a standard feature film.
Thanks so much for reading! Since I alluded to it a few times, I’ve included a link for you to submit your content below. Next to that, you’ll find a link to book an introductory call with me.
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My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of Producer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.
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