Pilot Light

So, if you follow tv news obsessively like me, you know that the networks have been greenlighting pilots right and left for next season. It’s actually a little late for them, supposedly because scripts came in late to the networks — this makes sense to me because I swear no one went back to work until January 7th. I tried to deliver some belated holiday gifts to a few people at studios and everything was closed or people were still out on vacation. There is nothing harder than getting a studio lot ‘drive on’ to make a delivery when everyone is out of town.

But I digress.

I always get a little annoyed when anyone except Variety, Deadline or Hollywood Reporter reports on the pilots because they always seem to equate the greenlight of a pilot to ‘this is a show you’ll see next year.’ As we all know that is far from truth, and the town is littered with the dead — pilots made and tested that never made it to series.

The pilot season is a gauntlet. The first round is getting that script order. That’s a brass ring right there, just because as a writer, hey, YOU GET PAID. The second challenge is the pilot greenlight. You can write a great script, but it doesn’t guarantee you get to make the pilot (unless you have a pilot writing deal that comes with heavy penalties or with a straight to pilot or straight to series order, which are rare, but happen). Now is when things get tough. Now you’re competing with only a handful of projects to make it to series. Having had a front row seat to this process (but not directly in the process — my sister had the courtside seats for that), I can say it is brutal and heartwrenching when there are four slots and five or six pilots…and the one you worked on or wrote doesn’t make it. Brutal.

This year my seating is pushed back further, but kind of on the edge of things, like offstage (to continue this weird audience seating metaphor). My sister and I do not have a project in contention, but we are out pitching something for cable, so we are keenly aware of the process and our potential to get into it in the future, if not with this project, then with another somewhere down the line.

It’s scary.


Been catching up on the Scriptnotes podcasts from John August and Craig Mazin. These are great podcasts and if you aren’t listening to them, you should be.  I also listen to Rob Long’s Martini Shot every week — he does a great job of explaining this crazy business and distilling down an element of it in under four minutes. I still listen to Nerdist Writers Podcast and Meet the Filmmaker from time to time, particularly when the guest is a writer or filmmaker I am really intrigued by or want to hear more from. The nice thing about Scriptnotes is the focus on topics and not necessarily people. It’s a mechanics and business focus, which I enjoy. I know there are a multitude of podcasts, and I have over 500 downloaded which I have not yet played and heard.  Crazy.


Julie and I have been outlining and writing a pilot for weeks now and are finally nearing the finish line on the draft. It’s been tough — this one is very procedural, something we felt we needed for staffing season — and since it has been an idea we’ve circled for so long, I’m looking forward to finishing it so we can start working on something new.  I’m itching to write a feature spec.  I’ve no idea why, except I haven’t written a feature in a few years and I’d really like to try my hand at it.  I guess that’s the side effect of working for someone who writes features, tv and novels (!) — it makes me want to get out of my comfort zone with writing…

… which may be why I’m even here, blogging.  I needed a break from the pilot but I needed to keep writing something so I would be able to switch back to writing the pilot, approaching it feeling a little refreshed.  Not sure this is much of an update but more a collection of what’s on my mind.

I suppose that’s always been the point of blogging…just saying what’s on my mind.  Good to remember from time to time.

Oh, one last thing. My sister got a dog. His name is Gideon. My new side career is personal photographer.




Posted under randomness, Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on January 25, 2013

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