Posted by Vital Butinar

So I am the director and a producer for a pilot episode called Innocent Love that we developed for a tv show called Forgotten Wisdom. It’s set in historic times but also very relatable to current day problems. It is also educational in showing how problems were once dealt with.

We were able to shoot during the summer of 2020 with the intention of pitching to a local streaming service in Slovenia and maybe once even internationally.

1. How it all Started

A friend of ours, Sandi told us about an idea he had for a tv show and that our team would be a good fit for producing it, after seeing a short film we made last year.

Our local streaming services work differently than international ones. So we had to produce a proof of concept film in order to pitch it to them without even having a budget.

Easy! We needed to do everything on our own time and dime.


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

Poster for "Innocent Love"


2. The Development

The first thing was getting the crew together, which for the most part is more or less the same people. Me as the director, Leya as the cinematographer and editor, Leya’s sister Iza, who is our writer, assistant director and more.

As a small production we wear many hats during all stages of production. Which is great since it’s always interesting. So we started developing the concept for the tv show.

First thing was a story and we decided on something that was relatively simple, that we could shoot with the resources that we had at hand.

After deciding on a simple love story, one Saturday morning I decided to write an outline and passed it on to Iza, who filled in the blanks and rewrote it into something that we could shoot.

3. Pre-Production

Then when we knew what to shoot, it was time to location scout.

Thankfully we mostly had exterior locations and only one interior.

We found a nice small lake near Leya’s parents place that fitted the story and kindly asked if we could shoot there. They very graciously said it was no problem and they’re happy to support young people trying to create something. We could have as much time as we needed and they also gave us permission to use all the surrounding forests which they owned. Of course we didn’t want to impose too much and take advantage of their generosity.


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

Production still from "Innocent Love"


We had to find a higher rocky location that could serve as a mountain top and I knew of a great one that was on a hill with a great view and was accessible by car. It also had rock formations that we use to fake shots of the tallent climbing.

The final location was the most challenging because it needed to serve as two different places and an old farmhouse with a good interior and a usable exterior. A friend of ours knew of a perfect location where they even had farm animals which fitted the narrative since our lead was a shepherd.

Then we started looking for talent.

Since we had no budget, we decided to think out of the box. Writer and AD Iza is also actively involved with a local LARP (Live Action Role Play) group, so we offered some of the roles to a few great performers who were all willing to participate and a few other parts to friends that we had worked with before.

We wanted to shoot in May 2020 to catch the beautiful spring colors but we got hit by Corona lockdowns and had to postpone our principal photography, but kept rehearsing with the talent over zoom sessions.

The team and I had started creating storyboards, shot lists and shooting schedules for production.

We also enlisted some help from our friends, so Leya’s mother who used to do costume design at a theater, pitched in to help with the wardrobe and Iza tackled the production design and props since she had experience from other projects we had done.

We were set and once the lockdowns were lifted we could start shooting.


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

Behind the Scenes of "Forgotten Wisdom"


4. Production Time (or maybe not)

Lockdowns were lifted and after a few live rehearsals with talent we were ready to shoot.

My shot lists told us that we needed four days to shoot everything but due to talent scheduling problems we decided to cram everything into three long days.

We started organizing as we were approaching the first shooting day. But then disaster struck a week before, our main location, the old farmhouse, backed out without much explanation.

We started looking for alternative locations, which wasn’t easy but we got lucky and found a nice place to shoot, that would give us most of what we needed.

But disaster struck again and the day before we were supposed to start shooting at the backup location, while confirming with the owner, they backed out. So another location was gone without the possibility of finding another one before we lost that day.

Thankfully we got lucky and the next day found a perfect location that was even better than the original one and the owners were really excited and decided to let us use the location for as long as we would need.

Great but we had already lost one production day and had to rework the schedule into two very, very long and fast paced days.


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

Leya and Vital on the set of "Forgotten Wisdom"


5. First Production Day

We started off on the first day setting up base camp at Leya and Iza’s parent’s house which was near our primary filming location and near the forests and fields we shot at.

The government was still advising social distancing, so it was decided in pre-production that everyone would self isolate for a week before we started shooting and if anyone had any symptoms they would let us know. So everyone was ok, but still we decided to keep the amount of people on set as low as possible so everyone was pulling double or even triple duty.

Our producer Sandi was also our sound guy, Iza was the AD and also the script supervisor, continuity officer and kept us fed. I was the director and the drone operator, as well as the driver, held the light bounce and DIT. Where Leya was the DP and did the lighting. The PA was also the assistant camera and kept check of what we had shot.

Everyone was on their best behaviour keeping our distance and sanitizing our hands. Of course watching out for our oldest talent not to keep her on set more than necessary.

The first day went great because we were all well rehearsed and in good spirits.

The only thing both Leya and I wished is that we could have had more time for each shot. Since cramming everything into two days meant that we only had two or three takes for each setup. But all in all the talent was well rehearsed and we only needed one or two takes per shot.


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

The Cast and Crew of "Forgotten Wisdom"


The most time we spent on one shot was when the lead actor had to ride his bicycle up and down a dirt road while Leya and I sat in the trunk of the chase car.

We ended the first day with a light shower that actually added to the final scene that we were shooting as the two actors reacted perfectly to the raindrops and I was quick enough to shout out to some of our crew to hide, while Leya was able to follow them running through the grass field trying to hide from the rain. It couldn’t have gone better even if we planned it.

The second day of production was going to be a long one since we had to start shooting really early in the morning on top of a hill in order to have the location to ourselves.

Thankfully in Slovenia a small indy production like ours can get away with filming without permits in public as long as you don’t prevent access to anyone else and don’t show anything in bad faith. So we were good and in most cases if people see you shooting something they are interested and love to watch.

Later that morning came the most “dangerous” scenes where the lead had to scale a rock face which was a bunch of rocks that were accessible from all directions and when shot from the right angles made it look like he was scaling a mountain. Even though he was only 3 feet off the ground.

A few days later Leya and I drove to the Slovenian Alps and shot some B roll to intercut with the shots of him scaling the mountain and it worked great.

We also had to shoot at a fairytale-like rock formation near the scary forest scenes and then continued to the old farm.

Here was where we had the most to shoot and we had to keep to a tight schedule because our talent was scheduled very closely. Which again I’m not happy with since I wish we had more time but lucky they did a great job.

That evening we were done but not yet...


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

Behind the Scenes of "Forgotten Wisdom"



6. One last thing… shoot now or shoot later

So as part of the concept we wanted a narrator to tell the story to bring the episodes together showing the narrator in a chair at a fireplace narrating the whole story.

Great so we could do that in a few days.

But because we were in such a rush during production I wasn’t confident that we didn’t make any continuity mistakes so I decided to postpone the narrator until we had a rough cut of the pilot episode so that we could fix any problems we found. So we used temp audio.

This was a huge mistake since everything cut together beautifully but before we could have shot the narrator scene Corona caught up with us again. Now we’re stuck in lockdown again with now way to shoot the final short scene.

Just two shots actually but it’s all on me for not having the confidence in what we had done. So the moment we’re able to, we’ll shoot the scene and be done.


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

Behind the Scenes of "Forgotten Wisdom"


7. Post-Production Time

So we had shot everything but the narrator and some B roll and drone shots that Leya and I shot on our own time.

We organized the footage, synced the audio and then started editing.

First I did the two effects shots, while Leya pieced together the story.

One effects shot went together beautifully since it was shot on a tripod and when I added camera shake it looked like a handheld shot. The second one was not as easy since we were in a hurry and shot it handheld making it much harder to do the effect.

Then we chose the best shots for the dialogs and I edited them together in a way that made sense and felt natural.

The two longest dialogs had a place where one of the talents would disappear and we did shots especially for this purpose. One was harder to do because it was a one take orbiting shot where one of the talents disappeared behind the camera making it look like she vanished. Everyone needed to hide behind the camera moving as Leya orbited around the other talent. It worked great and I couldn’t believe we got this shot in only two takes.

Soon we had a rough cut and that everything spliced together nicely as an enjoyable story.

After refining the edit making things come together a little better and make it flow, we were ready for sound design and color grading.

I was torn between waiting for the last part with the narrator or finishing the edit and then going to sound design and color grading. But we decided to finish everything and keep temp footage until we shot what we needed.

So we locked in the edit. Leya started doing the color grading while I did some of the sound and cleaned up the audio. By then the lead Rok who is also a musician offered to score the episode and he sent us some of the music that he had produced.

The one bad decision that we made was that we neglected to shoot ambient sounds for each location which would help in the edit.



Trailer for the Pilot Episode of "Innocent Love"


8. Where are We Now?

Most of the post production work has been done.

The intro titles and the ending credits have been created, color grading has been locked and most of the sound design has been done. There is some work to be done with sound levels and EQing everything but with lockdowns we have enough time.

Also, the artwork has been created as well as pitch decks and all the info. We’re constantly refining everything to make it even better.

Basically we’re only missing those two final shots with the narrator to complete the project and then everything will be ready to pass forward and see if we can get a tv show out of it.

Current feedback from people has been very positive and encouraging.

It makes me think if we can do all of this without a budget and with a very light crew, what could we achieve with a budget and a chance to create something great.


How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing


9. Other Projects in Play

Heck yeah, right before the lockdown began again we were able to finish shooting a music video that we finished a few weeks ago and we’re developing three more that are going into production as soon as possible.

But the most long term project that we’re working on is a feature film called The Digits. It’s a psychological thriller that I had been working on for a few years now and wrote the original story. But didn’t know how to proceed from there.

In a weird turn of events I met Dan Guardino here on Stage 32 and he actually helped me turn the story into a real screenplay that will eventually be made into a movie.

Dan liked the idea and wanted to produce the film so we started looking for a way to make it happen and shoot in the US.

Leya and I have been working here, deciding on the types of shots that I want and her creating the storyboards.

Leya was also able to shoot some B roll at home and edited together a promo video using some stock footage and my voice for a voice over.

Meanwhile I’ve tried to find shooting locations remotely in the US that would fit my ideas. This is challenging since I’ve never seen these locations and don’t even know if we’ll be able to shoot there. But I think the process is important for me to create a vision of the film and imagine how it will all work to tell the story in the best way possible.

Simultaneously Dan has been working on creating a budget, pitch deck, trying to attach talent, finding distribution and financing. So we’re working on that too and looking for ways to get this film into production.

When I first got the idea for The Digits I never imagined that I would be working with so many great people trying to make it happen.

So I’m very grateful to Leya for encouraging me to push forward against all odds in order to one day make this film happen.


People on Stage 32 from this project: Vital Butinar, Leya Marinčič, Iza Kokoravec, Dan Guradino


About Vital Butinar

How to Produce a TV Pilot for Next to Nothing

A little something about me and what made me want to become a filmmaker.

Now that I look back I had wanted to be a filmmaker even as a kid.

One time at a birthday party, a friend brought a video camera and we shot a short horror movie which was horrific but it got me excited about filmmaking.

Soon after my dad bought a video camera and it didn’t take long for it to become my personal property while trying to enlist all my friends to play in what I imagined a movie to be. Which was a bunch of kids running around hallways and bad editing done with VCR to VCR recording.

Time passed and I forgot about my ambitions of being a filmmaker and for years I had focused on more technical than creative fields.

But one day I went salsa dancing and my world changed. Soon I was focusing more on dancing than anything else and I was enjoying it because it was finally something creative again and led me to finishing college as a graphic designer.

In the meantime I had also met Leya where else but dancing and it didn’t take us long to figure out that we both loved filmmaking. So we started learning and filming, editing and anything else connected with filmmaking.

My long term ambitions are pure and simple to make films and be involved in filmmaking in any way possible, since it’s the only thing that I’ve done in my life where I can use all my knowledge from everything else and still create something in the process.

If it’s making movies or tv shows, shooting commercials or music videos, as long as I get to tell stories and be creative, that’s what I want to be doing. Together with the people I love working with of course since none of the projects that we’ve done wouldn’t have happened without Leya, Iza and a bunch of other people who believed in these projects.



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