Filmmaking / Directing : TV Show Creation Process? by Ellecina Eck

Ellecina Eck

TV Show Creation Process?

I've a concept for a TV show. Just the other day I read an article about the process of how a pilot gets picked up. What I'm still in the dark about is the process of all that goes on before. What's the first step to create it? Write the pilot? Or should it be an outline of the season and all the stories therein? Am I to flesh out (via outline/actual scripts) the first season, or is that for someone to do down the line? Where and when does the Bible come in? What has worked for you? I'd like to begin putting things in order, but am feeling rather lost on the order of the "creation" process, and thus I feel sort of stuck. If anyone could shed even a bit of light on this, it'd be much appreciated! -E

Regina Lee

Hi Ellecina, this is a much longer conversation, but to answer your chief question, "What's the first step" for a new writer approaching the TV market? The first step is to write the pilot, as the pilot script will be the chief asset you need to show agents/managers/producers/buyers. Depending on your process, you may have to first sketch out Season 1 in order to know what should be in your pilot. For example, let's say you wanted to tell your nephew a bedtime story in 10 parts, one part per night. Ideally, you'd want to know the entire story, so you could figure out what part 1 should be. That's similar to what you're doing when figuring out what should be in the pilot, and how your pilot represents your season as a whole. Accordingly, you'll want to know where your season is going, and you'll want to be armed with some sample episode ideas, but there's no need to get to highly detailed at this point. In the US, the bible can come in later. In some other countries, the buyer wants a pilot script + bible upfront. Experienced US writers typically sell their TV pilots without a bible. New writers can too. Although some people will advocate writing a bible early on, I personally do not, even if you're a new writer. That's because everyone has limited mental energy, and the energy is best spent writing the best pilot you can write. As a non-writing producer, I've sold TV pilots to 5 broadcast and cable networks (and received offers from additional networks who lost out in the bidding process), all pitched by experienced writers, and we have never prepared a bible to make the sale. Oftentimes in the US, the bible can be developed later after the pilot has been sold to a network. IMO, there's no need to get to all that now -- First thing's first. Give yourself the tools to write a great pilot.

Regina Lee

Btw, Stage 32's Bill Taub has written a book on pilots. I haven't read it, but I just saw a post in praise.

Regina Lee

It's very hard to sell a TV show as an unknown writer, but it can be done. Google Mickey Fisher and EXTANT. That said, you should be emotionally prepared for the long odds. You should also chase the dream!!

Heike Henke

Thank you, Regina, your info is much appreciated...

Elisabeth Meier

Yes, that's cool. Thanks, Regina!

Ellecina Eck

Regina, thank you so much! That definitely clears a lot up! Fisher's success story is inspiring, but I'm certainly willing to face the odds and give things a shot! Also, thanks for the network request. -E

Jose Guns Alves

You should start with a longline to help you stay focused as you write the first episode.

Jerome Velinsky

Thanks Regina! Great insight :)

Regina Lee

My pleasure.

Regina Lee

Hi Ellecina, I've been meaning to post this for you:

Alan Tregoning

I worked with a manager for about a year on a TV pilot and what Regina said is essentially true. I had a strong pilot script along with a second document that laid out 5 or 6 additional episodes in a brief paragraph. The pilot floated around a few networks (I can say I've been rejected by HBO!) and got pretty high up the food chain at Cineflix (Copper) but died a sudden death when international marketing rejected its potential. Oh well, back to the drawing board...

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