With technology making it easier and cheaper to shoot and edit, more and more people are thinking about shooting Pilots for their TV shows.
But, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Development Executives simply do not have the time to watch 22 minutes (or god forbid 44!) of a TV show idea. Even if you have developed a relationship with them and they have asked to see some tape (yes, we still call it ‘tape’) on your show, they generally will not watch anything that long.
And no, it doesn’t matter if you have actually created the best TV show of all time, because they don’t know that, and when they see that something is that long, they most likely won’t click play.
Execs get pitched hundreds of shows a year, and a lot of them are underdeveloped ideas by people who haven’t taken the time to learn how the business of creating a show works. So when you come along with a full length Pilot chances are they are going to assume you’re just another one of the people who hasn’t done their homework.
So what do you do?
If you are adamant that you want to shoot a Pilot, do it. Then edit it into three different versions. Let’s look at them in the order you’ll cut them, and the opposite order in which you’ll send them.
Cut your Pilot (let’s say it’s a half hour show so it’s 22 minutes). I’m just assuming that if you’re doing this you’ve learned about format and how to actually structure a TV show.
Secondly, cut a ten-minute version out of the Pilot. Yes, you’re going to have to cut out a lot of your favorite parts but it’s necessary.
After you’ve got those done, you can cut the two-minute Sizzle Reel.
What’s that? You say there’s no way you can get all the good stuff for your show into two minutes? It’s ok. You don’t have to.
The two-minute cut is your calling card. It lets the Execs know what your idea is so they can decide if it’s what they’re looking for. It shows them the subject, the characters, and an example of the types of stories they can expect to see in the show.
The Sizzle Reel is intended to whet the Executive’s appetite. It is not the meal. It is supposed to make them want to see more, know more and learn more about your show. It’s meant to make them think about it. Get their creative juices flowing about how your show would look if they produced it.
Once you’ve successfully done that, they are generally going to want to see more tape. And that is when you let them know you have more. And you can tell them you have two versions and ask which one they want to see.
But in order to get to this point you need to get their eyeballs watching your show, and chances are, submitting a full length Pilot isn’t the best way to do it because the people you want watching just don’t have that much time.