WILL THEY BUY YOUR SPEC PILOT WITHOUT A SHOWRUNNER? - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Q. A friend has contacted me about a TV show idea. I know nothing about TV, but I told him that it is virtually impossible to get a pilot sold without a showrunner attached. [But] he's trying it anyway. Does he need to write the whole pilot now, or could he take out a pitch as a package with bible, concept, and maybe a scene or two written.
It is not at all impossible to sell a pilot without a showrunner attached. If they love your pilot, they can always attach a showrunner they like. See Shaun Cassidy's WGA interview about The Agency on the WGA site. Michael Frost Beckner sold the pilot, and because he was better known as a feature writer, he took second chair while Shaun ran the show. Other writers have sold pilots; check out Paul Guyot's blog if he hasn't taken it down yet.

However, they don't much buy bibles. They buy pilots. No one in the States much wants to read a bible. A bible is a promise that the show will be like something. A pilot is proof of the pudding.

In Canada, prodcos and networks do buy bibles (I've optioned all my stuff off bibles), but there's government money available to fund development, so people figure why write something for free when a producer can get the government to pay for them to write it.
Q. Yes, but is there any harm in going into a pitch meeting with a bible, and then getting the script done if there is interest?
Well, the most they're going to tell you in the pitch meeting is, "Great. We'd love to see a pilot when you have one."

The worst is they don't dig how you've written the bible (if they even really read it), and now you can't bring in the pilot. Or, even worse, they're iffy about the bible, but you've given them an idea, which seeps into another pitch meeting with someone they know better, and they commission a related (but not identical) idea from him. Now you're really hosed.

So your "friend" will have to write the script.

As a general rule, don't give execs anything you know they won't buy. Unless, of course, it's a writing sample.

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4 Comments:

When you say that they "don't buy bibles, they buy pilots," are you saying that the script should be written first?

And is there any harm in going into a pitch meeting with a bible, and then getting the script done if there is interest?

By Blogger Fun Joel, at 3:25 PM  

Thanks for the follow up. I'll send my friend here to check it out. And honestly, it is a friend, not a "friend." No offense, but I hate TV! ;-)

By Blogger Fun Joel, at 4:34 PM  

I got a great idea for a canadian tv show and a sample script.

I would like to set up a meeting with CBC/CTV and I don't have the first clue on how to land this meeting, any tips?

Also I want to figure out exactly what I need to have done before meeting with CBC/CTV (provided I actually manage to land a 'pitch' meeting).

I have limited knowledge of the industry, do you know what books/sites I should be concentrating on?

By Blogger Nitin, at 9:30 PM  

Nitin, I answer those questions in my book, along with a lot of other ones.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:03 PM  

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