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Friday, September 29, 2006

Q. I have an original (stop laughing) idea, a bible, pilot and second episode completed, as well as outlines for a few more episodes. I applied to pitch at Banff and I plan to apply to NSI for the next round, but that is months away.

In the meantime, I have been thinking of shooting the show myself, and taking the "homegrown" route. You know, guy writes show, shoots it himself, generates local buzz, local buzz turns to national buzz, network takes note and picks it up and begins pay handsomely, guy becomes national celebrity, then international celebrity, and shortly thereafter Knight of the British Empire. I haven't thought too much about the details, but that is the general progression.

Anyway, as a start, what do you think of approaching a place like my local Roger's Cable station and proposing it to them? Is that even a remote possibility?
Do individual stations fund stuff on their own?
I mean proposing that the station develop it as its own program. The station (volunteers, for example) and I would get it ready to shoot, then shoot it using the station's equipment, edit, etc. The station can air the finished product, and own partial rights.

I know some local stations have a history of developing and airing their own material, I mean other than the typical "call-in" shows that are entirely studio-based. I figure its a matter of getting buy-in from the right person, and it probably helps to find sponsors to cover some costs as well.
They do?
Well feel free to correct me if you know more than I do in this area, but CJOH here in Ottawa was responsible for "You Can't Do That On Television" back in the 80s. It was eventually picked up by Nickelodeon and became a moderate success for a decade or more after it originally aired.

Rogers Television in Ottawa launched Tom Green's career (good or bad). He started at the station doing a live "variety" show in the mid-90s. It was an enormous hit (relatively speaking) here in town.

Also, Trailer Park Boys is not a great example - I know there was a movie first - but its progression as a show followed the same general route. Independently produced, locally shot, generated some interest and then was seen by the right pair of eyes.
Well, there you go. Apparently stations produce their own stuff.

If you can get something produced, by all means. I would attempt to dissuade anyone from using their own money to finance a spec pilot episode, as it is likely a waste of money. TV networks like to develop stuff; they usually don't buy stuff as is, except from other networks. But if you can get someone else to pay for it, by all means. OPM, baby!

Needless to say, it needs to be a supercheap concept, but comedy is rarely about the production values.

Has anyone else heard about this route to the screen?

UPDATE: DMc has a very fine post about rolling your own (tape, that is). And I'm in touch with a young woman at a magnet school in Texas who seems to do nothing BUT shoot her own scripts. With classmates and stuff. She will probably be in a position to hire you in 10-15 years.

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6 Comments:

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia shot a pilot for like $200, then entered it in an FX channel contest. Now it guest stars Danny DeVito.

By Blogger cvcobb01, at 5:08 PM  

I don't know about Canada, but in the US, public access stations usually have equipment (cameras, lights, editing equipment) and air time available for low or no cost to local citizens. Remember "Wayne's World"? That sort of thing. I volunteered on one of those shows back in high school.

Of course, no one watches public access because the quality is usually very low. These days you can probably do just as well with a digital camera and a Mac. Plus the Internet has more opportunities for distribution.

By Blogger Emily B. Langton, at 5:38 PM  

Shooting an indie pilot isn't exactly COMMON in the U.S., but it's not UNHEARD of now. There are independent TV festivals and the like. So far, the most notable success is It's Always Sunny ..., but IFC is also heavily grooming independently produced stuff.

Needless to say, none of this applies to Canada.

The U.S. route is the more traditional "raise your own funds, shoot your own project" route.

By Blogger Todd VanDerWerff, at 6:02 PM  

I disagree with Todd rather strenuously.

But for the skinny on exactly how, or why, you're going to have to click on the very special story on this on my own blog

By Blogger DMc, at 11:06 PM  

I'm going to try it. I'll let you all know how it goes. Thanks for the feedback.

By Blogger Trellick Tower, at 2:03 AM  

That "Always Sunny" "pilot" must've been hilarious because the video my father made one Halloween that consists entirely of footage of his feet as he walked around at a party had better production values.

By Blogger Ryan, at 11:52 PM  

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