One thing I noticed at AFF was that a LOT of people are writing TV pilots. It seems like every aspiring-to-be-professional writer I met had entered a pilot into the screenwriting contest or was working on a pilot or was trying to break into TV with their pilot.
I had a conversation with a woman who was developing a pilot for a show that was an autobiographical story of how she found love later in life. I liked the story. I think it would be a good rom-com.
I asked her if it wouldn’t be better as a movie. As someone who lives in Austin, she has virtually no chance of that pilot getting made. First it has to be a great concept. I like the idea but it’s not like earth-shattering and the audience is somewhat limited.
Second, she has to get the idea into the hands of people that can make it a reality, which is basically a few different studios or Netflix or Amazon or Apple.
She doesn’t really have connections there. And it’s very rare that a first-time writer just gets a show made like that.
I told her that it would be much easier to make as a movie. You just have to find a producer that wants to make it. It’s much easier to find an indie producer than a willing TV executive, especially since there are so many possible budget ranges. You could do her idea for $200k, $500k, $1 million, or $20 million.
It’s still hard; it’s still a longshot. I just see a better path there. And it’s her story. She wants it to be told. You can make a movie through sheer force of will. You cannot make a TV show that way. There are just too many factors outside of your control.
She could also write a play, a really funny play. All of these strategies hinge on the material being really good, although honestly, the indie feature route has the least reliance on having a good script.
A lot of the people with pilots in Austin were people that lived in not Los Angeles. It’s pretty damn hard to break into TV if you’re not in Los Angeles. I’m not really sure what their career strategy is. Maybe it’s submitting to contests, hoping to win one that gets them a manager? There are many ways in but I know that if my main goal in life was to write for television that I would have moved to L.A. years ago.
I went to a panel with the director of filmmaker labs at Film Independent. She said that comedy features are very much underrepresented in their submissions for the screenwriting lab.
I think everyone who wants to write comedy went over to the pilot side, which in one way makes sense because there are more writing jobs in TV, but then again, there’s only a loose connection between the jobs and what gets you the job.
Why not zig when others are zagging?