So… you finished writing your TV Pilot. The very first thing you should do is celebrate!
Do you realize how many people say they have a great idea for a television series or film and never bother writing the script? Give yourself some credit and applaud yourself for a job well done!
And now that you’re done celebrating, it’s time to look things over with fresh eyes and determine what’s next for your pilot and your career. Whether you’re just starting out or already repped, there’s a path for you, because the writer’s journey is never done.
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Notes and Rewrites
The first thing you should always do when you think your script is perfect is send it out for notes from a fresh set of eyes, whether that’s from your network or coverage services. Once you have that set of notes, compare it with the notes you’ve previously gotten (assuming you weren’t just trying to send out the actual second draft of your script).
Sometimes notes aren’t specific enough and could seem wrong, which is why it’s crucial to get a couple of reads of the same draft of the script unless the person giving you the notes is very established within the industry and their notes would, therefore, be in line with the rest of the industry. Younger industry readers at the CE and assistant level are great, but anyone can miss things. However, if you’re sending out the same script and getting back the same notes then you know that they’re right and you need to make some changes.
If you’re getting back wildly different notes from different people, then look at what exactly they’re responding to. It can be an issue of personal taste, where a reader identifies with a character closely because it’s close to their own experiences, therefore cutting it more or less slack. Still, it’s more likely that what you’re trying to get across isn’t landing, and some changes to your writing style throughout can make all the difference.
Choose the Next Project for Your Brand
You’ve heard it a million times, but you need to know what your writing “brand” or “voice” is to assist in establishing you in the industry. Therefore, you need a second script to solidify that voice. You want something in a similar wheelhouse to what you’ve already finished without rehashing the same idea. This allows you to have a clear brand while establishing your range. For example, if you write comedies, don’t write a character drama. But if that comedy was a half-hour and you want to prove that you could do an hour-long too, try a family dramedy, such as Ginnie and Georgia. You could also write a more dramatic half-hour like Atlanta.
If you’re looking to apply for fellowships in the spring, check the list of accepted series to spec and choose one that most closely aligns with your writing voice and the kinds of shows you’d want to write on as a staffer.
If you’re waiting to get notes back on your first pilot and you don’t have a second script ready, use this free time to set up your next pilot.
Representation and Competitions
The next step depends on your level of industry connections. If you have built up your network, reach out to them and see if they like your script and are willing to pass it on to any of their friends in representation. No one is going to pass on a lackluster script that makes them look bad, so make sure you give them time to read it and don’t rush them.
If you don’t have any or only a few connections, then look into fellowships and competitions, which can be a great way to break into the industry no matter where in the world you reside. Especially with so much happening forcing people to work from home, more mentorships and fellowships will be completely virtual, giving even more people a chance to enter that they wouldn’t normally have, and you should take advantage.
Many people query managers and agents. This is totally acceptable. However, make sure you look into whether or not the companies accept them. They will usually say on their company contact or landing page. But even if they do, know that they’re getting a lot of submissions, and it can be a long wait before you hear back (many passes go unresponded to), so be proactive in your career and look for other avenues even if you’re also querying.
If you have the reps and your pilot is ready, then it’s time to build that pitch! You’ll need a pitch deck with plans for future episodes, a breakdown of characters, what the world is, who the audience is, the tone, and where you see the show. Separately, you’ll want to assemble a bible, which will be a much more in-depth version of the pitch deck. Some showrunners have also started creating visual decks, especially if their show is in the science fiction or fantasy space and would have a very specific visual aesthetic.
You don’t need to know everything about the show, but you will need a general idea of where it’s heading.
No matter where you are in your career, the most important thing to do after finishing your script is to keep the momentum alive and move into the next project, even if you have to take a short break first. Professional writers dedicate time to their craft every date, some even building their own writing rituals. If your goal is to be at the same level as the best, then you’ll want to start emulating them every day and keep writing!