Genre: TV Pilot – Drama
Premise: Right now there is an oil boom going on in America, one that will change everything about the world, as well as everything about the town it inhabits.
About: We’ve got writers from two different worlds colliding on this one. Josh Pate has been writing for television for 20 years. His credits include shows like Falling Skies and Legends. Rodes Fishburne, on the other hand, is a novelist (Going to See The Elephant – about a man who moves to San Francisco) and journalist, who’s written for such publications as The New Yorker and The New York Times. Boom seems like one of ABC’s big guns this coming season, so we’ll likely be seeing it in the fall.
Writers: Josh Pate and Rodes Fishburne
Details: 60 pages (January 16th, 2015 – Second Network Revision)

Chace+Crawford+Gossip+Girl+films+Harlem+FzAeOln79oMl

Chace Crawford will play Billy

When I first started reading Boom, I wasn’t sure if I was reading reality or science-fiction. The U.S. has found some previously unknown oil well in North Dakota that’s bigger than any other oil well in the world? When did this happen? Have I been so wrapped up in pointless entertainment news issues like whether Robert Downey Jr. likes independent movies or not that I’ve managed to overlook the most significant find in the history of the world?

Here are some facts I learned from Boom –

1) There will be a city the size of Dallas in North Dakota by the year 2030.

2) A new millionaire is made in North Dakota every day.

3) North Dakota’s unemployment rate is currently 0%.

Considering I always thought North Dakota was a lake that existed in either Canada or Poland, I find this all very hard to believe. But assuming it’s true, today’s writers might have stumbled on the subject matter of the decade to base a TV show on.

Billy LeFever’s a dreamer. Always has been. So persuasive are his dreams, he’s even roped his wife, Kelly, into them, convincing her to head to the growing oil-rich town of Williston, North Dakota to set up a chain of Laundromats there.

But as you all know, being screenwriters, dreamers can be a little blind. We can get a little ahead of ourselves and maybe not have a Plan B. This is exactly what dooms Billy, whose truck full of washers crashes just outside of Williston. His UNINSURED truck. All of a sudden, these two have to go back to square one.

Which is really what the Boom pilot is about. Billy gets a tip about a piece of property that’s over a previously unknown oil reserve and uses a series of shady investments to buy the place from the clueless owner. He’s doing this all on blind faith. I mean, he’s pretty sure the tip is good. But he’s not positive. Lucky for him, the bet pays off when the richest man in town, billionaire Hap Boyd, offers to buy the land from Billy for a cool million.

You’d think it’s happily ever after from there, but it turns out a lot more is going on in Williston. Hap’s hated first son starts a business siphoning oil from his pop’s reserves. And the Middle East even has spies in Boom Town, here to report back about their competition. Add a local Indian Tribe who’s about to find out they’re sitting on a billion dollar piece of land and you can imagine how crazy things are going to get. Sounds like lots of exciting times ahead for Williston, North Dakota.

downtownwilliston

I don’t know about you. But Williston doesn’t look very Boom-towny just yet.

Here’s the refreshing news about Boom. It’s not about superheroes. It’s not about cops, or lawyers, or doctors. It’s not about a morally ambiguous anti-hero doing something shady to make a living. Well, actually, it’s kind of about that. But still, there’s no doubt that one of Boom’s biggest strengths is that it’s DIFFERENT. And that’s hard to do right now, with every writer and their mother writing TV shows.

The script smartly centers on a pair of underdogs, Billy and Kelly (everybody loves underdogs!), nobodies who’ve put every cent they have on the line and then lose it all in a car crash the second they get here (ironically pushed off the road by an oil truck). Who’s not going to root for these two after that?

Stakes play a big part in why their plight works. Remember, the more you can put on the line for your hero(es), the better. These two haven’t just invested their own money, they’ve taken all their friends and families’ money as well. Then, when Billy needs to buy the land, he borrows more money, putting them even further in the hole. If his plan doesn’t work out, he’s really f*&ed. And that’s the way you want it. You need your character to be f*&ed if the plan fails.

Another cool thing about Boom is the cast. And this very well may be the show’s secret sauce. The way this boom is shaping up (I’m talking about in the real world), EVERYBODY is coming from EVERYWHERE to be a part of it. This allows Boom to have a really diverse cast of characters, from Caucasians to Mexicans to Native Americans to Middle Easterns to even Nigerians! Not only does this keep the show feeling fresh but networks love this. They want to have diverse casts. And if it’s organic to the story, like it is here, all the better.

If Boom has issues, it may be in its 3rd Act plotting (3rd Act in TV terminology, not feature terminology), where Billy goes from owing $100,000 to becoming a millionaire in the span of two days. This happens literally within 20 pages and while the plot points were plausible enough to buy on their own, it was hard to concede all of them falling in line together. I mean, who do you know that can raise 100k in 24 hours who doesn’t have the last name of Zuckerberg?

But if you get past that one flaw, it’s a fun ride. Like every TV show, it’s going to come down to how it’s directed. But I’m excited to see how it turns out. Even the cable channels are getting stale with their ideas. It’s time we put something different on the air.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: It doesn’t matter how many times you use this one, it always works. Set up something really valuable that one of your main character’s owns, and then force them to have to sell it at some point. The more personal the item is to your character, and the more emotionally attached they are to it, the better. So here, Kelly owns an emerald necklace that literally came from her 3x great grandmother. It’s priceless. When Billy needs that last 25k to buy the land plot, Kelly offers up the emerald. We GASP at the thought, since the importance of the necklace was set up earlier. Not only does this get the reader screaming “No!” when it happens, but it raises the stakes of your story as well. Because now, if Billy’s plan fails, it’s not just money that’s gone, it’s an irreplaceable piece of history.

What I learned 2: A feature script must end on a solution. A TV pilot script must end on a problem.

  • Scott Strybos

    So Billy and Kelly, our protagonists, succeed and become millionaires in the pilot? I would thought this goal would’ve been at least a season long struggle…

    • S.C.

      Indy gets the Ark just over halfway through RAIDERS.
      The villain is captured early in THE HUNTED, AVENGERS, SKYFALL and many others.
      Numerous movies where the big movie star lead is killed off early.

      Sometime, in features, putting the obvious scene in early is a way of shaking up of the story: have a character achieve their goal early, only for it to slip away; remove a supporting character to make the hero’s task even harder.

      Maybe the same is true when writing a pilot. If it’s all setup for later episodes, could get dull. Shake things up by having the protagonists succeed in epidode one.

      They could be poor by the season’s end!

  • klmn

    Happy Cinco de Mayo.

    • S.C.

      Happy Cinco de Mayo!

      Any Mexican or Mexican-American commentators here today?

  • Andrew Parker

    I read this one a couple of weeks ago for TB and remember it very clearly. I think your appreciation of this is mainly based on setting (someplace we haven’t seen) and the fact that it doesn’t involved a lawyer/doctor/cop.

    When you get down to the nuts and bolts, it’s hard to come up with what viewer group this would coalesce into watching each week. I know it’s called “broadcast” television, but with so many channels, you really need to find a niche group that becomes addicted to a show so that the ratings don’t taper off. I’m not sure what group wants to see this. It reminds me of another pilot from a few years back called Big Thunder Mountain that didn’t go forward.

    That being said, if this was on AMC and could even find a handful of viewers, it would survive like Turn: Washington Spies and Halt & Catch Fire has.

  • Linkthis83

    This is so cool.. I wish I had the time (and the script, in order to make the time) to read this.

    This is most definitely real (the oil boom in North Dakota). I work for an energy information company and I’ve stayed in Williston because of the oil boom. I did work in ND in 2011. They couldn’t get the oil out fast enough. The began building rail terminals right away. And once the track was laid, but the terminal not finished, they would truck the oil to the railcars sitting there and transfer the oil from truck to railcar directly. Also new pipelines were built as well.

    Also, the boom hit so quick that the infrastructure couldn’t handle it. This includes electricity, plumbing, etc. Finding a place to stay in those areas were a nightmare. I had to sleep in my car a couple nights (30 degree weather). Most of the time I would stay in Minot or Bismarck and drive the 2 hours to the terminals (Minot is a big city with lots of hotels, but during that time a lot of people were displaced from their homes due to flooding and occupying the hotels in Minot – FEMA workers as well). A room at the shittiest hotels in ND could cost $269/night. There were all these “mancamps” as well littered near each oil town (which included RV camps and trailer housing that just popped up out of necessity/opportunity) – the laundromat idea would’ve been a good one for there.

    Other than the brutal ass cold, it was an awesome/unique opportunity for me to witness this. By the way, North Dakota isn’t the only place in the states having an energy boom. There’s a section of Texas known as “Eagle Ford” that is booming as well as in Ohio/Pennsylvania called Marcellus Shale. A lot of natural gas work is going on as well.

    In Wisconsin there is a major frac sand boom (for opening up the well when they “fracture” the ground). This sand in Wisconsin is a particular type of sand that keeps the cracks open.

    The first couple picks are of rail terminals in the early stages in ND, and the last two are frac sand loading facilities in Wisconsin (pictures taken by me):

    • S.C.

      Sent you the script, Link, wish I could send you the spare time to read it!

      • Linkthis83

        Thank you, sir. Much appreciated.

        • Joseph Ackroyd

          Link, any chance you could email me this pilot? The premise really intrigues me! joseph.ackroyd@gmail.com

      • Emotionoid

        Hello Scott, Can you send me this one to mazhar.mohd@gmail.com? As always, much appreciate it buddy.

      • Emotionoid

        Got it. Thanks.

      • Jordan

        Hi S.C. can you please send me the script to jordanloewenstein@gmail.com

        Thanks!!

    • wlubake

      I haven’t read, but read a killer article in GQ a while back about Williston and the man camps. Roughnecks making 6 figures driving a truck but have to sleep in tents because there’s no housing. The underbelly of the boom is the most interesting part. I hope they hit on that, and not just the rich and powerful making it happen. Sounds a little like “Dallas” to me.

    • Linkthis83

      Sorry, thought I included a few of my pictures but I guess I didn’t. Here they are:

  • S.C.

    Sent!

    I sent it to a few people asking for pilot scripts this year as I figured it would be a big deal.

    • kent

      I’d love a copy if you have a moment. Thanks. kentLmurray at comcast.net. Thanks

      • S.C.

        Sent!!!

  • mulesandmud

    Screenwriting advice that doubles as life advice:

    Know what’s going on in the world.

    Otherwise you might miss little things such as game-changing shifts in global power dynamics around the world’s most coveted and perpetually dwindling natural resource.

    Someone wondered yesterday how much time myself and others spend commenting on this site. I can tell you exactly how much, because I use a timer to limit my internet usage (because I have no willpower and very little work ethic and I use gadgets to help me pretend I’m a better human being). Is that weird of me?

    Anyway, I give myself exactly one hour of web time per day, not counting email. On days when I have zero responsibilities (read: pretty much never), I will take two hours. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of that time is spent here. If I had longer, I would probably edit my posts down to something more reasonable. Sorry about that.

    The rest of the hour, I’m sucking up as much information about the world as possible, at intervals between blocks of (theoretically) uninterrupted writing time.

    My internet window almost always ends with me racing to grab one or two final bits of info and then saying ‘fuck you’ to my computer screen when my timer locks me out (for real, this happens all the time, sometimes in public).

    Still, it’s amazing how much real content you can digest with just a tiny portion of your free time. These days, we’re pretty much out of excuses. It’s too easy.

    Stay informed. Watch/read/listen to journalism and social commentary. Preferably from a variety of sources with different perspectives and on different scales. Understand what other people are thinking and talking about, and why.

    On top of making yourself a thoughtful and somewhat informed human being who can discuss a variety of topics with passing fluency, it’s also a great for the storytelling muscles. Even if you aren’t actively looking for potential script concepts, or research, or writing info, the quality of your work will improve automatically by intellectual osmosis.

    The intricacies of international politics do wonders for your ability to craft plots. Profiles of interesting people give insight into what makes characters complex. Tracking social trends helps you realize how and why the industry tides move like they do.

    The internet is not just a puppy porn delivery system, it’s a showcase for the wondrous variety of the human condition, which makes it, among other things, the ultimate screenwriting resource.

    Sure, it’s a mess in here, but like the man says: chaos isn’t a pit, it’s a ladder.

    • S.C.

      I used an internet limiter for a while – can’t remember the name, but there are loads of them – but it drove me crazy, so I figured I’d just exercise internal discipline. To each their own.

      I’ve often said that a problem for someone who wants to be a screenwriter is a lack of interest in the world.

      As an example, has anyone outside the UK been following the UK general election (it’s on Thursday)?

      The party that is most likely to win – the Conservatives – won’t have enough seats to win an outright majority and form a government (with David Cameron returning as Prime Minister). The Conservatives (or Tories) are currently in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who are expected to do worse this time around than the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP).

      This could lead to the party that comes second – the Labour Party – forming a coalition with the party that came third – SNP. The losers could run the country! Except…. Labour party leader (and possible future PM) Ed Milliband has ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP.

      However, it could put together an informal coalition with a range of parties – a “rainbow coalition” – to form a majority before the Queen’s Speech.

      Confused? Of course you are! We have constitutional experts who have no idea what will happen.

      But you MUST be interested. Look at the drama, the intrigue, the plotting. You MUST be interested. You can’t be a screenwriter and be one of those people who take little interest in things, who hate everything. Being a writer means being excited by different things, even if only tangentially.

      • Jack F.

        And due to the influence of UKIP (UK Independence Party, the UK Tea Party analogue), the Tories have promised a referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union. If the UK leaves the EU, there will be dire economic consequences, including the uprooting of international business relationships and a freeze on immigration from EU countries. This means, in effect, the elimination of free movement and property ownership for UK citizens in EU countries, and vice versa. So, because of the Tories kowtowing to what is essentially another angry populist xenophobic movement that blames all of society’s ails on immigration, the future of the UK is now in peril. And that, indeed, is drama.

        • S.C.

          Exactly. You HAVE to take interest in things other than werewolves, vampires and World of Warcraft, otherwise all you can write about is werewolves, vampires and World of Warcraft.

  • Peter Baum

    OH PLEASE, the Shale Oil boom is not a boom it’s a bubble akin to the housing bubble in 07 or the tech bubble in the late 90’s. It won’t last and neither will this tv series unless they change the name to BUST.

    • Evangelos

      I’ll give it 2 seasons at best.

    • Dan B

      The end product is Oil, and it’s already down 50% from its Highs because OPEC doesn’t want to cut back production. There will be US Shale production over the long term, just not the crazy growth we saw over the past three years. It is much different from the housing crisis, which was an actual bubble.

      • S.C.

        The US oil industry will continue to grow if just for the mere possibility of America becoming energy independent, maybe even an oil/gas exporter.

        According to Snowden, NSA used to spy on OPEC. Since the oil boom, it doesn’t bother anymore. That’s how committed the US is to this.

      • klmn

        True. And the oil depletion allowance makes even marginal wells worthwhile for investors.

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    I live in Williston, and work in the Bakken. While I don’t really buy the premise of the story, as pretty much all the land containing oil here is already under contract, and NO OWNER in ND would sell mineral rights to his property in the face of a massive oil boom, it’ll be interesting to see how this show plays out.

    As a resident here, I see more of a M*A*S*H/Orange is the New Black style “tragicomedy” than a Dallas or Knots Landing rags-to-riches soap opera, which is the direction Boom seems headed based on Carson’s review. Maybe the theme song can be “H2S Death is Painless.”

    As of right now, with the decline in oil prices, Williston has seen a lot of layoffs. ND’s current unemployment rate is probably closer to 3%, and has actually been eclipsed by Wyoming, I believe. Though the wages are still pretty high here in ND.

    As far as stories go, if I were writing this, it’d have a constant influx of new characters (a la OITNB). Long-time town residents, foreign students, ex-cons, strippers and sex workers, and a variety of out-of-state transplants. Running gags could be the accent up here, in particular “begh” instead of “bag,” the harsh winters, of course, the ten to one male to female ratio, and the general Mad Max Thunderdome environment.

    If you want to check out more on Williston, watch The Overnighters on Netflix. It’s about a far right pastor who rents out his church to homeless workers looking for jobs.

  • tyrabanksy

    OT: anyone have the Wayward Pines pilot?

    • Scott Strybos

      Read the books instead; they are a lot of fun.
      And from what I hear, the pilot is a stinker.

      • tyrabanksy

        I was thinking of doing that too. Couldn’t resist googling the spoiler though. Still, probably worth it.

        • Scott Strybos

          When I first heard M. Night Shyamalan was producing a TV show based on existing property, I was curious, so I read the books without knowing anything about them…. I went in blind and I am glad I did.

          If anyone is looking for a fun summer read, I recommend the Wayward Pines trilogy… but do not google anything about the plot (besides what has been revealed in the trailer).

          • tyrabanksy

            I’m so torn now! I loved reading the pilot, but if I read the books the show might not be as fun to watch. Shit. ..

    • Frankie Hollywood

      I just read that last week. Email?

      • tyrabanksy

        It’s OK, got it now. Thanks though. :)

      • tyrabanksy

        What did you think about it? I just finished reading it.

        • Frankie Hollywood

          I thought it was ok. I wasn’t blown away by anything, no really huge plot twists (except maybe the FBI agent decaying away).

          I haven’t read the books and I don’t know anything about what’s going on besides what the TV trailer is showing. So I’m interested enough to watch it.

          Seems like a Twilight Zone meets Twin Peaks thing.

          What’d you think?

          • tyrabanksy

            Fuck. I loved it. It moved really fast for me. But I really like this kind of thing. I’m so excited for the show now.
            Don’t think there’s anything else new I’m looking forward to.

    • S.C.

      Sent!!

      • Malibo Jackk

        Hey cool.
        Was looking for that one too.
        If you get the chance–
        malibujackk@gmail.com

        • S.C.

          Sent!!!!

      • tyrabanksy

        Thanks, Scott. Always appreciated.

    • charliesb

      Did you watch it? What did you think?

      Edit: See below you didn’t. It’s pretty underwhelming.

      • tyrabanksy

        Haven’t watched it yet, but I FUCKING LOVED reading the pilot. I’m so excited for the show now. I love this type of stuff.

  • Poe_Serling

    BOOM…

    It has the potential to get some good mileage out of its subject matter since it’s more or less a modern take on the California Gold Rush of ’49 and other boomtown scenarios.

    Instead of California and gold, you have North Dakota and oil. The similarities between the two situations that could fuel some future episodes:

    >>A flood of adventurous people coming into a specific area to make a quick buck.
    >>Higher prices for everything.
    >>overburden on basic services.
    >>overcrowding due to lack of housing.
    >>possible rise in crime due to more consumption of alcohol, drug selling/buying, etc.

    A couple of differences:

    >>Most of the ’49ers didn’t make a dime on their quest for striking it rich. It at least seems that the workers in ND are highly compensated for their hard work and effort.

    >>After the gold rush ended, the majority of the miners took other jobs and settled in California. From what I gather it takes over a hundred workers to get an oil well up and running, but only one or two to maintain it afterwards. So, I’m guessing that the population in ND will dwindle back to normal after the boom as the workers head off to find richer pastures.

  • Frankie Hollywood

    Not really so far OT: Yesterday I read CBS’ pilot order for this fall. Like Carson said, talk about Lawyers, Doctors and Cops (or FBI), 9 out of 9 of their pilots deal with those 3. 7 directly and 2 indirectly.

    CODE BLACK: Doctors
    CRIMINAL MINDS SPINOFF: Cops
    DOUBT: Lawyers
    FOR JUSTICE: Lawyer/Cops (FBI agent)
    LFE: Doctors
    LIMITLESS: Indirectly — Cops (from the movie, but now he’s working with the FBI)
    RUSH HOUR: Cops (from the movie)
    SNEAKY PETE: Indirectly — Cops/Lawyers, protag’s a bail bondsmen (this show is Brian Cranston’s idea)

    I guess you could even make a push that BREAKING BAD was indirectly about the FBI.

    If you’re trying to break into TV the moral of the story (I guess) would be, make sure your pilot is a riff on the “safe and secure” BIG 3.

    Good GREAT to see BOOM is something original.

    Hey SCOTT, I wouldn’t mind getting a copy of BOOM, too. PLEASE and THANK YOU.

    • S.C.

      Sent!

      • Frankie Hollywood

        Got it. THANKS!

  • Dan B

    North Dakota has been one I the biggest beneficiaries of the fracking/shale boom in the US. I have a relative that’s been working up there, and it’s pretty crazy. He does well, the company pays for temporary housing that costs as much as midtown Manhattan real estate because I the sudden supply and demand imbalance. What’s interesting is that the Shale business there is already seeing a slowdown as oil prices have slumped due to over supply. OPEC is not dropping production because they hope to drop oil prices enough to shut down US oil production. That’s why we all got a break at the pump the past 6 months. I’d be interested to see how this new environment gets implemented into the show. It could lead to more interesting stories as these characters try to get rich only to see things start to crumble.

  • Midnight Luck

    What I learned 2: A feature script must end on a solution. A TV pilot script must end on a problem.

    One of the best bits of information yet. Thanks Carson.

  • Bifferspice

    OT: what is your opinion of websites for writers to try and present themselves, if they have no produced credits. most likely completely ineffectual, i know, but could it help? hinder? anyone here have one?

    • S.C.

      Mention the name of a few websites so we can have a look at them.

      If you have no produced credits, your best bet is probably competitions, maybe query letters.

  • Brainiac138

    Carson, watch the Overnighters on Netflix. It is a doc about a pastor who has opened up his church (well, mostly it’s parking lot) to the multitude of folks who are all leaving their home states to find work in North Dakota. Edit: And, the main character, the pastor, is a strange character and as the doc progresses, the whole situation gets crazier and weirder and a little creepier.

  • Midnight Luck

    Just a question for Carson, or for anyone else on here who may know,

    While it is supposedly the “Golden Age of TV” right now, how exactly does a writer access it compared with Movies?
    There has always been a complex-yet-unknown-sort-of-system for feature scripts.
    It doesn’t seem that way for TV.

    Yes there are a million “TV script contests”, but I don’t have any trust in them. I have never heard of someone getting a TV script/show sold, nor an actual TV show being made from any of the winners work.

    Do Agents and ProdCo’s actually look around for great show ideas? or is it more like what I have heard, that you put in your 1-20 years writing for other shows (as the writer of this did) and then at some point someone will take you seriously and make you a show runner of your own show (assuming it is a spectacular concept)?

    If it really is the Golden Age and everyone has turned to TV to mine the Gold (Netflix, Yahoo, Amazon, blip) yet don’t have enough quality content, where does one take their work?

    Do the same Agents and Producers look at Everything? Are they all on the hunt for not only great work for film, but also TV?

    Hollywood loves to play the coy, seductive – teasing minx, feeding would be artists and participants with the theory of possibility and success, without actually giving anyone a tiny bit of guidance.
    I guess because there is no guidance. It seems almost everyone just happened to stumble into it somehow.

    Thanks to anyone who has thoughts to share.

    • Brainiac138

      Almost all the TV writers I have met have somehow parlayed an internship, or program like that, into working as an office PA, into working as the writers assistant, to being staffed. Of course, the whole time they were writing, and often being mentored by one or a couple of the seasoned writers.

      For this writer, and Nic Pizzolatto from True Detective, I am guessing because they already had years of experience writing, they didn’t have to jump through all the chutes and ladders like most writers right out of college have to.

      • Midnight Luck

        Hey Brainiac, thanks for the response.

        My question is mostly about the “GREAT IDEA”.

        There is a ton of talk when it comes to features about if you have that Amazing Unique Idea – you can go anywhere. That people will notice and beat down your door.

        But does it work the same way in TV? From everything I gather, it doesn’t.
        It seems to be a very dutiful, earn your stripes, get in line, Elders system.

        Once you have put in your time, maybe you can bend someone’s ear and have your idea looked at.

        I am not saying people who have put dedicated time in don’t deserve being first in line, they absolutely do, but what about great ideas? Many of these people Don’t have great ideas. So everyone is still left looking for great writing and great ideas, just like in the Feature world.

        I have done a lot of Feature writing, but very little TV writing. I have never been a TV fan. Not until, that is, they started doing actual quality programming. Back when HBO took a shot and began making movie like productions of TV shows, everything from Sopranos to Sex and the City.

        Before that TV was kind of junk land to me and didn’t interest me.
        Probably not smart on my part, but I have always been a cinema lover, films on the big screen lover. TV? The little box pumping out ER and 90210 and Survivor? No thanks. But 10 years ago, it became a whole new thing, and had the quality production value to prove it.

        So, long winded, yet short discussion, just wondering if IDEA is KING even in the TV market, or if it truly is a completely different structure than Features.

        • SandbaggerOne

          I would say that IDEA is still king, maybe even more so in TV then in features, because a feature only has to hold the audiences attention for 100 minutes, but a series has to hold an audiences attention for 12-22 HOURS a season, hopefully for 5-7 seasons. But IDEA in this case doesn’t necessarily mean super original or unique, it means a great IDEA for a television series, which as we see way too often means more of the same, with a small twist and a different group of pretty people in the lead roles.

          A few networks are willing to take risks (HBO, FX, AMC) but they only make up a tiny percentage of potential buyers for a script/series. What did AMC do last year? Like two pilots and thats it. And one of those was a spin-off. Next season, aren’t they also only doing two new series (and again one of those is a spin-off), and that is out of 10,000+ pilots floating around. I would doubt that any of the “cool” networks (HBO, AMC, FX) even look at pitches from unproven writers, repp’d by agents and manager or not because most of them don’t “do” pilots, they do series, and that is a lot of trust to put in an unproven writer/creator.

          So anyone serious about selling a series/pilot would be best served looking to the main networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, etc.) who have the budget, interest and primetime hours, to try out numerous shows and are desperate to compete against cable and netflix. but of course that means your pilots have to fit their mold/brand and the broadcast tv standards of swearing, sex, violence, etc.

          By far the best option that I am aware of, or have witnessed, is to get a proven producer interested in your idea/script and have them and their prod co go to bat for it and get it in the hands of the right people. Does this mean you might (will probably) lose creative control? Yes. Does it mean you might not even get a sole “created by” credit? Yes. The producers will bring in seasoned show runners and writers and attach them to the project so that it has “weight” when they shop it around. But you still might (will hopefully) get a sale and money and the beginning of a reputation and that can lead to better things next pilot season.

          • Midnight Luck

            Such great stuff. So succinct.
            Thanks again.
            If I could upvote this more than once I would.

            as for the thoughts on where something might play, that is tough.

            I am not a fan of the main networks. They don’t know how to do much when it comes to quality. The best show they’ve ever had is Seinfeld. (which is one of my favorite shows of all time, so that is oddly both ironic and great).
            I don’t really write comedy, and that seems to be where they do their best. 1/2 hour stuff basically.

            I write more in the gritty and dark realm of Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, Dexter (though that show, strangely I don’t actually consider to be very dark) and FARGO.
            I have a show and it is definitely dark and sprawling, while interestingly is also contained. Based on things you are saying, and knowing them to be completely true, mine would definitely fall into the AMC, maybe FX kind of world I guess. I would love it to be an HBO or even Showtime, but who am I kidding? Shooting for the stars much? But they can do some amazing dark and nuanced work with the right production value.

            I would hate to have to reign in what I do and have to say. Also it would take some effects and world building to make it really work. Skimping on this idea basically just wouldn’t work, and why bother then? Yet I can picture exactly how it would come out on the main networks, and honestly, they would just trash it.

            Again, appreciate what you have to say, great stuff.

          • SandbaggerOne

            Don’t give up on your pilot, especially if you are that passionate about it. The networks are trying to give cable a run for their money, have you checked out Hannibal yet? That is one of the darkest, most twisted yet visually beautiful series I have seen in ages, and it is on NBC.

            Definitely don’t reign in on what you write, go all out with it, that’s how you will get people interested and excited about the project. Worry about what might happen to it after it sells, after you sell it.

            Just like with feature films the scripts of first time writers will be rewritten again and again. Different producers (and their will be a lot of them on a series) will all want changes made to highlight the aspects they enjoy the most. Actors (especially if they are already established in film or tv) will want/demand changes to their characters before they sign on, the finance people will demand changes to meet budget and sales estimates, and on and on. But you can’t worry about that right now.

            Worry about what might happen to it after it sells, after you sell it.

            Honestly, it might be ruined by the development process, or at least ruined in your eyes because it will no longer be your vision of the project, it will be a co-vision of yours and the producer with the most power and influence, and all the compromises (s)he will have to make to get the show made and on the air.

            But that is the process, for better or worse, at least until you have sold a few projects, the more you sell (whether they get made or not) the more influence, trust and “power” you will have and eventually you will be at the point where you can almost get your exact vision on to the screen (no writer/creator ever has full control. That is an impossibility. Networks and producers tell the David Mamet’s, J.J. Abrams’ and Joss Whedon’s of the world what to do. Full control only ever held by the person/company paying for it.) but that is the writers life in any major media field.

          • Midnight Luck

            Honestly, the one thing I don’t have a problem with is reigning in my work. I go for the fences. I love pushing it and going a bit out there. I like seeing if I can find that far edge or limit where it makes people feel uncomfortable, but I don’t lose them. Get them right there on the fence. Then work really hard to pull them back over.

            I have no intention of giving up on it, I have just been a bit unsure what to actually do with it. Maybe it is too much time on SS talking about Movies and what happens with them.

            I am thankful that Carson does the Tuesday TV thing, but there has been little talk about what happens with Pilots in reality, as opposed to in theory. Plus we have seen very few Amateur Pilots to even begin a conversation about what might happen on Amateur Weekend should a really great one come through. A few film scripts have gotten interest, would a Pilot that was well written with a great concept get anyone’s interest, or is there a better place to present it? That kind of conversation.

            I haven’t seen Hannibal. I have heard a lot of good things about it. I have to say I believe I haven’t given it a shot mainly because I LOVED Silence of the Lambs, but then gave the next to films a shot and had such a hard time with them. I really disliked them so couldn’t go for a TV show named after one of them. I am hoping the show is better than the movie version (I hear so many people saying how great it is, I have to assume it is better). Those two movies just really put me off.

            Thanks for all your input, it really is wonderful and helpful.
            And thanks for the support.

          • SandbaggerOne

            You’re welcome. Happy to do it. I’m on here everyday, but I don’t comment very often, but I might try posting a bit more in the future.

            As for getting eyes on your pilot, and whether an amateur pilot week would be beneficial, well feedback is almost always good, just like with the weekly feature offerings Carson puts out, but the thing with pilots (of the non-formula, “episode-of-the-week” variety) is that unlike a feature script, they are only “chapter one” of a much larger story, so it is harder to “judge” them accurately without knowing the writers full vision/intention for the series.

            I would say almost all pilot scripts we get in at my work come with pitch packages (easily 90%, compared to about 20% of the feature film scripts). These pitch doc’s include more details of the world, backgrounds of the characters, future episodes & season arc ideas, artwork and images. And 100% of the time I read those first, it brings the dev people into “your world” so when they read the script they are hopefully excited about it. Are they necessary? No, but they definitely help and I would recommend anyone writing a pilot to start slowly putting together such a document so that when they do get the opportunity to submit their pilot script it isn’t “just a script”, but an entire “project” a company can get behind and excited about.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yes, i’ve seen you on here. You should comment more. Seems like you have a lot of knowledge and insight. Your opinions and guidance have real understanding and intelligence.

            I’ve been on here for a long time and probably post more than I should. I’m amazed how many people come on and say they have been coming to SS for years and have never posted. I often wonder why. Then I realize, well, they probably don’t want to get too sucked in. It is a lot of fun learning, reading, chatting with others. It can quickly start gobbling up a ton of time though.

            Then again, you can have a great conversation like this as well, learn a lot and the time is of little matter. I enjoy pointed interesting talks.

            My pilot will have an in depth, extended package developed when it is done. It won’t just be a stand alone Pilot. I don’t even know how to make it work without a larger detailed world. Just the one episode doesn’t do it justice, an entire Season might not quite capture it either.

            Hopefully it won’t have too much in the end though. I don’t want to go over the other side and inundate people with too much detail and information. I’m not that worried about it, I edit well and believe I have a pretty good feel for what is needed and what isn’t.

            I will take to heart what you have said, and I give you big thanks for taking the time to talk and give me your ideas, thoughts and help.

            Really, I couldn’t have asked for a better breakdown than what you have given. Thank you.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Quadrant Pictures is looking for Dark Drama tv pilots.

          • charliesb

            “By far the best option that I am aware of, or have witnessed, is to get a proven producer interested in your idea/script and have them and their prod co go to bat for it and get it in the hands of the right people.”

            Definitely this. You won’t get to run the show, but if you can align yourself with a producer that gets your vision it might not matter. Who would have thought Alan Ball would be executive producer on a show like Banshee? But without finding that connection, I still think your best bet is getting a feature (or few) or some other kind of recognition for writing (novels, articles) under your belt.

            I think IDEA is always KING, but with television it’s a little harder to get that idea into the right peoples hands.

    • SandbaggerOne

      Well the specifics will very agency to agency and Prod Co to Prod Co, but in general (traditionally) most of the bigger agencies and companies will have dedicated agents and dev people who are focused on television, but with television being so hot and so many feature film actors looking to get in on a tv series, there is a big grey area between devisions.

      Unfortunately for aspiring writers this means that a lot of experienced feature film pros are also working to get series produced because if you get a show produced (hit or not) and get a “Created by” credit the long-term profits (both financially and career-wise) can be large.

      And like with feature films, prod co’s, producers and agents are always going to me more trusting of someone with a track record and produced credits, in film or tv, to spend the millions of dollars it costs to get a series made.

      The few writers I know who have sold tv pilots/shows have all already had agents and have sold either feature scripts (even if they never had a film produced) or worked as a staff writer on a series (it doesn’t have to have been 10+ years, even one season will do). Just like with feature films networking, friends, connections, agents and managers are key to getting your scripts and pitches in front of the decision makers.

      So really it is no different a process then with trying to break in with feature films or into Hollywood in general.

      • Midnight Luck

        Thanks for the response and all the info, appreciate it.

        I know some houses do have reps for both sides, but still, all I’ve heard is unless you’ve done something, you can’t get in, and that TV is a locked up ward. Whereas Film still lets newbies trickle through occasionally.

        Interesting to know it sounds to be exactly the same, but different…

    • Frankie Hollywood

      Every time I enter a pilot into a contest I say a prayer in honor of Mickey Fisher. He won the “TrackingB TV Pilot Contest” with Extant (I watched a few episodes, but lost interest). http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/extant-how-a-contest-led-creator-mickey-fisher-to-spielberg-1201254597/

      I realize he’s the exception to the rule, but he does prove that it can happen.

      • Midnight Luck

        wow, yeah, i forgot about Extant. Some of the biggest news around, and I totally spaced it.

        Thanks for pointing it out. Didn’t do it for me so, haven’t seen it.

        • Curious

          Midnight, don’t mean to sound negative here but I’m curious as to what you DO like. It seems every post I read from you, the show/movie at hand is “not for you” but I don’t recall ever reading what you actually like. Again, not trying to sound like a challenge, just a genuine curiosity.

          • Midnight Luck

            If you have read many of my posts I have talked a lot about being extremely picky. I expect high levels of thought and creativity from others. I have a very low capacity for crap. And boy is there a shit ton out there when you set the bar as high as I do.
            That being said, amazingly there is quite a lot I do like, it just doesn’t seem to line up with many others out there in the real world. No friends or neighbors or even other writers ever like the kind of work I like.
            my favorite movie this year so far was TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT and I have yet to meet or talk with anyone who has seen it, let alone loved it.
            But what do you do.
            Life is strange. Life is what it is.

        • Curious

          Scratch that. I just scrolled down and saw your post mentioning, Breaking Bad, Fargo, etc. Carry on. : )

    • Poe_Serling

      It does seem that just about every media is tossing their hat into the original series arena.

      Just today Chiller – the 24-hour American cable and satellite television channel specializing in horror – announced it is ramping up its first series called Slasher.

      The show will “follow the plight of a young woman who returns to the small town where
      she was born, only to find herself the centerpiece in a series of
      horrifying copycat murders – based on the widely-known, grisly killings
      of her parents. The eight-part season serves as the first instalment of
      an anthology series, where each season exists as a self-contained hybrid
      of the slasher subgenre of horror films and the traditional murder
      mystery. Over the course of the “Slasher” series, a variety of mysteries
      will unfold, building towards a climactic finale.”

      The upcoming series is written/created by Aaron Martin (“Killjoys,” “Degrassi:
      The Next Generation”) and directed by Craig David Wallace (“Todd and
      the Book of Pure Evil”).

      Even thought the show isn’t my kind of scarefest, I’m pretty sure more than a few of the SS horror hounds out there will tune in when it hits the airwaves in late 2015.

      • Midnight Luck

        Sounds like a mix of Scream and something like True Detective. Put the scary and grisly together with the whodunnit and procedural.

        Doesn’t really sound up my alley either.

        But, yeah, I think at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if Pinterest announced a TV show.

  • Randall Alexander

    Email it to ralex75 at yahoo