It’s a hard time to greenlight television. The pandemic stalled the production of projects that were already in motion, creating a bottleneck that has left the already competitive market oversaturated. So, if a writer had a comedy pilot, it’d be a pretty hard thing to get it off the ground.
On Aug. 18, 2021, established and award-winning writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach noted on Twitter that he’d “been out with a certified Emmy winning tv star who is about to have a huge premiere… 9 pitches, eight passes. 9th streamer hasn’t even bothered to pass weeks after. It is a meat grinder out there, don’t be in a hurry to go out with a pilot.”
But take heart! Studios and streamers are still making incredible television. I spoke with Geoffroy Faugérolas, a Senior Development Executive at Coverfly to get a sense of what buyers are looking for in comedy pilots. Here’s what he had to say.
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Collectively across the globe, the past few years have been very turbulent, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. TV and film audiences have been looking for ways to escape and feel relief. A stand-out example of this is Ted Lasso, a series that distinguishes itself with positivity. If you haven’t read the Ted Lasso pilot, well, what are you waiting for? It’s a damn delight.
But even Emily in Paris received Emmy attention this year. Don’t get me wrong — I watched it twice — but I wouldn’t say that Emily in Paris is exactly high art. It is, however, a series that people turned to for some easy breezy happy-go-lucky escapism.
Faugérolas recommended exploring human interactions, interesting workplaces, and fanciful locations in your comedy pilot.
Avoid the Pandemic
While there were shows that chose to depict the COVID-19 pandemic, many buyers are avoiding pieces about the pandemic like, well, the plague. Even sci-fi shows that may have otherwise taken place in a post-apocalyptic scenario have been making buyers and audiences squeamish. Remember, people are looking to escape, so save your quarantine scripts for another decade.
Final Deadline ends September 15th!
Comedy pilots that are selling are distinguishing themselves with unique circumstances and never-before-seen communities. Take Reservation Dogs, for example — it’s making waves by introducing a very specific type of experience and characters that absolutely light up the screen.
What story do you have within you that is unique and important? Why are you the right person to tell that story? And why now? Lift the curtain on a world we’ve never seen before and your script will stand out.
Go High Concept
If you want to sell your script, you’re going to have to get someone’s attention. “Go bonkers,” says Faugérolas. Everyone is looking for the next The Good Place, a series that encapsulated everything in this article: it’s a feel good show (people are trying to go to heaven and save humanity); it’s very specific (humans versus angels and demons), and it’s high concept (it’s a philosophical take on the afterlife).
Now is the time to stand out and swing hard. Take some risks and have fun with your next comedy pilot — it might just be the escapism you need, too.
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Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!