So you’ve written a television pilot script! Congratulations! Maybe it’s your first one or maybe it’s your latest — it’s always an accomplishment to reach that “fade out” moment.
Now you have written material that can further your career, or maybe you’ll even sell it. Here are seven options for what to do next — mix and match them as feels right for you:
- REVISE REVISE REVISE
The art of revision is very different from the skill and creativity it takes to write (and edit and proofread) the first draft. There are many ways to revise that script to really make it sing, but I’ll list a few. Send your pilot to trusted colleagues and ask for notes — then closely address each note (or the “note behind the note”).
Another great technique is to go through the script once for each character and make sure their stories and voices are distinct and meaningful. Cast your dream actor in each role and ask if the character is rich enough to make that talent want to sign on.
Remember, a pilot script will go through many revisions before it makes it to the screen. Michaela Cole wrote 191 drafts of I May Destroy You before the 12-episode HBO-BBC series was released.
Hunker down and do the work — it’ll pay off later.
Looking for notes on your script? Check out WeScreenplay’s top notch Coverage Services.
- TABLE READ
Once you’ve got your pilot in a healthy place and you feel proud of it, set up a table read. Cast actors — not writers, not friends, not family. Don’t participate in the table read yourself, not even to narrate the action lines. Set up a camera to record it then sit back and watch the reading. Take notes.
Listen for clumsy dialogue that worked well on the page but sounded dishonest out loud. Ask your actors for honest feedback. Would they want to play your characters? Did anything feel unbelievable? Were they frustrated at any point? Excited? Surprised? Bored? Confused?
As always, take their feedback into consideration and address each note.
- TV FELLOWSHIPS
The annual television fellowships are great opportunities for writers to submit new scripts and potentially earn coveted mentorship and introductions to industry professionals. NBC, CBS, Disney/ABC, Nickelodeon, and WB all accepted fellowship applications in 2020.
Do your research and prepare for these programs in advance. Some required two pilots, some required spec scripts, and some requested lengthy essay responses. The benefit after all the work writing and submitting, however, is infinite — especially because these programs are free to enter.
Nickelodeon has a fantastic TV writing fellowship.
- ENTER A SCREENWRITING COMPETITION
Screenwriting competitions are excellent opportunities to receive professional feedback on your TV script, earn recognition in the industry, and maybe even win funding or meetings with professionals.
As always, do your research. Not all competitions have the same merits.
Some things to look out for when researching your competition: Are the judges successful industry professionals? Will there be script coverage and feedback? Will winners have the opportunity to meet industry pros? Are there cash prizes? Is the program prestigious? Have your colleagues heard of the competition and will recognition from it speak for itself on your resume?
- SEND IT TO REPS
If you already have representation — great! Send your script to them!
If you are looking for representation, you can use your pilot script as a writing sample. When looking for representation, it’s best to ask your colleagues for referrals. If you don’t have colleagues yet, then it’s time to go to writing mixers, join a writing group, talk to your writing instructors, and connect with people in the industry.
- PITCH IT
The great thing about a pilot script (versus a spec script of an existing show) is that you can go out there and sell it! Most production offices like HBO or Netflix won’t accept unsolicited submissions, so this is where your professional networking skills will come into play.
Your representatives will be able to set up pitch meetings for you. If you’re trying to pitch solo, then hopefully you made some connections with successful colleagues (see #5 and, babe, put the ‘work’ in ‘networking’)!
- SHOOT IT
The goal in this industry is to become so skilled at your creative work that you become undeniable. Sometimes that means seeing your vision all the way to the screen. Sonja O’Hara wrote and directed her hour-long series Doomsday, which would go on to earn awards at the New York Television Festival, premiere on Amazon, and garner representation at WME.
Other alternatives to shooting the full pilot are to shoot a teaser of it, select a scene to shoot as a short film, or record an audio narrative of it. Creating something that people can watch or digest is a great way to hook their interest and open doors.
BONUS: ABANDON IT
You might, after all the revisions, notes, and table reads…maybe even after fellowship rejections and competition crickets…come to the conclusion that your pilot was, well, a great learning experience and not much more. It may have run its course in only its written state. The beauty is that through the journey of writing it, you grew as a creator.
Put it away — for now or maybe forever. You’ve done your job.
When you’re ready, sit back down and write the next thing!
Interested in having your script read by accomplished showrunners and TV development executives? Submit to our WeScreenplay TV Pilot Contest now!
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, and 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!