To pilot or not to pilot… that is the question.
Will filming a pilot episode enhance the chance of our sitcom being commissioned?
This is the question we have been deliberating over for a while now.
Filming a pilot is not as easy as it sounds. First off, it can be expensive. If you want your work to be taken seriously then it requires a little bit more time and effort than recording something on your smart phone. Bad lighting, poor sound quality, continuity issues can all jar on your perspective audience causing them to reach for the off button before the first punchline has even been delivered. The aim is for the viewer to be gagging for the next episode on the strength of your material so everything should be done to allow the viewer to focus on the storyline, not on the fact that they can’t hear what the characters are saying and are distracted by the boom appearing in shot. A certain level of professionalism is required and professionalism costs money.
We are fortunate enough to know some incredibly talented producers and directors working in the industry who are willing to help us record a pilot for ‘mate’s rates’. Even at a discounted cost, with the cast and a majority of the crew working for free, begging, stealing and borrowing, a 30 minute pilot episode (based on a 4 day shoot) would still cost in the region of £3,000 – £5,000. Location hire, travel expenses for crew, costume, kit hire (camera, lighting, sound), editing, feeding people is the least you can do for the lovely people who are working for free… the total can add up, fast. Once the numbers start stacking up it’s easy to be off-put.
Some feedback we received from The Sitcom Mission was they were surprised by our characterisation of GIRLBAND. Comments were made that the characters were more vibrant and unusual than they had imagined from just reading the script. Testament to the fact that you can write reams and reams of character description to help paint a vivid picture for your reader but nothing can compare to seeing them brought to life before your eyes.
Taking their feedback into account we filmed some material to help aid envisioning the characters. We shot teaser trailers, 5 minute sketches but never any actual scripted dialogue from the sitcom. The task seemed too large and daunting for us to have the courage to take on.
Then we stumbled across this interview that Ricky Gervais gave to Shortlist.
‘…we didn’t just pitch a script — we made a pilot and gave it to them. If we’d just sent off the script for the first episode, it would still be in a drawer somewhere in the BBC. I guarantee it. I mean, how do you describe David Brent in writing? “A man does a bad joke, touches his tie and looks at the camera.” Brilliant [laughs]. It doesn’t exactly jump off the page, does it? So, instead, we showed them what was essentially the first episode…‘
The comedy God has spoken and told us what we need to do.
We can’t escape our fate any longer… a pilot needs to be made.
Read the full interview here: RICKY GERVAIS – SHORTLIST INTERVIEW
Posted by Carly – One of Those Three Girls