Congratulations, Your Pilot Just Got Picked Up. Here’s What You Have to Do (Part 2)

Noah Hawley is a novelist (The Good Father) and screenwriter (Lies and Alibis) who created and ran two TV shows for ABC (The Unusuals and My Generation). In this exclusive post, Hawley offers an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to have your show selected for a network’s fall schedule.

Yesterday, Hawley broke down the first five of 10 critical things to consider as your race through the next four months until your show is on TV. Here’s the final five, including some crucial career advice as well as thoughts on branding and the freak-outs you can expect to experience.

#6 Don’t be difficult. Don’t argue the notes. Say yes as much as possible so that when it matters, when you’re asked to do something you simply can not do, you have earned the right to say no.

Now you may think that when you “discuss” their notes you’re simply “talking through” them, but what they hear when you debate notes is that you’re difficult. You are proving to be a resistant and confrontational person. My advice? Instead of discussing the notes, simply say “we’ll take a look at that” and move on.

It is absolutely critical that the tone of your relationship with your corporate partners stays positive. You don’t want to be the showrunner they dread talking to, because you need these same corporate partners to go out and fight for your show, championing it in-house throughout the launch and beyond. Don’t be a pushover. That’s not what I’m saying. There’s a difference between being a “yes” person and being a Yes Man. But you have to treat the network and studio as partners whose opinions you desire and respect.

This increases their sense of ownership of the show (which you want). Because, though you created it, the show is not YOUR show. It is a collaboration between you and your corporate partners, and you must make the network and studio feel appreciated, so they will fight for you when it matters. Which brings us to:

#7. Figure out your brand. It’s 2012. Your show isn’t just a story on TV. It’s a multiplatform, international brand, and you are it’s primary sales force. No one knows the show as well as you, the characters, the story lines. So get out there. Ask the studio and network how you can help them sell the show to affiliates and foreign buyers. For example, directly following the upfronts is the international upfronts, where buyers from all over the world come to Los Angeles to watch all the new pilots and decide which to buy for their markets. There will be cocktail parties. If you attend, you will be expected to be the show’s ambassador. Don’t be shy. Shake hands and get to know people. Help convince foreign buyers that your show is perfect for their market. The more foreign sales you have the better your chances for survival.

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Congratulations, Your Pilot Just Got Picked Up. Here’s What You Have to Do: Everything

Noah HawleyNoah Hawley is a novelist (The Good Father) and screenwriter (Lies and Alibis) who created and ran two TV shows for ABC (The Unusuals and My Generation). In this exclusive post, Hawley offers an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to have your show selected for a network’s fall schedule.

First of all, holy crap. You’ve already accomplished six impossible things. You sold a pilot idea. You navigated the development process and wrote a script that got the pilot shot, and you made a pilot that got the show picked up to series. Okay, three impossible things.

So what happens now? In a word, everything. First of all, even though your show just got picked up, you’re already 2 to 4 weeks behind schedule.

What? No, you heard me right. It’s May 15th. You need to be shooting by July 15th in order to premiere in late September. Which means you need to have your first script done in 6 weeks. And since you want at least ten weeks to hire writers and start breaking episodes, you’re 4 week behind right there.

Plus, you have to build sets. Which will take at least 8 weeks, but first you have to hire a production designer and supporting crew, which takes 3-4 weeks. So you’re about 5 weeks behind there. Why are you wasting time reading this?

So, what should you do first? Go to New York for the upfronts. The network won’t pay for you to go, but you should go anyway, because it’s cool to sit in Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall and see people talk about your show, and also to go to the parties.

Celebrate, in other words.

But while you’re there you should hire ten writers, a production designer, a post producer, a producing director, three editors, find office space and start breaking
episodes. Just kidding! You’ll have two or three days to do all that when you get back.

What’s next? Here are 10 critical things to know/think about as you race through the next four months until your show is on TV. (Holy crap, your show goes on the air in four months!)

#1 - You are now the CEO of a $60 million dollar corporation. Let that sink in for a moment.

In addition to hiring writers and running the story department, you are in charge of a crew of 200 people, responsible for every physical production and postproduction decision. You are also the main liaison between your show and the studio who pays for it, and the network that airs it, and you will be talking to both of them several times a day. Which brings us to point #2.

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