Where Can I Sell My TV Pilot?
Selling a TV pilot may seem like a more mysterious process than selling a feature film screenplay. TV has more gatekeepers than feature film, and while there are some success stories coming out of independently-produced television, there isn’t that massive infrastructure in place for indie television that there is for independent film. For the most part, if you’re making a TV show, you have to do it within the established system.
In 2019, writers are going to be advised again and again to write for television. The opportunity is there. The amount of buyers has gradually increased, and we’re living in a boom period for television. Not writing any TV pilots is ignoring a huge part of the market, as screenwriters.
Okay, so let’s say you’ve gone ahead and written a great TV pilot. Awesome! What do you do with it now? Again, it’s not like with feature film. You can’t query independent producers or make your film on your own as easily. The system is not as readily set up for that.
Web series are certainly an option, but it’s a needle-in-a-haystack challenge. For every success story like BROAD CITY, there are many examples of web series which never gained enough traction.
So what should you do with your television pilot? An immediate option that’s accessible to anyone are TV contests and fellowships. There are a number of well-respected fellowship programs with major track records of success, just a few are the Warner Brothers Writers Workshop, the Fox Writers Lab, and NBC’s Writers on the Verge program.
Screenwriting contests have also demonstrated success in this arena. The Austin Film Festival, The Tracking Board, ScriptPipeline and the TrackingB television contests are a few examples. While contests should not be your only strategy, they have helped many writers in the past.
Besides contests, what else can a writer do with a strong pilot script? This is where things get a bit tougher. Getting a writer’s assistant position on a TV series is extremely tricky to do and requires getting to know people in the industry to even be aware of those jobs (starting out with an internship at a production company or agency is often a first step for newcomers to Los Angeles).
If you’re not in a major production hub like Los Angeles, another option is to run down who you know. Does your second-cousin’s third husband know a guy who knows the showrunner for some TV series you love? Finding those connections and DELICATELY approaching them, in a non-demanding way, can be a path for some people.
Establishing a friendship first with someone whose work you genuinely admire may eventually lead to that person offering to read your material. If that happens, and you have a great pilot ready to go, that can be the difference in starting a career.
Ultimately, a hustling writer should attempt ALL these strategies, because you never know which one will pay off. What are you doing to shop your pilot scripts? Let us know in the comments below!