Some people write original TV pilots as a kind of “calling card” to get a job in a writers’ room. But for me, the goal is to get a pilot produced. In service of that goal, I decided to make a proof of concept video of my TV Pilot screenplay, Dangerous Choices, which is like a short film that gives a sense of what the show is about: the tone, the feel, the story, the characters.
It was a bit daunting, given that I’ve never made a film before. So I solicited advice from friends who had made films, some with the same goal in mind. Tea Ho, a wonderful writer and generous soul who’d made her own short films, gave me lots of information on budgets and technical considerations. Then I consulted with a director/filmmaker friend, the very talented Rebecca Eskreis, and production designer extraordinaire Megan Elizabeth Bell, who generously offered to work with me to make the film. (I’d like to note that I have found people in this industry to be very supportive of one another).
First item: I needed to write a short script that would tease the story. Rebecca, Meg and I then scouted locations. While some of the scenes would ideally have been shot indoors or outside an older building on a busy city street, we decided for the sake of economy, to film it all outdoors and checked out some parks.
Through mostly their contacts, we found the DP and the other tech people and some of the actors. Meg was incredible at keeping track of all the moving parts on google docs. I also found some actors, like Rebecca Ozer, a writer/director/actor who is in my writing group. Her friend, Ari Axelrod, who played opposite her, is talented, funny and was interested in the topic. In fact, most of the actors read the entire script (not just the short script) and many told me they learned about a period of history they hadn’t known before. Since that was one of my goals in writing the story, even in this small way I felt like I’d accomplished my mission.
The day of the shoot, people got in costume and it was kind of amazing to me, as a writer, to not only hear my words coming from their lips, but also to see how the actors held onto their characters throughout the day- during breaks, during lunch, whenever. My characters were now embodied in real live people!
I couldn’t understand why we had to start so early, before 7 am. But as the day wore on, as setting up shots took time, and then they were filmed at different angles, the same lines over and over again, I began to get it. Moving to a new location (within the park) required setting everything up all over again. We didn’t finish until after 7pm and there was a total of just over an hour of film in the can.
Whew. That was over and I expected I’d be able to see the footage right away.
Nope. Not so fast. Turned out the footage had to be transcoded. Which means it needed to be put into a form that was usable to the editing software. My first editor had never worked with the software used by the DP. A few months passed with little progress for a host of reasons.
In the end I decided I needed another editor. Armed with a better understanding of the issue, I interviewed several other editors and took my chances with one who sounded good. Lucky break, he turned out to be wonderful. Easy to work with and did a great job. He even wrote the background music with a friend of his. He really kept to the budget and came out with a great finished product.
Would you like to see it?
I’m not putting it out there, but if you are interested, it’s 8 ½ minutes. Just send me an email at email@example.com and I can give you the link and password.