Filming a TV Pilot: My Experience on the Set
A reenactment scene from the pilot episode
My experience shooting a TV Pilot
I haven't done a hub in a while and some of you may have wondered where I've been. Well, I've been busy getting a TV pilot I'm involved with completed before the Pilot Season submission deadline. It's been a busy few weeks but its also been a fun experience.
Sadly, I can't tell you any details about the plot because I signed a Do Not Disclose agreement that binds me to secrecy on the project. I don't think I can even say the title yet. (I got permission from the Director/Executive Producer to show these Still Shots from the show.) The most I can say is that it's a Docu-Drama, based on true stories, about the drug culture in NY and people involved in addiction and recovery.
I was one of the script writers. I worked with the director and one other writer on the screenplay. It took us several weeks and seven drafts before we finally got the final shooting script. During the time I was working on the script, I attended several production meetings. It was a great experience joining with about 30 other creative types to discuss the project. Aside from the director and writers, I got to meet the Art Department (wardrobe, hair, make-up, props), the electricians, the 'Grips', the PAs (production assistants), the equipment wranglers, the location scout, the camera operator and the sound man. Later, I got to meet the cast of actors. They were a fun and interesting group and I liked talking to all of them.
The creator/executive producer/director/co-writer of the project is Corey Snyder, a talented TV cinematographer who has also directed videos and commercials. He is taking the plunge into creating his own series. I came on board last September. Progress was slow at first but we jumped into high-gear over the past six weeks and managed to pull together a professional project in a short time.
Most of the pilot was shot in Queens/Long Island NY, although it's supposed to take place in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I give the location scout credit for securing some shooting locations that look sufficiently sleazy, where the property owners didn't ask for an arm-and-a-leg to let us shoot there. (We're an independent operation so our budget is very modest.) Its amazing how a little resourcefulness can overcome financial restrictions to create something impressive.
We ran into a lot of unexpected obstacles. For instance, a location we secured was supposed to be available to us from 8am-3pm but then the property owners pulled a swerve on us and told us we had to be out by noon, so we had to squeeze the whole shoot into four hours. Also, it was a very rainy week here in NY and that wrecked havoc on our outdoor shooting schedule. At one point, while shooting in Queens, we got a weather report that it was raining in Manhattan and the rain was heading in our direction so we had to scramble to get the shooting done before the rain arrived. Lots of little obstacles kept coming up but the director and producers always managed to work around them and we got the whole thing done on schedule.
As the writer, I didn't have much to do on the set. I offered to help out because we were short handed on the set and I hung around, waiting to be useful. I have to admit that I wasn't a lot of use during filming. I carried some equipment, moved some props around and got breakfast for the cast. For that small contribution, I got a Line Producer credit. Actually, I was rather self-conscious standing around while other people were working so feverishly.
Principle filming ended a few days ago and now the editing process begins. (Which I'm not involved in.) Soon I should be able to see the first director's cut and not long after that, we'll submit the project to a well-known cable network. (I'm not at liberty to say who we're dealing with.) Even if this cable network doesn't buy the project, we may still make it into an online Web Series. We should know what's what by the end of October.
So keep your fingers crossed for the project. If it comes across, I'll have a steady writing gig and you'll all have a great series to watch. I'll keep you posted.