Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pilot Season? For Whom?

Pilot Season is that weird time in the beginning of every year where actors go crazy hoping they’ll get a shot at shooting a pilot, hopefully for a broadcast network. And there is a possibility, if only because networks are ordering pilots, and they will be shot and somebody will have to say those words out loud. But just like everything else in Showbiz, it isn’t necessarily as easy as it looks.

Recently I had the pleasure of working on a very successful sitcom, with very well regarded actors. During a break on tape day, I got into a conversation about pilot season with the show’s casting associate and one of the show’s other guest stars that week. The casting associate was talking about how it’s seemingly ridiculous at the beginning of pilot season. The names networks throw out at the first meetings are of such a level that you have to remind yourself not laugh out loud. Sentences such as “Does Brad Pitt want to do a series?” No he doesn’t. He was just nominated for two Oscars. “Clooney?” No. He’ll sell coffee in Japan before he returns to a series. Wait – he already does.

Now, the guest star may not have been a household name, but this actor has been a series regular on two different very successful series and you’d recognize him as “that guy from that show.” That’s nothing to sneeze at, by the way. But he would have to wait for networks to get past all of the movie stars they were courting for series regular roles in the pilots they were ordering before he’d get a chance.

As I stood there eating chocolate mochi and trying to be cool, I realized I’d have to wait even longer than he would before pilot season meant anything to me. But I was not discouraged. I have tools in place so I can be proactive. Actor's Access., Showfax, Casting About, IMDBpro, and the trades [including Deadline, for real] are all great sources of info about pilot orders and castings. But I often ran into a problem of access. There were several times I could know a CD was casting something, but not be able to find out the title from any of the sources. Because without a title, you have nothing. You can’t ask a friend for a copy of the pilot script, you can’t track down a breakdown, and if it’s not listed on Casting About, the casting address for the pilot isn’t available to you.

I know a lot of this sounds like throwing darts and hoping one sticks, but I figure that if I’ve already done work for the day where I know I can get results, what’s the harm of throwing a few darts while I’m watching reruns of 30 ROCK?

And then it hit me – the same advice we’re told ALL the time: Are you ready? If you magically got an audition for a lead in a pilot, are you sharp? When’s the last time you worked on a scene? Are your tools in place? Are your headshots current? Are your reel and your clips up to date with your most recent roles? Because it sure would suck if you did somehow get a chance at a phenomenal gig and you blew it because you haven’t even broken down a scene in weeks or your reel isn’t representative of what’s on your resume.

And we do know this - at some point, the powers that be will have run through all the movie stars, the Emmy winners, the Tony winners, the actors who have already been series regulars and are names around town and they will get to whatever stature you are. How do I know? The actor I was talking about earlier - he's not going to do a four line co-star role on a pilot, he's only looking for regular roles or at least recurring roles at this point in his career. Like I said earlier, somebody is going to have to say the rest of the words in that script. And some of those people will be developmental actors.

I can’t control what information is available to me, but what I can control; I’m making sure I’m getting better at. Today. Because one day, I’ll get the call. And that day, I’ll be READY. Until that day, I’m doing everything I can to make casting directors fans of my work every time I go to an audition. That way, when they do need an actor of my type, I’ll be on their list of who they’re gonna call. And I ain’t talking about Ghostbusters. Unless they’re casting a Ghostbusters pilot or reboot because in that case I’d be a great choice for the Ernie Hudson role. ;)

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