How do you take a fresh idea all the way to a successful TV show production? What are new opportunities in TV?
Making TV might seem like a mystifying process. How do you come up with an idea? How do you build an entire universe and cast of characters, but distill it down into a pilot episode that best introduces your story to an audience? How do you then shop that idea around to studios and networks? When someone says they want your pilot, how do you actually get it made?
We learned all this and more from the experts at today's SDCC panel, Pitches, Pilots, and Beyond! A Look Into the Visual Storytelling Process.
Panelists included Michael Price (co-creator, showrunner, F Is for Family; co-executive producer, The Simpsons), Steve Anderson (supervising director, writer, director, Monsters at Work, Meet the Robinsons), Jon Gosier (CEO, FilmHedge and Southbox Entertainment), Ben Simms (director and executive producer, Running Wild with Bear Grylls), Katherine Waddell (actress and producer, First Bloom Films), Allissoon Lockhart (creator and showrunner, Battle of the Bands), and George Salinas (CEO, Bridge Works Entertainment). The discussion was moderated by actor and content creator Chris Villain.
These creators have worked on a mix of animated and live-action projects for broadcast and streaming networks—Netflix featured heavily among the group, proving that streaming is where a lot of the most unique projects are heading.
Price talked about the final season of Netflix's F Is for Family, which he co-created with comedian Bill Burr. They based the series on their slightly messed-up childhoods. They initially planned to give it more of a Simpsons feel, but Netflix told them they preferred serialized storytelling. Price said they ended up with a much stronger version of the show as a result—which goes to show how development executives are key in guiding projects.
Salinas discussed bringing more Latinx creators into the fold via his company. A lack of diversity has been an issue in Hollywood for years, and producers are finally beginning to tackle the problem with initiatives like Salinas'.
"I saw a need for IP, especially because there was a lack of content about Latinx superheroes,” he said. “It is my goal to bring that to the mainstream media and give universal exposure to the talented professionals in the Latinx world."
This desire to provide a platform, he said, was the reason he started his company Bridge Works Entertainment.
Waddell similarly said she wanted to start her independent production company, First Bloom Films, to elevate female creatives in a business where, she said, they are often not treated well.
"From top to bottom, we want to have all women on our sets," she said.
Waddell also made a point to talk about the importance of work-life balance, which has been a point of contention recently with the IATSE negotiations.
Simms is working on interactive content for Netflix, like a project with Bear Grylls that allows the viewer to direct Grylls in a choose-your-own-adventure style. As a director, he has to consider that choices in one scene will affect something four or five scenes later. This is a unique new possibility in interactive entertainment. (Would you tackle an interactive project?)
Lockhart emphasized the importance of finding supportive producers for her show, Battle of the Bands. It's an independent animation project that was put together with an international team working remotely during the pandemic.
She also took chances on the bands featured on the show—she said she would listen to bands on Spotify and send them cold emails asking to feature them in the show. So many said "yes." Take those chances! Reach for the big names or your dream cast members. They might be inspired to say yes.
"Music is for everybody," she said.
When asked about trusting your writing staff, Lockhart said it was about forming the best team and trying not to micro-manage them.
"Production is about thinking fast on your feet, listening," she said.
At the end, the panelists were asked to give brief advice on how to make it in TV.
"Be yourself," Lockhart said. "Kind. Creative."
"Never stop believing in yourself," Simms said.
"Prepare for any opportunity," Waddell said.