If you want to produce a TV series, there has never been a more exciting time for content creators. Nowadays, there are so many outlets for your content to be exploited on, it’s almost a guarantee that if you make a quality show with high production value, and you take the right steps, you can be on Television.
And before we go further, I want to make sure you understand that Television is no longer run strictly by the major networks. TV now includes all forms of VOD, whether it be iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNOW, and a whole host of others. All of those are now streamed seamlessly to actual televisions, so it all falls under the TV umbrella.
I recently created a video series about how to produce and distribute a TV series, which takes a case study of a show I created called MIDTOWN, and details how it went from concept to creation to on several networks, to monetization. That last part is key. If you just create content that never makes money, your time in this business will be short-lived.
Three Elements You Need to Produce A TV Series
I’m excited about a show from Canada called LetterKenny, which is now on Hulu. This is a great example of a content creator (in this case, an actor named Jared Keeso), who had an idea, shot it, and then got it on a network. Season 3 has already been ordered.
My own show, MIDTOWN, is on Amazon (Seasons 1 and 2), and will be released by Comedy Dynamics to tons of other VOD platforms soon. This sort of thing can happen for you too. Just follow these three steps:
- Means to Shoot
- Platform to Monetize
The best way to produce a TV series is to line up your game plan among all three before you begin. Don’t worry if it may change. I learned years ago that it’s easier and better to have a plan and switch it up then to have no plan at all and fly blindly.
IDEA: So you start with a concept. What’s your show about? Is it reality or non-fiction? Is it a comedy? A Drama? Short form or long form? And since most VOD marketplaces require at least three episodes, what is your story arc?
Then comes the biggie: Who’s going to watch it, and why?
Answering this question early will lay the path for where you’re going to exploit the series when it’s complete.
So let’s just say I have a reality show about college Tennis. I plan to go behind the scenes of the different colleges, find out what their programs are like. And from there, I’ll want to showcase famous alumni, as well as up and coming stars. My goal with this show is to provide detailed look at what college Tennis is like.
I literally just made this up right now, but I can already answer questions as to who would be into it.
- Tennis fans
- People who are into college sports
- College aged kids
So now I take that list and I start to look for similar shows or shows in the same general category, and I see where they’re airing. Youtube, I’m sure, has similar shows. What about Hulu? Netflix? What about Tuff TV, or a network aimed at College sports? Make a list, and this will be the list you attack in step three.
MEANS TO SHOOT: Now comes the part that could be the hard part. How do you make it happen? For MIDTOWN, we decided we wanted to make an improvised comedy about two New York City cops bantering in a car. We shot the pilot and first season for pennies, and it looks like crap… BUT… it IS very funny.
Half of the reviews on Amazon complain that it looks cheap (it was – And you can’t worry about these types of reviewers), and half of the reviews say it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. We corrected this with a larger budget on the 2nd season (which averages 5 stars!), but stuck with the comedy at a high level.
I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back or promote the show… I’m saying this because, if we were able to pull Midtown off for like $200, I absolutely KNOW you can produce a TV series too. But you have to make compromises. Maybe it’s shot on an iPhone? Maybe you can’t do that big crowd scene? Maybe some of your actors are just normal people trying to pull it off? It doesn’t matter.
Make the best show you can for the money you have, and then get it out there. Then if the show gains popularity, you can worry about getting a real budget, with real stars and real production value.
In LetterKenny (from my research) they created a few Youtube videos of banter and comedy, with a Canadian slant. They played with language and it worked. After they got a few million hits, a Canadian network took notice. Their initial show was shot for pennies, but became a funded show. Now it’s on Hulu, with a budget and sets and production value.
As long as you can run a safe set, you should never let your lack of budget stop you. If you don’t have equipment, find someone who does and partner with them. Make it happen.
PLATFORM TO MONETIZE: Now here comes the fun part… Where can you exploit the show?
Resist the urge to just put it up on Youtube and hope for the best! Get out that list you made when you were brainstorming a show, and start attacking that. If you don’t know who to reach out to on a particular network, start doing research!
When you produce a TV series, you can find almost anyone’s contact info for the entertainment industry on Cinando.com, which is a paid membership database. There are also markets where you could go and pitch your show and display your sizzle or your pilot. Markets you need to know:
- RealScreen: The #1 market for reality and non-fiction. There’s Real Screen (east Coast), and Real Screen West, check them out and see which one is coming up next. VERY much worth the price of admission.
- MIPTV and MIPCOM: The premiere markets for TV, with the downside being that a trip to Cannes, France IS expensive. But this is where I got the initial deal for MIDTOWN, and that has paid of very well. Are you willing to invest in your career? Do you want it bad enough?
- NATPE: This latin market in Miami is one of the top TV markets in the US. Maybe not for beginners, but still worth researching, and if your content lines up, you should go down there.
Make a plan to directly contact the networks you outlined and set up a meeting. If that fails, then at least focus on getting key executives to watch your sizzle reel or pilot episode. Additionally you should plan a trip to a market, where you will walk away with a STACK of business cards of possible leads.
Above all else, be bold. So many people fail to produce a TV series. Will you be one of those? Or do you want to work with the people making TV on a regular basis? Like all things in life, those who succeed have a clear vision and the burning desire to make it happen. And just in case you need a roadmap, the video training and downloads contained in this system will give you real world tactics for creating, producing and distributing your next TV series.