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. It’s almost guaranteed that if you make a high-quality show with high production value and take the proper steps, you can be on Television.
And before we go further, I want to ensure 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 those are now streamed seamlessly to actual televisions, so it all falls under the TV umbrella.
I created a video series covering the entire production process and distributing a TV series. The series starts with creating a Television Series Bible, which provides a comprehensive overview of the fictional world you are building. This document includes all the essential details a potential network or buyer needs to understand your series.
How To Produce a TV Series That People Watch
My show, MIDTOWN, is on Amazon (Seasons 1 and 2) and will soon be released by Comedy Dynamics to many other VOD platforms. This sort of thing can happen to you too. Just follow these three steps:
- Plan Your Television Series Concept
- Decide If You Will Produce A Pilot
- Ignore The Critics (For Real)
- Sell Your Television Series
The best way to produce a TV series is to align your game plan among all three before you begin. Don’t worry if it may change. Years ago, I learned that it’s easier and better to have a plan and switch it up than to have no plan and fly blindly.
Television Series Concept
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 will watch it, and why? Answering this question early will lay the path for where to exploit the series when it’s complete.
So let’s say I have a reality show about college Tennis. I plan to go behind the scenes of the different colleges and find their programs. And from there, I’ll want to showcase famous alums and up-and-coming stars. My goal with this show is to provide a detailed look at what college Tennis is like.
I just made this up, but I can already answer questions about who would be into it.
- Tennis fans
- People who are into college sports
- College-aged kids
So now I take that list, looking for similar shows or shows in the same general category, and see where they air. Youtube, I’m sure, has identical shows. What about Hulu? Netflix? What about Tuff TV or a network aimed at College sports? Make a list; this will be the list you attack in step three.
Produce Your Pilot
Now comes the part that could be the hard part. How do you make it happen? For MIDTOWN, we decided 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 hilarious.
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 say it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. We corrected this with a larger budget for the 2nd season (which averages five 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 could pull Midtown off for $200, I know you can produce a TV series too. But you have to make compromises.
Ignore The Critics
Maybe it’s shot on an iPhone? Perhaps you can’t do that big crowd scene? Maybe some of your actors are just ordinary people trying to pull it off? It doesn’t matter.
Make the best show for your money, and then get it out there. Then if the show gains popularity, you can worry about getting a budget with real stars and production value.
In the series 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, sets, and production value.
As long as you can run a safe setting, it would be best if you never let your lack of budget stop you. If you don’t have the equipment, find someone who does and partner with them. Make it happen.
Sell Your Series
Now, here comes the fun part… Where can you exploit the show?
Please resist the urge to put it up on Youtube and hope for the best! Get out that list you made when brainstorming a show and start attacking that. Start researching if you don’t know who to contact on a particular network!
When you produce a TV series, you can find almost anyone’s contact info for the entertainment industry on Cinando.com, 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, which has paid off 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.
Plan to 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 regularly? This Television producing course will give you real-world tactics to help.