Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
So you made a pilot, promo or short. You might be asking yourself: Now what?
One of my clients called me recently to help him strategize the next steps now that his short had been edited. Based on my experience being involved in the many facets of the entertainment, media and tech industries, I’d like to share advice for creators on how they can proceed after creating a short. And the first thing to always figure out is: What do you have?
Ask yourself, realistically, is this a one-off short or is this a promo piece to showcase your work? Or, better yet, is this a short that becomes your promo piece (or pilot) for an episodic/series? Keep in mind there are thousands of different content platforms and outlets to choose from, all with different requirements. With time, patience or help, you can find the right fit so your piece isn’t shelved.
You should consider asking yourself deeper questions about your goals. My client, for instance, wanted to create a series and was trying to decide if he should invest in creating more episodes, recoup his money instead, pitch it to an outlet or sell it outright. I asked him what I ask other creators: Do you need creative control, complete ownership or are you willing to look at collaboration and possibly just being bought out? What are your negotiating points going in? Did you pad the offer with items you can give away so you have more bargaining power to keep the items that are deal breakers for you? Basically, what can you live and not live without with this short you own and copywrote?
Based on where you are right now with attachments, like legally binding contracts, you have to look at who/what is attached and what elements cannot go away because of these stipulations. Please know that if someone is going to buy the piece or team up with you, they will most likely want creative input, including casting and crew choices. For instance, someone you bring on may have worked with someone who had a hand in developing your short and not want to work with that party again. This happens in the entertainment industry; even if that talent is a household name, it could be a dealbreaker.
That same client asked me how many episodes he would need for his content to be considered a series. My answer, based on my experience, is: Three episodes total make an episodic. One episode is a short or pilot, and two is just shy of a series, whereas three — the sweet spot — can be considered a series.
Diving further into strategy, you need to think of where your short or series will live. For my client, I asked him to give me a list of his top three places he envisioned his series being shown, in order of where he thought the content was the best fit for and why. This deliberative process can be especially illuminating. Make your own list and based on this, I suggest asking yourself which shows on each of these platforms are in the same vein as your content. This can help you define a bit deeper potential platform fit.
When you’re ready to put your content out into the world, keep these three steps in mind:
• Have a landing page website that does not give too much info away.
• Have your short password protected for viewing, non-downloadable.
• Put yourself on IMDB.
The takeaway is: know what you can and cannot live with. This can help you to better understand the strategy that will get you the ultimate outcome.