The bumpin', VIP after-party that is pilot season is officially happening. It is so on right now. Multiple times a day insanely talented, stunningly beautiful actors are knocking it out of the park in front of brilliant show runners and savvy executives who have their fingers on the pulse of the next big thing on television. This party is off the hook. And guess what? You're not invited. Oh, sure, you can drive by the party in your '95 Nissan, looking longingly through double-paned windows at the fabulous people in evening wear inside. But you're not getting past the velvet rope. Look at them. They're having the time of their lives. They're at the center of the universe. They matter. And whether you're not auditioning at all, or are auditioning and not booking, pilot season makes you feel like you don't matter.
While it can seem like the most exclusive club around, that's only the image of pilot season painted by that voice in your head. It wants you to believe that there's a magical land of talent, beauty, and celebrity that you've never visited, but the truth is something altogether different. The truth is that pilot season as you know it is a myth. There's no party. "Pilot Season" is a term to describe 120 days during which artists and business people, fueled by hope and fear, scramble to create between 22-50 minutes of network television that will be different than thousands of television pilots that have failed miserably before theirs.
The creator of a show hopes that their show is worthy of respect and acclaim, the executive desperately hopes that this show will attract millions of viewers, the agents define this season in much the same way big chain stores identify Black Friday, and the actors hope this pilot will make them mega television stars so they won't have to do pilot season next year.
Practically speaking, they're afraid of failing and the total loss of self worth that comes with it. And that fear is warranted. No one is safe in the elementary school dodgeball game that is pilot season. Out of many pilots that are made in March and April, 20 are picked up, 10 make it past Christmas, and five last more than one season. There is no formula (even though everyone thinks they've found one), so everyone is driving in the dark. No one knows what the audience will like. Heck, most people don't even know what the network brass will respond to. Casting directors, show-runners and directors follow Hollywood's favorite actor-of-the-week only to second guess themselves, and then scramble to work through the studio and network hierarchy, trading actors like playing cards, and often selling out their original vision in the process. Compromises abound in the pursuit of a product that will get on a network. Everyone is guessing, hoping and waiting for someone to give them some assurance that what they're doing is working. And 99 percent of the time that assurance never comes.
Point is, the cool kids at the high society party you're not invited to are as unsure as all of us. We're all trying to figure it out as we go.
We are in the midst of another pilot season and it’s not about your artistry. It’s about getting a show on the air with names, faces, the next hot 20-something guy, the new Aussie, etc. The execs can’t agree on what ex-movie star will be right for a role, even if the Academy Award-winning director or show creator wants them. The star of a hit sitcom that lasted 10 years on the air can barely get an audition. The actor who won an Emmy 5 years ago is struggling to get a meeting with a writer/producer she helped launch not that long ago. The Oscar-nominated director is drowning in decision-by-committee. The cast members of “Breaking Bad” are doing alright for now; Bryan Cranston is nestled in on a Broadway show, far from the feeding frenzy of pilot season.
This season isn't kind to actors. It's not supposed to be. It's goal is not kindness and respect. Or even giving you your shot. It's about business. It's about putting together a pilot that gets on the air... and the competition is fierce. The networks (pilot season is entirely about the networks) are competing with groundbreaking new cable shows, series from Netflix and Amazon, not to mention infinite reality programming. They have to satisfy their advertisers; they have to grab their audiences fast and hard. Now that movie stars are seeing both money and creative satisfaction on television, there aren’t many roles left for regular working actors. But the good news is: There are more roles in television than ever before. Pilot season may offer some, but many of them come in other ways and at other times. And Fox, as we know, has abandoned pilot season this year altogether.
As much as your heart yearns for commercial success as an actor, pilot season absolutely cannot be about booking a pilot. Beyond the fact that there is no formula for booking one, and that there are very few series regular opportunities for talented working actors above the age of 21, you must focus on the work and not on the result of the work. The only things you can control in all of this are how hard you work and how deeply you are willing to engage in your acting exploration. Do good work this pilot season—put up a play, write and shoot a short, audition boldly wherever you can, get in class. Be “of the work” and trust that when you are doing amazing acting work the pilots will follow.
This year it cannot be about your popularity. It’s got to be about your consistent, wonderful work.
More here at The BGB Studio Blog: http://bramongarciabraun.com/blog/
Risa Bramon Garcia (renowned casting director - with "Masters of Sex picked up for Season 2, director, producer, and teacher) and Steve Braun (teacher, actor, communication consultant) are partnered in The Bramon Garcia Braun Studio, dedicated revolutionary acting and auditioning training. New career changing classes and workshops are here for 2014! Career and audition coaching and taping are in full swing. For more go to www.bramongarciabraun.com.