5 Myths of Pilot Season Exposed

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Photo Source: Steve Weigl

To wrap up this epic trilogy, I’d like to address some of the myths that still surround pilot season. I’ve scanned the message boards and I keep seeing the same ones over and over. So here, in no particular order, are the top five misconceptions about pilot season.

Unrepresented actors have a chance.
A lot of actors believe that pilot season is a magical time when the castle gates swing open, allowing actors with no experience a chance to audition for the most important roles in television. It’s a nice image, but nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, getting in the room becomes much harder because the competition is so fierce. If you don’t have a decent agent to speak on your behalf, then the odds of getting a shot at those high-paying, series regular roles just went from bad to nonexistent.

Back in the day, actors used to “go to L.A. for pilot season.” That concept would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. It amazes me that unrepresented actors with no casting contacts show up in L.A. every year for a pilot season they’re never going to experience. It’s like going to the hottest club in town when your name isn’t on the list so you end up spending the whole night outside, watching the cool people.

You shouldn’t submit to agents.
This is a busy time of year for us, so submissions are the last thing on our minds. But the truth is, we always have holes in our list and if your submission can help us fill that gap, then you might get extra attention even during pilot season.

It’s all a crapshoot. You never know when the odds might be in your favor so go ahead, submit away. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The networks only want stars.
Is that right? I would argue that if you watch a few TV shows at random, you’ll find plenty of series regular roles that weren’t filled by name actors. Sure, the leads will always be stars because that’s how the shows get promoted, but there are plenty of other parts that are open and available to actors who don’t get recognized when they’re walking down the street.

Booking doesn’t mean anything if the pilot isn’t picked up.
This is what actors do. They turn a positive into a negative. I’ve never understood that kind of thinking.

Look, no one’s going to argue that it’s better if your pilot goes to series, but booking the pilot in and of itself is a major accomplishment that everyone will take seriously. The credit on your résumé will help your agent sell you on the next project. It will also make you more attractive to casting directors. And the truth is, if you booked one pilot, you can book another.

There is no more real pilot season. It’s year-round now.
Yes and no. Pilots appear on breakdowns all times of year but the majority of network shows still get cast during the traditional pilot season, which runs between January and April. (Refer back to the first part in this series for more details.)

In closing, I want you to remember one fact: Your career isn’t about pilot season. It’s about all the opportunities that exist in this industry, and there are plenty that have nothing to do with booking a series regular role. So please don’t allow this crazy time of year to define your career. It’s about the big picture and that’s what you need to focus on. The rest will come.

Ready to find your pilot? Check out Backstage’s TV audition listings!

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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