by Larry Brody
It’s been 5 – count ’em, 5 – days since PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017, the web’s premier TV pilot writing competition (as I sure as hell like to think) closed, and Team TVWriter™ and I have been logging in the entries and doing some preliminary analysis thereof.
As usual, I’ve enjoyed myself immensely because how can I help but be excited and happy when I’m learning as much as I am about where the entrants’ hearts, souls, and heads are and where the future of what used to be thought of as “just TV” but now is a bit more respectably referred to as “electronic media” is heading.
Haven’t done any close reading, mind you, but here’s what I’ve discovered while playing lookie-loo with all the entrants’ work:
- The most obvious thing is that PEOPLE’S PILOT entries were down this year by almost 25%. Sounds like a lot, yeah? But the loss in fact simply brought us back to the same number of entries – plus or minus a handful – that the PP averaged for several years until a big rise that sustained itself for 2015 and 2016. No one here at TVWriter™ was able to fully explain the rise at the time. In fact, we’d been expecting a downturn because of economic conditions and the increase in online writing contests. I admit that I’m disappointed that the new, higher number of entries didn’t last, but we’re going to study the data more thoroughly and work like demons to turn it around again.
- Last year, I recognized the names of about 30% of the entrants, either from previous contest entries, emails to TVWriter™ or myself, and the various classes I teach. This year, that number is up a bit, to 33%. It’s always gratifying to realize that we have a core group of repeat visitors and appreciate not only your loyalty but also our responsibility to continue giving helpful “tips and tricks” (as our homepage used to say when we first started TVWriter.Com almost 20 years ago) to TV and screenwriters both new and, well, let’s just say “more experienced” and let it go at that. Big thanks to all of you for inspiring us to double down on our efforts to give you what you need.
- Last year, we had three categories, one for half-hour shows, one for one-hours, and one for – surprise – longer than one-hour shows. This year we downsized back to two categories, Comedy (of any length) and Drama/Action shows (also of any length). I was worried a bit that this might result in a decrease ion the number of longer pilots, and, yep, that’s what happened. However, this year we made an effort to reach out to writers of web series, with the result that the percentage of scripts that were either shorter than half an hour or longer than one hour went up a tad, to almost 20 %. I’m very pleased that the PP is being embraced by web series creators and believe this represents a major shift in what the biz types call content distribution. In fact, here’s a prediction: Within the next couple of years, creating and running a successful web series will be the major calling card for a wider professional career.
- Speaking of becoming professional, I have to admit that I’m surprised to report that the number of Drama/Action entries this year was just a couple of percentage points shy of double the number of comedy entries, a fair-sized uptick. When I mentioned that to a couple of my comedy writer friends, they nodded and looked smug. “Comedy writing is harder, Larry,” one said. “I think it scares writers off.” When I said that the numbers looked bad for the future of comedy, another friend laughed. “Fewer new writers means more work for this old warhorse,” she said. Of course, for those of you looking to make a place in showbiz, there’s another way to look at it. Fewer new comedy writers in the conveyor belt means more of a need for them. And, come to think of it, if you enter the Comedy category, less competition in the upcoming PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018.
- Here’s another comparison I find interesting. This time around, almost 75% of the comedy entries we’ve looked through appear to be traditional, old-school sitcoms whose purpose is to make the audience laugh rather than exercises in irony designed to impress viewers with their hipness. I’m thinking that this is a function of the way, especially over the past year, daily life in the U.S. has seemed to grow progressively more stressful on just about every level, creating a need for more humor. Looks like the current generation of new comedy writers is instinctively reacting to the situation, which I find impressively perceptive.
- Another trend that is showing up in this year’s entries is a rise in the percentage of science fiction and fantasy offerings. 22% of the comedies and a whopping 55% of the drama entries are genre. Putting it another way, this year we received three times as many s-f and fantasy entries as last. OTOH, a look back at PP records shows that the number of police procedural entries is down (only 10% of the total entries) while what we might call “criminal soap operas” are, you know, trending, at least in the PEOPLE’S PILOT.
- As usual, I’m enjoying the titles of this year’s entries. I’m especially looking forward to reading the following, just because of their names. There’s a lesson there that everyone reading this should note: A good title goes a long, long way to helping your cause. Here, in no particular order, are the ones that are grabbing me the most:
ANDY PANSKY’S A CORPORATE LACKEY
GFA (GREAT F’ING ADVICE)
FRANK FETUS, NICU
GROVER VS. THE GALAXY
AFTER WE FALL
BLOOD ON THE HILL
SONS OF WITCHES
DREAMS IN THE KEY OF C
THE STRANGE REALITY OF SALLY PARKER
2 IN THE CHAMBER
- Also as usual, we’ve received some fascinating one-word titles – 25% of all entries, in fact. Here’s a random sample:
FWIW, my favorite title in the Comedy Category this year is FRANK FETUS, NICU, and in the Drama/Action Category I’m a big fan of 2 IN THE CHAMBER. No, I haven’t read either of them yet, but I will. Soon.
Our plan for announcing winners remains the same as we say on the PEOPLE’S PILOT “About” page. We’re on schedule to for announcing Semi-Finalists, Finalists, and Winners between mid-January and mid-February of next year.
And, of course, I’ll probably have a few more things to say between now and then so keep checking. Wouldn’t want anybody to be a Winner and not know it.
Which reminds me, if you entered PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 and want to keep abreast of all the further developments (and, you know, your placing, Feedback, et al), do yourself and us a favor and make sure to keep your name and email address on the TVWriter™ eMail List because that’s our go-to way of getting in touch.
Thanks again to everyone for taking part and being so talented! More to come!