How To Shoot A Television Pilot For A Sitcom

If you're trying to learn how to shoot a television pilot for a sitcom, you've probably got a lot of questions.  What should the show be about?  Who should I get to film it?  How do I get it in the hands of the right people?  While there aren't any easy answer in the television business, there are some important steps to keep in mind when shooting a pilot for a sitcom.  If you're ready to get the cameras rolling, follow these steps. 

In order to shoot a television pilot for a sitcom, you will need:

  • A one-episode script
  • A set (or location to be used)
  • Actors
  • A film crew
  • Submission guidelines for the television network you are targeting
  1. Focus your writing efforts on character development.  If you are shooting a television pilot for a sitcom, you don't have the luxury of letting action sequences or mysterious plot twists carry your episode.  Sitcoms rely entirely on one thing: interesting characters in interesting situations.  So, make sure that your pilot introduces your most important characters and gets viewers intrigued already.  Don't worry about explaining everyone's back story or motives, just convey their personality.
  2. Establish a setting.  Once you've got the characters, don't leave the location of your show vague.  Regardless of where you actually shoot the sitcom pilot, make sure you establish in the viewers' mind where the show will be taking place.  Sitcoms like Cheers, Friends, and the Office all had distinct locations and sets that made them instantly recognizable.
  3. Hire a real crew.  The biggest mistake many amateur producers make when starting to shoot a television pilot for a sitcom is getting friends or family to work as the crew.  "It's just a pilot," they think, "the writing is all that matters."  This is way off.  Presenting a professional, high-quality tape to network executives will show them that you are serious about the show and your ideas.  If your sitcom pilot looks even remotely like a home movie, do yourself a favor and trash it now.
  4. Make sure you follow stated guidelines and regulations.  Whether you are submitting a written script or a filmed pilot of your sitcom, make sure any guidelines and regulations stated by the network are followed exactly.  There's no easier way for the months of hard work you spent shooting your television pilot from a sitcom to end up in the trash than to disregard instructions.  So, do some research before you submit it anywhere.

Shooting a pilot for sitcom can be scary business, but don't worry.  If you've got characters, location, crew, and preparation, you just might end up with your name in lights.  Action!

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