I’ve been fascinated by TV pilots since I was a kid (and even wrote several books about them). One thing I’ve learned is that almost everybody in the business agrees that making pilots is a deeply flawed, inefficent, outrageously expensive way to create TV series and that the system needs to be changed.
The Entertainment Industry Development
Corporation reports that 131 pilots were made last season at a cost of $365 million. Of those pilots, maybe 40 got picked up. Of those 4o
series, maybe three or four will survive the season.
Insane, isn’t it?
So, naturally, the Canadians think it would be a great idea to imitate our system.
According to the latest issue of Canadian Screenwriter magazine (one of the perks of being a member of Writers Guild of Canada), the state-supported Canadian Broadcasting Company is "shifting its development process to pilots." Here’s their thinking:
"(The U.S. networks) pilot a lot of things that never make it to air," says Kristine Layfield, the CBC’s executive director of network programming. "We’re going to have a lot better ratio of shows that actually make it because we’re hoping that if we’re putting more money, time and effort into the development process, by the time you get to pilot, that pilot has much more than a one-in-ten chance."
With all due respect, she is deluding herself. Does she really think we don’t put enough time, money and effort into the development process? We spent $365 million! What’s incredible is that instead of learning from our mistakes, the Canadians want to repeat them.
No wonder the Canadian TV business is virtually non-existent.