Pilot Season is Taking Off

MARCH 8, 2018
Airplane with pilot season graphic.

Fasten your seat belts because we are about to enter one of the busiest and craziest times in the entertainment business . . . pilot season.

What is a pilot?

A pilot is a stand-alone episode of a television show that studios use to sell an idea or concept to networks. If the show is picked up to series, the pilot usually becomes the first episode of the show. There are more than 70 pilots shooting this season, but only a fraction of them will make it to series.

Let's back up a little bit and go through how the season starts. While pilot season is predominantly late winter and early spring, the process usually begins much earlier. In the summer, networks will hold meetings to hear concept and pitch ideas, then will order scripts. After reading the scripts, the networks will decide which ones they will put into production.

After the pilot is "in the can," it still has a few more hurdles before any final decisions will be made. They are tested, recast, shelved, passed on, or hopefully sent to series. Often, only a handful of pilots will make it into the network's programming lineup.

The five networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and The CW) have ordered over 70 pilots this season, many of which will film around our four offices. Of those, about 45 are dramas and 29 are comedies. If you're interested in being a multi-camera Stand-In, there are 13 filming this pilot season. Polish up those resumes!

When is pilot season?

Pilot season is generally January to April for network television. Cable networks will produce pilots throughout the year. We are seeing less pilots from streaming services but they do make them sporadically.

Networks announce the picked-up shows to the advertisers at the Upfronts. Upfronts is the annual event during which the television executives show advertisers their planned programming for the upcoming television season. This usually takes place in New York in May.

Last season many of Central Casting's pilots made it to series, including S.W.A.T., Seal Team, Young Sheldon, and the upcoming Good Girls, Rise, and For the People.

What does pilot season mean for Background Actors?

Since there are multiple networks competing for the number one show and viewership, it's no surprise that a lot of time, thought, and money go into these new projects. One of the most exciting aspects of the whole process is the creativity. This is the time for the Background to shine. Whether it's creating a city street in another country or a high concept idea in another world or time period, it's exciting when all the pieces come together to bring scenes alive and fulfill the vision of the creative team.

The best way to prepare for pilot season is to update your online profile.

Not registered with Central Casting? We book hundreds of Background Actors each day in pilots, series, features, and many other kinds of media. Register with one of our offices in Los Angeles, New York, Georgia, or Louisiana to be cast in our projects.

This is the most exciting time of the year for actors, writers, producers, and directors alike working in the world of television. March and April will be very busy as some of our best clients will be bringing us their pilots. Keep an eye on your phone and our social media sites for your chance to get cast in one of our pilots!

Which 2017 pilot cast by Central Casting is your favorite?

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By Chris Bustard

Article Category:

Industry Essentials