Step 3: Hurry up and wait
by Dave Addison
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you haven’t already read Step 1 and/or Step 2 of Dave’s exclusive series — “Selling a Pilot” — do yourself a favor and take a look before reading the latest installment. Hilarity ensues, along with some pretty priceless advice.
Hey people, Dave Addison back with more exciting news from the network regarding my sold pilot. I’ve heard… NOTHING! Been sitting on my butt all week waiting to get my notes so I can ‘go to outline’ which is exactly what you’d expect – a blow by blow breakdown of every scene. But to move ahead without the formal go-ahead is futile so all I can do is wait and fume and bitch to you about it.
Why the hold-up? Because the network is busy with the two pilots they developed last year that have been picked up to ‘go to series’ and now they’re busy trying to staff these shows with underpaid but very talented writers.
This is exactly why I’m a big advocate of selling at least two pilots at the same time. So, if one is being held up, at least your other one is moving ahead.
This is called ‘plate spinning’. Like that Romanian guy on the Ed Sullivan Show with all those plates spinning on poles. (And don’t ask who Ed Sullivan is cause that’ll depress me more than I am.)
So, while I wait for my notes, here’s a great plate-spinning story that happened to me in the ‘90’s. (And don’t ask me what the 90’s were like or I may be forced to kill you.) I was running a show on ABC starring a very talented comedienne whom I can’t name. But I can tell you she has since gone on to get her own talk show, host the Oscars, shut down Twitter and marry a woman whose parents were obviously big German car freaks. Now most writers would be content to work for this person – let’s call her Schmellon. It’s hard work and long hours. But I am a plate-spinner. Some babies are born with a silver spoon in their mouth; I was born with a plate in my head. Well, not in my “head” head, but you get the point.
So, when I got a call from my agent asking me to meet with another famous actress to possibly write her pilot, too – I happily agreed. I can’t tell you her name either, but she’s funny and broad and sang at the Oscars. Let’s call her Schmett Fiddler. I remember sneaking out of my office at Schmellon and driving to another studio to meet with Schmett. Was this legal to work on both projects? Yup. But certainly not kosher.
On weekends, Schmett and I would brainstorm at her stunning home in the hills where she made me lunch and sang to me and walked me through her beloved garden full of roses. We sold her pilot to CBS and I wrote it in secrecy with every free moment I had, determined not to let my real job suffer. And by the way, I also had two small children to contend with at home. Thank God for my nanny, Schmosalita. (I really can’t mention her name – they may deport her!)
I remember flying in the HBO private jet to see Schmett’s one-woman show in Vegas. Plate-spinning can be very exciting – the adrenaline, the money, the high stakes are all very intoxicating – albeit exhausting. In the end, Schmett’s pilot was taken from me and handed to another writer and then to another and then to another before it finally slipped into a network coma and died a miserable death.
And you know what? I was thrilled to be off that rocket ship. I never wanted to spin another plate. All I wanted to do was go home and wash the ones my kids had left in the sink from a dinner my nanny had cooked that I wasn’t even home to enjoy.
Later. Dave.Tags: Dave Addison, Entertainment industry, Hollywood, Hollywood behind the scenes, Selling a television pilot, Television, Work-life balance