What If the Pilot I Worked on Never Airs?

Pilot Season
Pilot Season

Vashti writes in:

I was a PA on a pilot last month, but I still haven’t been told if it will become a series. What happens if it doesn’t? Will I get to work on a different series? If not, can I even put it on my resume? There isn’t even an IMDb page for it.

Most shows don’t find out if they’re picked up1 until the Upfronts. That’s when the networks announce their fall schedules to advertisers, and try to sell ad time “upfront.” This year, they begin May 15th, so your question is rather timely.

As for your specific situation, I’ve got bad news and worse news…

The Bad News

Networks produce way more pilots than series. The odds are against any one show making it to air. And no, you won’t get transferred to another series. Remember, you don’t work for the network or the studio; you work for the show.

The Worse News

Even if the show is picked up, that doesn’t mean you are. Producers and actors are regularly replaced between the pilot and the series. What chance does a humble PA have?

Not only is your boss at liberty to replace you, their boss might replace them. Likely, you came as a package deal with the AD or coordinator who hired you. You might be out of a gig through no fault of your own.

The Slightly Less Bad But Still Not Really “Good” News

Let’s suppose either of the above scenarios occurs. The pilot might not ever see the light of day, and even if it does, odds are slim your name will be in the credits. Can you still put it in your resume?

Yes.

Every job you’ve ever had goes on your resume, no matter what IMDb says (as long as it fits on one page). It’s not your fault the pilot didn’t get picked up.

It’s sad when your pilot doesn’t become a series, but don’t focus on the bad news. You got some valuable experience out of the deal, possibly made some friends along the way. All of that will help you land your next gig.

Unless there’s another writers strike, and then we’re all screwed.


You might be wondering why this blog has been on hiatus for a little while. Well, it’s because I haven’t been on hiatus. Between the show I’m on (fingers crossed it gets renewed) and the TAPA book, I haven’t had a ton of free time to just blog.

I suppose it would be easier if there was someone else to write the blog with. If anyone’s interested in taking up some of the slack, shoot me an email: anonymousproductionassistant@gmail.com. If you’ve got a funny anecdote or some sage advice you’d like to share with the world, I’d be happy to get it out there.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. The industry term for a pilot being ordered to series.
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4 Comments

  1. You are neglecting to answer the main question: what the heck is up with the “Entry Level Hollywood” ads? Nobody with an ounce of sense or experience in the entertainment industry would ever suggest that it’s a good idea to pay for a “service” like that. TAPA used to be the place to go for people to get good advice and learn NOT to pay for stuff like that.

    I see that you have closed comments on the dubious “Hustle” post – I suppose you didn’t like getting called out on your advertising an obvious scam? Are you going to answer for yourself? What happened to this site?

    • I didn’t close the comments; apparently, my new(ish) WordPress theme flipped a setting to close comments after 28 days. If you had clicked back even one article, you would’ve found that those comments were closed, too. Thanks for (inadvertantly) calling this to my attention, but you should probably apply Hanlon’s Razor next time.

      If “all the ads” refers to the sidebar, well, advertising is what keeps the lights on for the website. Most websites use ads; not sure why you think TAPA should be different.

      I’ve talked to several of Kate’s clients, and they seem satisfied with the service. More to the point, she also offered a bunch of free services at the time. Checking her website now, that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I may have to revist the subject.

      As for Kate’s guest post, well… most of it is general advice that new readers could use. Yeah, she also plugs her own service, but that’s why people write guest posts in the first place.

      It was unfortunate that I took my break right after Kate’s post, because that left the guest post at the front page of the website for a while. I probably shouldn’t have done that. But, there’s still eight years’ worth of back catalogue to read. It’s not like there’s a dearth of information.

      Lastly, regarding “answering for myself,” that’s kind of an entitled tone to take with someone who’s giving you advice and entertainment for free. The smart thing to have done, from a marketing standpoint, would have been to not address the topic at all. I was being extremely open by even broaching the subject.

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