What is Pilot Season?

Insights into the industry's busiest time of year by ATC Founder, Carole Dibo

When I was a young actor these two words confounded me. “Pilot Season.”


It seemed everyone but me knew what it was and I felt as if I didn’t have the secret passphrase to get into club of seasoned actors that knew it, understood it, and lived it. I mean, I threw around sentences like “yeah, man, pilot season, I’m so ready”, and, "I hope this pilot season is better than last year”.


In all honestly I had absolutely zero idea of what this was or when it was and I didn’t want to ask for fear of looking…well stupid. If you are feeling a little lost like I was, I've provided some essential know-hows from my own experience with trial-&-error:


SO, WHAT IS EXACTLY IS A TELEVISION PILOT?

A television pilot is one episode of a potential television series that is used to sell the show to a network. During the summer writers pitch their ideas for new shows to networks, in the fall the networks ask for scripts from the pitches they like. In January the networks have chosen the scripts that want to make into pilots. And so it begins...


OKAY, I GOT IT. NOW HOW DOES IT WORK?

In January the rush to cast and produce these pilots begins. In the off season, casting directors have as little as 2-3 days to cast a show whereas during pilot season there is more time to see more actors. That’s the good news but here’s the drill, because producers want to sell their pilot they attempt to fill roles with actors that they know.

CAN I PREPARE FOR PILOT SEASON?

It is rookie move to think that you can compete in pilot season (or in the industry in general) without professional acting training and coaching year-round. Take classes in cold reading, on camera technique and improv, movement, and voice/dialect. Success is preparation-meeting opportunity. Preparing to be an actor is similar to an athlete training for their season.


CAN I AUDITION FOR PILOT SEASON WITHOUT AN AGENT?

Honestly, marketing directly to casting and producers is doable - but without representation you’re missing someone vouching for you that knows you and can speak to your talent. However, if you find something that you think is a good fit send your headshot and resume via email. You never know.



The business of acting is a year-round opportunity, don’t just set your sights on pilot season. Take classes, read plays, see plays and movies, offer yourself up to student filmmakers. Essentially immerse yourself.


Invest in yourself and it will pay off.


-Carole Dibo

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