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Written by Rob Schultz (human).

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Frequency Earth 108: Robotic Arms

Another one of our pipe dreams in creating this show was that in knowing we had all of electronic media history to play in, we could tune into the other shows our friends were making. We wanted to do a broadcast involving the characters of Doc Mock’s Movie Mausoleum, we traded a dozen emails with the pre-televised Birthday Boys, we made a few gentlemanly passes at the Alexes of Smug Rock Nation. The only one that didn’t turn into a smoldering hole in our production calendar was Diani & Devine, whose Wedding Witch graces episode 108.

Back to School is also an interesting segment because I had nothing to do with it, no input, I just heard it as a final piece in the show. I don’t think we can say that about anything else so far. Oh, except for all the Z-Rob. We once deep-sixed a Z-Rob segment for taking aim at one of our fans, who wrote in to say she didn’t appreciate all the Z-Rob.

Enough reminiscing about the past, let us reminisce of the future! Join us on 9/29 for our live taping at the Pack Theater! We’ll be giving you a preview of our new series, and an opportunity to be a part of the show!

Making a Sellable Pilot, Part 1: Finding Your Subject

As I learned from this Deadline article the other day, a pilot presentation I produced last year was recently picked up by TruTV as a series for 2017.  Exciting times!  I can't tell you everything about how to make selling a show happen for you; it probably requires agents and managers and famous people and secret backroom deals that I don't know anything about. But I can tell you how to produce a pilot presentation that's good enough to get a production company to spend money on a studio pilot that's good enough to get TruTV to spend money on a season of your show.  

Today I'm going to talk about finding a subject for your show, which is mostly how I got involved with making this pilot. Tomorrow we'll talk about shooting, Thursday it'll be post-production, and Friday will be business.  The nuts and bolts stuff I'd probably like reading about will be on those middle days.

Chapter 1: Someone tell me what to make a TV show about!

Tip 1: Know what you do.

In college, I produced three seasons of a talk show about hockey.  I don't particularly care about hockey, but I don't need to. The presenters know plenty, and they're the ones having the discussion.  So they talk and I arrange cameras and lights and sound and graphics, and we meet in the middle on the gun battles and cliffhanger endings and other silly stuff that goes into me making a talk show.

Even though I like writing things, I already have experience building up the scaffolding of a video production around a core of an existing act.

I had seen Talk Show the Game Show on stage at least a dozen times, in various theaters, with various lineups of guests and judges and scorekeepers. Guy Branum and Casey Schreiner have refined their show over lots of performances, and they don't need me to tell them how to do it. The stage show was already honed and there was no reason it couldn't move to TV, at least in my opinion. Most importantly, for some crazy reason, nobody had already done this! 

The tip here is the same thing a lot of indie filmmakers say: figure out what you've already got access to for free production value. In my case, this seemed like a perfect pitch: I didn't need to develop or meddle with the content of the show, which the performers would be happy about.  I just needed to make a recording that shows someone('s assistant) in an office somewhere how much people like this thing, and how much everyone will like them if they put it on TV.

What I do is turn the crank on the video-making machinery.

Tip 2: Strategize, but don't delay.

Unfortunately, the next step is a little bit like Steve Martin's "First, get a million dollars." The legwork you need to do to get a project rolling is going to be different every time. Maybe you need to get writing, maybe you need to seek funding, or start casting rich housewives. 

In 2015, I performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. So did Guy Branum. Even though I had already run into Guy a bunch of times in Los Angeles, and he'd performed on shows that I produced or hosted, it seemed like a great chance to chat with him as a peer. (I have this idea that you meet people as either a fan or a peer, and it's difficult for everyone if they get too muddled.)

The festival rented out a video arcade to entertain the comics one afternoon, and we walked there together from the hotel. I re-introduced myself (the less-famous comedian may as well get used to introducing and re-introducing themselves without taking it personally. We all look the same.) and we talked careers for a mile.  How do you get writing packets to submit to shows, what other festivals are worth doing, and oh, by the way, how come nobody has ever made a TV show out of your great stage show? Did you know I happen to have the resources to do a good job of that?

The number one thing I needed was for Guy to be interested. If it turned out he had a deal already or was happy with his other TV jobs and didn't want to adapt TSGS then the project would have been dead in the water for me. 

Tip 3: Talk to people. 

It's okay to tell people what you're up to. Nobody is going to steal your idea. Most people don't have enough passion or drive to make their own ideas, and those that do are too busy. Besides all that, you don't know who can help you, and neither do they unless they know you need help. After Bridgetown in May, I went home to Los Angeles and Guy went to New York to write shows for Billy Eichner. My plan to shoot a Talk Show the Game Show performance was useless without anyone in town doing one.

By September, Guy Branum forgot all about our conversation. When he ran into my comedy show producing partner, Jason Van Glass, and invited him to a Talk Show the Game Show happening that week, Jason was able to connect those dots and remind Guy that there was someone who wanted to shoot his show.

Probably, what would have happened is I would have gone to see the show and tried to make plans to shoot the next one. And then our schedules wouldn't've lined up and we'd delay, and then one of us would be out of town and missed the next one, on and on. Instead, we cut right to the chase and I had 36 hours to put a shoot together. Find out how that went down tomorrow!


Rob Schultz is an editor, animator, comedian, sometimes even producer. I know, everyone is like, a six-part hyphenate these days, but in almost 20 years of video production I've racked up somewhere around 300 projects. If you'd like help making your thing better, let's talk.

A buddhist walks up to a hot dog vendor…

“A buddhist walks up to a hot dog vendor and says, ‘make me one with everything.’”

I like that joke. it’s not mine, but I say it anytime someone says something to me that sounds like “You do stand-up? Tell me a joke."[1] I heard Robin Williams say it in Bicentennial Man.

Robin Williams has been the almost-exclusive topic of my social media for the past 24 hours. I assume that this is because I’m mainly internet friends with comedians, who are especially traumatized by the news. The one or two people I’m following on twitter who are posting advertisements for their books and kickstarters in the middle of it all seem unusually tone deaf, but it’s probably not their fault.

I mentioned a little while ago about how living in Los Angeles, trying to insinuate myself into the worlds of comedy and film has lead to meeting and working with a surprising number of high school Rob’s heroes. This means that when a family member sees me at Christmas and asks if I’ve ever met anyone famous, I do a quick flip through a mental rolodex of people I’m proud to have met and/or worked with, and then say “nah, not really no.’"[2]

But, I was at UCB in one of the periods when Robin Williams was dropping in at the theater. A bunch of improvisers have been sharing their memories of it on facebook.com. This is what I wrote on such a thread:

I was in that jam too. The scene was between two hairdressers, and he and I were the people getting their hair done, and we read our magazines and didn’t say anything. The hairdressers had some kind of fight or meltdown or killed each other or something, and we were left sitting there. I think maybe I asked him about his kids, and then someone wiped it. There was a later scene where I was trying to point someone in and he didn’t know what I was doing so he shook my hand and I was a little embarrassed that he thought I wanted a handshake in the middle of the set, or maybe at all.

But try explaining UCB’s Long Hard Improv Jam to your aunt in Ohio. “I did a scene on stage with Robin Williams once. We didn’t really meet, but we performed together.”

blink.

“No, not really, no.”


  1. What I really want to do in these moments is murmur “it’s not like thaaaat.” but if the person I’m talking to was going to pick up on a Maria Bamford reference, they wouldn’t’ve been asking in the first place.  ↩

  2. ”You know that lady in those target commercials from a couple years back? We had dinner once. She’s the best.”  ↩