SOUTH OF NOWHERE: REDEMPTION
Television Development 101
Hi everyone, Nancylee here… First of all, on behalf of myself, Matt, Mandy, Maeve and all of the amazing cast members and those behind the scenes who brought you South of Nowhere and our recent efforts to revive the show – THANK YOU! Our fans have been incredible. Faithful. Insightful. Encouraging. And have helped keep our SON family together and energized. After the show wrapped it’s original run, you followed us to whatever other projects or paths our careers have taken us. And we have never lost sight of this and so appreciate you coming along.
I wanted to take this opportunity to answer some of your questions about getting a show on the air, or in our case, back up and running. So here’s a quick overview of what we are trying to do with our self produced SON Redemption video and our goals for that. Along with a basics of the development process and how it works, why it takes so long and some of the obstacles along the way.
And more importantly, to show you how hard it is to get a show on TV. It’s like winning the lottery. Hundreds of pitches and scripts get bought by the networks each year. Out of those scripts the networks shoot very few. Only to put a handful on the air. It can take sometimes up to two years just to go all the way and not have your show even get shot. Which is why writers are always turning out new material, getting it out there, hoping our number will come up. If you are lucky enough to get a show on the air and it’s a hit for that network, then it’s much easier to get your next shows on the air -- the networks hoping to capture lightning in a bottle again and bring your audience with it.
Here is the path we are on with the SON movie/series --
Several months ago, Matt, Mandy, Maeve, Paige and myself were talking about this great energy that seemed to be circling around some version of South again. That no matter what project we were promoting, or convention or event we were at, everyone who approached us had something positive and personal to say about South Of Nowhere. We started talking about the pluses of doing a movie – 5 years later, and get a chance to give the characters some closure or launch a new chapter in their lives.
However, we had some steep obstacles in play. I did not create the characters, Tom Lynch did. It was his history and success with kids and young adult TV that got that show sold to a network. And he was kind enough to trust me with his show and characters when he hired me to write and run the show. But for me to create something new with his characters means I would need his permission and/or collaboration to use them in some other context. This was the smallest of issues. Tommy and I have worked on two other pilots since SON – one for Nick and one for ABC Family (neither of which made it on the air). And we were always looking for something else to do together and we loved our SON experience and family.
In the bigger legal scheme of things – while Tommy created the characters and gets royalties for that, he sold the show to Viacom for The N network. So we would have to take the new show or movie to Viacom as they own the original series. They have the first right to the show. If they didn’t want it, they would have to be willing to license it to another network. Highly unlikely. But Viacom is huge and owns a ton of networks and various brands. Good for us they own Teen Nick and more importantly, MTV – where SON was in reruns after The N evolved into Teen Nick.
It used to be easy to sell a movie to a network as a “back door pilot.” Meaning if the movie does well on a network, you have just essentially tested it and can use that movie as the “pilot.” But most networks moved away from the movie to series franchise years ago. With the exception lately of CBS, Lifetime and MTV… Hello?! MTV! Now things were looking a little better on that side for us. MTV is now being helmed by a terrific and inspired man who has a positive history with both Tommy and myself. Not to mention, so many of the SON cast members have been auditioning for and doing shows with MTV lately, so they were very visible there and perfect for what MTV is turning out right now.
See where we going here?
Okay, so we had a plan that could work legally for us. Our next move was to come up with a pitch for what that movie might be and where the characters might be going. We spent some time working on that, talking about movies that resonated with the teen and 20 something audiences recently and over the years. Jumping the SON world ahead 5 years, thinking about an event that would bring everyone together, give us some drama and a place to go if it became a series. As we started to prepare a pitch, first to take to Tommy and then to the network, we decided to showcase our pitch in a bigger more visual way. Rather than just walk in the door with several pages and explain the story, we decided to produce a teaser of what the movie might be – but more importantly to show the network the faces, and the performances behind the characters.
I started writing, Matt started pulling the cast together, while we all worked on the producing the shoot during a very small window that Paige and I would be back in California. (We were headed to Dinah to promote Cowgirl Up – Yee ha!). Everyone we asked who was available showed up. And brought their A game. Long hours, working for free and for the love of this show and this family, we created the Redemption video that you all have been supporting.
A couple of days later we met with Tommy and surprised him with our idea and the video. It was an awesome meeting and reunion! Tommy had also been thinking about what was next for SON in all kinds of incarnations. And he was heading to MTV with a another pitch and thought it was also a great place and good timing for SON, as well.
The Precarious Pitch --
After that meeting, our Redemption gang decided that we would get you fans involved with the pitch process. Hoping that it would give Tommy some extra energy and show MTV that they already had a loyal fanbase who would show up for South Of Nowhere again. Twitter with instant feedback became the street we were taking our message to. You Tube became our network and place to track the traffic.
You all have been amazing – keeping the video hits and numbers climbing. Talking about what SON meant to you. Discussing the characters and what’s next for them. Basically blowing life again into this series. And when Tommy actually gets the opportunity to talk to the powers that be at MTV, we know that your voice will be a big selling point.
1) Pitch the idea 2) Sell the script 3) Shoot the Pilot 4) Testing 5) Pick-up 6) Broadcast and STAY ON THE AIR…. Start all over again.
Remember when I said networks hear hundreds of pitches in any given development season? All while running the day to day of the network and shows already in production and on the air. If you are someone like Tommy who is running his own production company and who has a huge track record for getting shows on the air, you actually get to talk to the President of the network along with the development team vs. a development representative who hears the pitch then “pitches it upstairs” to the head of the network. The fact that Tommy gets the head of the network in the pitch is the best case scenario. As you will know pretty quick the possibility of your pilot getting bought. But both Tommy and the network President are involved in so many other issues on any given day, it’s not unusual for a meeting to get moved. Then trying to reschedule for two very busy people is always a challenge. That’s why the SON meeting has been moved so many times.
Thank you for all your patience – understand that when Tommy gets in the room he may or may not pitch SON Redemption on that day. He has other projects to pitch, as well, and he’ll use his judgment on the timing and openness of the situation for SON. However, on the chance that he does, we will be on Twitter rallying the troops, showing MTV how much we love South of Nowhere. To that end, I’ll be doing follow up with MTV and circling around other scenarios for the cast we love to be involved in a project together.
This concludes your Television Development Class for the day. I promise now to return to some more interesting writing for your future entertainment.
Nancylee and your South of Nowhere family