While closing one of your previous articles, you mentioned “the onset of hiatus or the start of pilot season.” Could you please spell out what those times are? For example, when do they start shooting pilots? Or, when is it a good season for commercials?
Ah yes, when is Pilot Season?!? You hear people refer to “pilot season,” “episodic season,” and “hiatus,” all the time, but rarely will anyone follow those terms with the actual dates. Here’s your general timeline, and this goes mainly for Los Angeles, but there is a ripple effect of this timeline within all major markets of the entertainment industry (New York, Chicago, Vancouver) as well as an impact in the minor markets (Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, Dallas, Seattle, Toronto). Also note that, even if we’re looking at the feature film world, the television “seasons” have an effect on the pace of production.
Pilot Season starts up after Hollywood returns from the Sundance Film Festival (late-January) and goes through mid-April. This is when the majority of television pilots for the following Fall TV Season are cast and shot, regardless of whether they will be picked up and aired in the fall. By late April, things slow down significantly until just after the July 4th holiday. Early July is when Episodic Season begins. Actors whose series have been picked up based on the pilots shot during Pilot Season and the work done during Upfronts in May will begin shooting the episodes that will air during the Fall TV Season. There will always be some recasting of pilots taking place at this point, but this is still considered Episodic Season, and it stretches through to October. The period of time just before Thanksgiving through early January is considered Hiatus. Although there will be some work in episodic casting happening (Stunt Casting for January Sweeps is one major bit of work in this period) this is generally when television production slows to a halt and those who take vacations try to get away from it all before the hectic pace resumes in January.
The impact in other markets of the Hollywood TV Production Seasons comes from the availability of production personnel, CDs, directors, and Los Angeles-based actors who schedule their work in other markets based on these “seasons.”
CDs who work on commercials and feature films will be at work all along, but the TV production and casting schedule definitely impacts the rest of the casting world. It is more difficult to schedule actors for auditions during Pilot Season, as they are trying to see five or six different CDs a day sometimes. You may find, as an actor, that you’re in a commercial CD’s waiting room hearing the assistants complain about the number of actors running behind due to pilots they’re going out for simultaneously. Pilot Season is felt by everyone. Of course, it is also difficult to get actors in during Hiatus, since so many choose to take a vacation during that window. Many actors I know who have booked some amazing gigs have done so simply by being available when everyone else seems to have left town.
Keep in mind that the proliferation of original cable series has shifted the timeline a bit. While network television still dictates the traditional seasons, as they’ve been known in Hollywood for decades, there are far more pilots being shot in “non-traditional” periods of time, since original cable series don’t tend to start up only in the Fall.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Keep the questions coming!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000055.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.