ƒ Curious Travelers Television: My Reality Check at the Travel Channel

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My Reality Check at the Travel Channel

Looking back at it and knowing what I know now it makes perfect sense why the Travel Channel didn't acquire my first program.

Let me digress for a moment. Prior to producing my first television program on spec (ie I spent my own money, something that producers shouldn't normally do if they want to stay in business, but what you have to do when breaking into a new field of production) I had produced three feature films.

Producing three feature films is a great resume if you want to produce a fourth feature film but these were fictional dramatic films, made to be shown in movie theaters. As far as the world of cable television goes, and in particular the Discovery Travel Channel, I had no track record, no experience in non-fictional TV production. If Steven Spielberg had come to the Discovery Travel Channel with a pitch maybe he would get some development money to create a pilot but that's Steven Spielberg. Most filmmakers like myself in the feature film business wouldn't get the time of day, and for good reason. Dramatic filmmaking and documentary filmmaking, particularly formats for cable television, are apples and oranges. Making a dramatic films only implies that you can a television program, it's certainly no guarantee and why should a network take a risk? There are plenty of well established companies with track records that s/he can work with.

A filmmaker deciding to move into a new area of production, whether television, commercials, music videos, feature films, industrials is really starting at the bottom. If you are more established, have a track record in a type of production the client will let you enter the development stage, where you pitch an idea with a treatment, timeline, budget and demo and they'll make a decision on whether they want to take the risk of funding a pilot. Sometimes you don't even have to submit a demo if you have a track record with the network.

Since I didn't have any track record in television production I had no alternative but to bite the bullet and make a program as considerably time and expense and slip in as an acquisition and that's what I did. It's not a conservative move but it's your only option. YOU HAVE TO MAKE SOMETHING, hopefully that fits into their programming needs. If you are an outsider, with insider information on their programming need, you must study program schedules and produce something in a format and subject they already broadcast, so that's what I did. I honed in on the Anthology series format.

Unfortunately their programming needs had changed, as I was soon to find out.