THIS IS YOUR PILOT SPEAKING
Borys Kit has a good article in the Hollywood Reporter discussing the influx of feature directors to the TV world, noting that this pilot season Spike Lee, Jim Mangold, F. Gary Gray and others are completing small-screen work.
“The perception that TV was a sitcom world and that features provided a more intellectual medium — that distinction is not necessarily the case anymore,” said attorney Gregg Gellman of Barnes Morris Klein Mark Yorn Barnes & Levine, whose crossover clients have included directors like Gavin O’Connor (“Miracle”).
With more and more scripts tackling concepts that challenge traditional formats and genres, feature directors are interested in getting on board, and the TV studios are eager to have them.
The article notes that while feature development can take years, a TV pilot can go from script to screen in six weeks. And for a name director, the financial upside is significant:
One of the biggest reasons for the film director influx is financial. While actual numbers depend on a show’s budget, a director’s leverage and the individual deal made, sources said pilot directors make anywhere from about $100,000 for first-timers to $250,000 for the veterans. Some A-listers might even receive upward of $300,000. Agents surveyed said that the range between the two groups is rather narrow, and some might even complain about the pay. But all agree: The financial upside is massive.
If a pilot goes to series, it can be much more than a one-time payout. If a pilot gets a series order, the director will see a royalty of somewhere between $1,000-$5,000 an episode even if he doesn’t go behind the camera again for any of the episodes.
If a pilot goes to series, a director usually will receive a series sale bonus in the neighborhood of $25,000.
Additionally, a director can get a consulting producer credit or even an executive producer credit that can see a helmer get anywhere from $15,000-$30,000 an episode. Mangold, Berg and Khouri, for example, developed their pilots, so they also are exec producers.
Then there’s the backend. In rare cases where a show develops into a long-running hit such as “ER” or “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” a director-producer potentially can reap massive rewards from syndication and ancillary sales.