The news in case you missed it: my horror novel NOCTURNAL is being pitched as a TV series. There, I said it. And yes, it’s true.
And as of Monday, July 8, it’s on like Donkey Kong. The pitching part, I mean. No gold-plated Ferrari for me just yet.
But I’m sure you’re thinking, “Okay, Scott, while we know you’re are devilishly good-looking and you have that luxurious head of hair, I don’t really understand what it means to pitch a TV show. Does that mean I can download the first episode from Pirate Bay tomorrow?”
The answer to that question is “no,” but it does bring up the point that the world of TV is mysterious at best. I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far, what we’ve done up to this point, and what happens from here on out.
NOTE: I am not an expert in the field of television. Get that through your skulls right now, suckas.
WHO IS RUNNING THIS SHOW?
The culprit’s name is Lloyd Levin. He’s a producer. You may know him from the handful of little independent flicks he produced, like HELLBOY, HELLBOY II, BOOGIE NIGHTS, THE WATCHMEN and EVENT HORIZON (I’d list more, but since you’ve never heard of those five flicks, what’s the point?). ARealGirl and I have met Lloyd several times, talked to him on the phone and exchanged more email than a Washington whistle-blower. He’s a damn good cat. As a crazy fan of HELLBOY and HELLBOY II alone, I couldn’t be more excited. This dude knows how to produce monster stories.
HOW THIS ALL STARTED:
Lloyd read NOCTURNAL in April of last year, and loved it. He initially wanted to option it for a movie. The more we talked, the more it became clear that to tell the story correctly, we need more than two hours. He asked if I was open to making it a TV series. This is a Golden Age of TV, if you ask me, with amazing long-form storytelling like BREAKING BAD, GAME OF THRONES, DEXTER and many more, showing that a 12-hour story is far more powerful than a 2-hour story. So I said, “hell yes.” And thus began the arduous process of creating the “Series Bible.” What’s that, you ask? Why that is …
THE SERIES BIBLE:
What’s a “Series Bible?” Wikipedia has a little info on them. For us, it is a cohesive, 60-page document that covers the mythos of NOCTURNAL. Historical timeline, plot, character bios, setting, theme & tone, that’s all in there. It also contains detailed synopses for the first season’s twelve episodes, and a page each for Seasons Two through Four.
Right now, the bible is the main tool for the pitch. Lloyd is showing it to network execs to illustrate that this isn’t just some loose idea for a show. I worked closely with Lloyd and the screenwriters (see below) to make a document that lets him communicate the grand vision of where this thing can go. When Lloyd goes a-knockin’ on network doors, he takes the series bible, some fucking amazing drawings by an are-you-kidding-me-with-this artist (see below) and the pilot script. Speaking of pilot scripts …
THE PILOT SCRIPT:
Yes, we have a finished script for the one-hour pilot, which is likely also the first episode of the series. The screenwriters of the pilot are Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo. These guys created THE SENTINEL, a TV series that ran on UPN from 1996 to 1999. So, yeah, the writers of NOCTURNAL have a pedigree — they are made guys. They’ve done this dance before.
They are also cool as all get out. This process has been amazing. As a writer, you hear all of these horror stories about what happens when you option your intellectual property and other people carve it up like Wile E . Coyote would carve up the Roadrunner (if he could ever get his hands on that filthy piece of fowl, that is). That hasn’t been my experience with NOCTURNAL.
During all phases of this project, Lloyd, Danny and Paul start with me, as in, “Scott, we have to adjust this part for X reason — as the creator, what are your thoughts?” I give my thoughts, and they try to make it work. Sometimes they can’t and have to do something else. Or, more often than not, my thoughts give them ideas, which they bounce off of me, which gives me ideas that I bounce off of them, which then gives them ideas, and so on, until the end result is something really quite fantastic.
A TV show is not a novel. They are different things. Lloyd required specific changes to make the story appealing to networks. That’s the biz. Other elements of the book just flat-out didn’t fit into the 12-hour timeframe. That’s also the biz. Again, a TV show is not a novel. If this series gets made, you will see a bazillion changes to the original story. But at this point, I have the luxury of approving every single change. I can’t tell you how amazing that feels, or how lucky I am to have that kind of input.
Keep in mind: we don’t have a network yet. When the people who write the checks get their hands on this, they may request (or demand) significant changes. There is no way to account for that right now. There is no way of knowing if I’ll have any say. I hope so, and Lloyd is confident we’ll manage that process, but he who has the gold makes the rules.
But Scott, why didn’t you write the pilot? You are awesome and your farts smell like flowers. Because I’m a novelist. Danny and Paul are scriptwriters. Those are very different disciplines. Will I write an episode? I sure as hell hope so, but only after watching what they do and learning as much as I can. Remember I told you about their pedigree? In a pitch, that matters. Executives want to know they are spending millions of dollars on proven talent. Danny & Paul made a show that ran three seasons. I haven’t. End of story.
Wayne Barlowe is awesome. He’s done creature design for some of the biggest movies of all time, including GALAXY QUEST, HELLBOY, HELLBOY II and AVATAR. He’s also the lead creature designer for PACIFIC RIM (which I haven’t see yet at the time I write this post, but man am I geeked for it).
Lloyd brought Wayne in to do creature-design sketches for the NOCTURNAL TV show pitch. Hoooo mama, that just makes my head spin. I got permission to post his take on “Pierre,” (top right) one of Marie’s Children from the novel.
When I was a kid, I had a book called Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials (a page of which is pictured at right). I loved that book. So now to think that the Wayne Barlowe is drawing pictures of my creatures? Super-crazy-awesome and, quite frankly, I don’t really know how to handle it. It makes me all flush in the face.
Let me put it to you this way: Wayne is perfect for bringing Marie’s Children to life. I’m like a kid at Christmas with all of this. And if you think Pierre is sweet, dude and dudettes, you should see Mommy. Oy. The drawing makes me cringe, and I invented her. And no, you can’t see her. I have to keep something hidden away to whet your appetites (although after one sees her, one usually has no appetite whatsoever).
Why am I talking about all this now? Because “Pitch Season” starts up on July 5th of every year. The network peeps like to take the Fourth of July to recuperate (or make sacrifices to the Old Ones, I’m not really sure). After the July 4th weekend, they get crack-a-lackin’ on looking at new shows. This year, that day fell on July 8, which was Monday.
As I mentioned, I don’t know much about any of this. Look up Pitch Season if you like. I’m telling you what I have learned thus far. I’m not in these meetings, Lloyd is. I like to think he wears a robe, waves his hand and says, “this is the show you’ve been looking for,” and that’s all there is too it.
WHAT NOW? AND WHEN DO YOU SHOOT THAT JOHNSON’S BABY SHAMPOO COMMERCIAL?
Now Lloyd does what Lloyd does, which is pitch. The goal is the get a network or production company to pay for the pilot. That would move us to “Pilot Season,” which is a whole different animal. In a perfect world, someone at a network would say “holy crap, this is the show I’ve been looking for!” and sign off on the entire first season.
We don’t live in a perfect world, so we’ll see.
And I shoot that shampoo commercial in 2014, because my scalp is so baby soft it makes the angels weep.
THAT’S ABOUT ALL I’VE GOT TO SAY ABOUT THAT:
All of that work above, a year’s worth of back-and-forth, of dozens of revisions on the series bible, of creating art and reviewing the script, it all comes down to, well, to now. Lloyd is out having fancy meetings and pimpin’ the Sigler goods to several networks, including one or two that will really surprise you if they pick up the show. I can’t talk about that, unfortunately.
I’ll be crossing my fingers. You cross yours, too.