NOCTURNAL TV series: what’s happening now

Or, "How a Novel Gets Turned Into a Series, Part One."

Pierre says "hello"

"Pierre" by Wayne Barlowe

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 …

Series Bible image

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.

Nocturnal Script Image Page One

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.

THE ARTIST:
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).

Barlowe's Guide to ExtraterrestrialsLloyd 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).

PITCH SEASON:
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.

Comments

  1. Markus Roder

    Scott,

    Does it have to be a network or would you be willing to pull a “House of Cards” and give this as an exclusive to a VoD platform? We have about 20 million viewsers over here at Viewster.com and we are looking to make our first “Viewster Original Series”.

    Contact me via the Email address here – or via Facebook, where we are friends (You might remember me as the guy who sent chocolate when I was still doing Marketing for Ritter Sport).

  2. scottsigler

    @CyberCowboyNope, nothing right now, but thank you. We’ll have to wait and see if a network bites, then there might be stuff we can all do. 

  3. CyberCowboy

    I know I’m late for the party, but is there anything we as Junkie’s can do to help? would sending e-mails to network saying we want to see this help?  

  4. BukaHobbit

    Holy Schnikies! Wayne Barlowe is one of the best. I’d pleasure a cranky Ki to see him render the alien races from the GFL series. Oops, I think I just had a nerdgasam. I gotta go clean up.

  5. I_Am_Sephiroth

    With Dexter ending this year I will need a replacement to fill my dvr. hope it happens and cant wait. cant wait for more ficton from you. just reread all the gfl series and novelas now im starting on the infected series in preparation for pandemic.

  6. fluffyMcFlufferson

    This is wonderful news! I hope you get to keep all the names the same! ….*nudge nudge*

  7. Wyll

    This is almost too awesome for words. I give you a hearty thumbs up, sir and wish you all the best in this adventure!

    Regardless of the outcome, no one can take away from you the fact you got to PITCH ONE OF YOUR WORKS. Hell, I think I would be happy if a local community theatre would run one of my stories as a oen act play for a week.

    Hopefully, my friend, this is the first of many pitches. Just remember us when you are in L.A. laying poolside at your mansion and wondering what the common folk are doing.

  8. GeeRace

    Stop playing!!! No way!!! SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!!!!!! Don’t care where it shows, HBO, Showtime I don’t care. I’ll just have to put my foot down and tell the wife “MAKE ROOM IN THE BUDGET NOOOOWWWW!!!! love you”

  9. karlequin

    Much as I love your GFL series, I still think Nocturnal is the best thing you’ve done (although I love Kissyman too!). If this gets made into a series I’ll probably shit myself with happiness. Good luck my FDO!

  10. tsolo888

    Thanks for the update Scott, I’m keeping my fingers crossed as well as sacrficeing a couple chikens just in case.  I’m saving the human sacrafices for the Crypt movie deal.

  11. Ivor

    It’s nice to have a look in the kitchen of getting a television show up and running. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed (yes, I do have the XXY chromosome…)

  12. Gatorrock

    Sweeeeeeeeeet! I just hope it works out soon.  If nothing else I think a Saturday morning cartoon series of Nocturnal would work.  Got to start this next generation young!  Plus could you imagine a Barlowe animated series?!

  13. Nelzone

    Great News Scott and A – hoping you get to pilot season and beyond. I would love to see Nocturnal on my tv. Onward and upward, here come the plaid tanks! 

    Cheers!

  14. scottsigler

    @NerdGasm: So you’re saying that NOCTURNAL is equal to football? Oy, that’s high praise!

  15. NerdGasm

    YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!! I am so excited! SQUEE! I can hardly wait! Of course, this show would probably give me nightmares, but nothing worse than that sketch of Pierre up top…right?

    Also, for the record, I would actually turn on the TV and watch this. Which is huge, because we pretty much only turn on the TV for DVDs and football in our house.

  16. Octopon

    I have a little insider info on this: 

    Pitch season is key. If you want to hear about how weird this world is, look up how long it took Seinfeld to get going. They shot the pilot, and it was two years before they had a real season, but that was a sitcom that was going up against Cheers at the time. To me, Nocturnal would be a great TNT or HBO series. 

    Once the pilot gets made, then it gets aired. If it does well, then the network needs to order episodes, and it’s up to them how many they order. I’ve seen orders for 6, 9, or 12 episodes…and if you’re really lucky…15. For the execs it’s all about making money, so I think being on one of the big three networks is probably unlikely, because Nocturnal takes more brains then those networks have. 

    If I were you, Scott, I’d shoot for OWN or the Lifetime network. Those two have the widest audiences and bring in the biggest ratings of any network….

    Seriously..I’m seeing this on TNT or HBO…maybe AMC. The reason? Those networks have popular shows with the same kinds of cult followings already built in like you have. The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, Revolution (the worst show on TV that I can’t stop watching) and Game of Thrones. AND, once one season finished on one of those shows, the next show starts up. If you were able to get Nocturnal squeezed in there so you aren’t competing against them, that would be great. 

    Here’s one thing to find out:

    When someone DVR’s a show, does that count in the ratings? We DVR pretty much every show we watch because we are never able to watch it when it is on (we have 4 small kids). I hope it does, because when Nocturnal makes it to TV, I’ll most likely have to DVR it. 

    GOOD LUCK SCOTT. AFTER THIS, THEN THEY NEED TO DO A GFL TV SERIES. 

  17. Gmork

    This is beyond badass! I would love to see NOCTURNAL on TV, both for the visualization of the creatures and to see buddy cops Pookie and Brian doing their thing *squee*

    As serialized TV, I could see this mofo having more cliffhangers and shocking moments than GAME OF THRONES. The Red Wedding has nothing on Mommy.

    Really pulling for you and A, that this thing becomes a reality.  Go team FDO!

  18. eweidner

    My fingers are officially crossed for you. Well, they’re uncrossed because I’m typing, but I’m imagining them as crossed. In truth I may never actually cross them. But it’s the thought that counts!

  19. scottsigler

    @Artificial_Selection: I hear what you’re saying. I’ve put in the blue collar effort on this and done everything the team wanted and more, but through it all I’ve had this “well, at least we learn how a pitch is prepared” attitude. But writing this post and looking at the talent involved with fresh eyes, it does make he hopeful.

  20. scottsigler

    @Brian_: Yes, the producer is looking into them. I don’t care about cache, to be honest. I am hoping for a network that loves the content and wants to partner up to make something really special. 

  21. Artificial_Selection

    Awesome!  I love reading the details of the process you can share.  Holy shitsnacks!  I can’t believe Wayne Barlowe is drawing Marie’s Children!  I have a copy of Barlowe’s Guide on my bookshelf right now!  His Pierre is AMAZEBALLS!  So good!

    I was stoked to hear that you guys were legitimately pitching NOCTURNAL as a TV series, but now that I know who your teammates are in this endeavor, I’m officially geek-excited about the possibilities.  I know it’s a long process with precisely zero guarantees, but hoo-boy, here’s hoping some TV exec sees this pitch for the opportunity it is.

     

    – Josh 

  22. Brian_

    Awesome stuff, hope you guys succeed.  Are you looking at new players like Netflix and Amazon as well?  I know they don’t have the same cacheadds NBC or HBO, but they may be more willing to take the risk and easier to work with.