Where Does My Story Fit - TV or Big Screen?
By Larry Brody
~~ Patrick O. asks: How will I know whether my script idea is better suited for television, independents or a major studio? I've seen coverage comments that one idea may be suited for a MOW [Movie of the Week], but how does a writer know this in advance? Whom do I pitch? Patrick X. O., Hollywood, FL
~~ Larry Brody responds: I know a little about TV after over 30 years in it, and what it all boils down to is this: Television movies are more issue-oriented than theatrical features. In many ways, they're more adult -- although the adult themes may end up being watered down. As a rule of thumb, if your script idea is about a burning moral, ethical or legal issue, then it's a good TV idea. If it's action, adventure, comedy or very specific -- this particular person with this particular thing going on in his or her life -- it's probably a better theatrical.
As for pitching MOWs, that's very difficult for a new writer. The networks have lists of acceptable MOW writers, who, of course, are writers who've written for them before. Odds are that even if you get a pitch meeting as a new writer you'll end up being cut off at story, with one of the 'golden boys or girls' getting the shot at the screenplay. The way around this is to do the same thing you would for features -- write the screenplay and try to sell it. Although TV is primarily a development business, more networks, especially cable channels, are willing to buy MOW scripts. Mostly, though, they'll buy them from production companies they do business with, so your next step after writing isn't to send it directly to the network, but to interest a hot TV production company, and get them to option your work and sell it for you.