by Kierston Drier
We are often bombarded with images, messages and notices on social media. When it is flooding to us from every conceivable angle, dissecting the quality within such quantity can be overwhelming. But every once in awhile, some perfect gem surfaces- a piece of information that takes hold of us.
In my case, this gem jumped out of the internet and grabbed me, when Rabia Khan posted about it on a local writers’ Page we are both a part of. The piece? Her newly established The Pilot Project- an academic project where undiscovered writers can have a chance to have their work read by established Industry Professionals. Generously volunteering their time, and hand picked with great thought, these professional writers and showrunners must have produced work that is or has been on air. Their goal is to read your work and give you honest and legitimate feedback. The submitters? The just have a good script.
It was such an amazing opportunity I had to find out more. I contacted Rabia to have a coffee and talk about the project and how it originated. To begin, Rabia Khan herself is a graduate of the Toronto Film School and a professional writer for page and screen, working on both films and novels. I wanted the scoop on how her project got started. At a sunny coffee shop one afternoon we met and she gave me all the details
Khan explained the concept for The Pilot Project began as a response to Canadian writers not having anywhere to take their work. Once a great script has been created, getting it noticed can feel like an impossible task. Yet Khan faced a larger issue: the scripts she was reading weren’t up to the professional Industry standard. She would read scripts with great characters, but little adherence to form. Or she would read wonderful stories with deal breaking formatting issues. The content was there, but the basics were not.
Khan launched her website www.the-pilot-project.simplesite.com, a place where aspiring writers can go to gain tools to help them move their good ideas through the arduous task of adhering to industry standards. From here, The Pilot Project took its full form. Khan began reaching out to established industry professionals and built up a panel of experts. Each expert would be given the script of a selected unknown and asked to read through it and give their most professional feedback.
“One thing I want to acknowledge,” Khan mentioned, “was how incredibly generous this panel is. It is all volunteer, and these are all working professionals. Their donating their time to give raw, honest feedback on the work of the aspiring writers.”
After the panel was selected, the next step was to get submissions. Khan took on the task of reading every submission personally. The submission volume was large and the pool of writers moving forward would not be, so Khan devised a checklist to begin screening the submissions. “It’s very transparent”, she explained, “Everything The Pilot Project is looking for is clearly stated on the website.” She went on to credit her mathematical mind for her diligence is screening the applicants. “This is in no way in accordance with personal tastes in entertainment. It is an academic exercise. The scripts moving forward have to have clear adherence to format and structure.” As soon as a piece failed to meet the checklist, it was put aside. The final scripts were sent into the panel for serious professional feedback.
The Pilot Project was successful. The four scripts that moved forward all got Panel coverage and invaluable feedback. Further, this entire process is completely free. Why wouldn’t every writer throw their ring in the hat? It was time to ask Rabia the big questions.
Who Should Apply To The Pilot Project?
- If you have an original concept that you have developed into a strong half hour or hour pilot.
- You have looked carefully at your piece and the story material is structured solidly.
- It is formatted to proper industry standard and free of spelling or grammatical errors.
- If you have put the work into creating a well polished piece, and are looking for feedback on content and quality of story.
What You Should Prepare
- Review The Pilot Project website and the “Things We Look For” page.
- Remember that the selection process is not personal- it is an academic excercise created with a rigorous industry-based checklist in mind. Only qualified participants are able to advance.
In keeping with the fashion of my last series Inside The Chaos, through FilmArmy, I had to end my coffee with Rabia asking her my usual question: If you could give advice to someone new in the Industry, what would it be?
Rabia thought for a moment, then answered, “If you want in the industry- then get on set, any set! If you are new, and you want to be a writer, write for the audience, not for yourself. And take accountability for that writing. The ending you write must leave the audience feeling what you have asked them to feel.” Then, she adds, “This might sound harsh, but if you’re in film school, then let Film school crush your dreams. Once that has happened, and the ego that is often attached to our work is stripped away, what you have left is you and your work at it’s rawest form- what makes you excited, what makes you happy, what makes you sad. Those things are your inspiration. After that, it’s just you and your hard work.”
If you would like to submit to The Pilot Project, submissions for round two are opening May 15-18 2017. Find all details attached at the website http://www.the-pilot-project.com ”