If you sell your pilot, does the studio own it and can they later revise it without you? Well, first of all, anytime you sell anything, it’s no longer yours. If you have a classic car that you’ve pampered for 100 years and you finally sell it and the new owner takes it to a bridge and drives it off the bridge and immediately destroys it intentionally, that’s their choice. It’s their car. They could do whatever they want. Same thing with a pilot. You sold it, you got some money in exchange, even Steven. That said, I don’t know of any instances where a writer sold a pilot to a studio and the studio said, “Okay, we don’t really like this writer anymore. Let’s get a new writer to do it.” It just doesn’t happen. I’ve never heard that happen.

What sometimes does happen is, let’s say the studio has an open writing assignment, it’s their idea and they’re looking for writers to write this project. And then you sell it and the writer doesn’t do a good job. Then maybe next season they’ll hire a new writer to basically do a different version of their idea. But then again, it’s their idea, it’s the studio’s idea, so you really can’t complain about it. Also, what happens sometimes is let’s say you have a pilot, it gets onto the air and you’re running it, and the studio is not happy with the direction of the show, or the creative direction, or they’re not happy with the ratings or the writing, they can fire the showrunner off his or her own show and hire a new showrunner to replace them. So, that does happen. But, when that does happen, you will still retain a small ownership piece of the show. You’ll get a smaller salary. You won’t get as much as if you were still writing, but you’ll get a small taste.

Those are all good questions. Thank you for sending them in. For more on what it’s like to be a professional TV writer and how to break in, please subscribe, comment, like, do all that stuff that they tell you to do on YouTube. I don’t want to have to say it. I sound stupid every time I say it. But do it anyway. Thank you. @MichaelJaminWriter.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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