TV Insights, Observations and Obsessions from the NYTVF
Check out our Q&A series with Fest Founder Terence Gray (and others), designed to provide submitting artists and TV fans with insight to the current development landscape. If you're thinking about submitting to the NYTVF, this is for you.
Richard Keith and Erin Cardillo's scripted series Significant Mother is premiering this summer on The CW.
It was recently announced that NYTVF Alums (and winners of the 2013 FOX Comedy Script Contest) Richard Keith and Erin Cardillo's scripted series Significant Mother is premiering this summer on The CW. In celebration of this great news, the NYTVF sat down with Keith and Cardillo to talk about their new series, get any development advice they have for indie creators, and find out what they're watching on TV:
First off, congratulations on Significant Mother being picked up to series by The CW. What can you tell us about the project?
It stars Josh Zuckerman, Krista Allen, Nathaniel Buzolic, Jonathan Silverman, Emma Fitzpatrick, and Jay Ali. Alloy is producing with Warner Bros. TV and CBS TV Studios for The CW. Zuckerman plays Nate, a budding Portland restaurateur whose world is turned upside down when he comes back from a business trip to find his lothario best friend and roommate, Jimmy (Buzolic), dating his recently separated mother, Lydia (Allen). To make matters worse, Nate's previously disinterested dad, Harrison (Silverman), is determined to win Lydia back and isn't afraid to use Nate to get what he wants. Stuck between his family feud and his best friend's first serious relationship, Nate's “new normal” forever changes his relationships with his parents and severely handicaps his own dating life. Fitzpatrick plays Nate's love interest Sam, and Ali plays Atticus, the biodynamic Urban farmer who gets in the way.
You were Official Artists at the 2013 NYTVF. Did you meet with The CW there as part of NYTVF Connect, or rather what was your first intro to the network?
We actually didn't meet CW at the Festival directly, but, when we got back to LA and were pitching this show to digital platforms, we realized CW Seed had participated in the Festival. So, our production company reached out to them to connect the dots. In today's market, there is so much content being pitched around that it had been difficult to get in the door as new writers (even with a production company attached), so our Festival win meant a lot in terms of getting that meeting on the books. It was very auspicious timing. We sold the show about a month after the festival win.
What can you tell us about the development of the series?
We developed a 3 episode digital series (or what we like to call a “thrilot”) for CW Seed when the show was called Mother F#@*er. Because it was for the internet, CW pushed us towards an edgier cable version of the show then you'll see this summer on broadcast, but the core of the show has remained intact along with almost all of our cast. The digital episodes served to prove the concept of the show and that it could live beyond the joke of “a guy sleeps with his friend's mom.” We were set to launch online last fall, but we delivered the show to the network around the time Backpackers (a CW Seed show that was moved to broadcast) failed due to the fact that the content had already been viewed online, they decided to hold our release while they were considering where to air the show. We were told a few excruciating months later that were picked up for a 9 episode summer series. Though that time was difficult, we were really grateful that they'd put so much thought into how best to release the show.
As you've shifted from digital to television, what has that process like been?
When we were moved from digital to broadcast we worked with CW to expanded the world even further and delved deeper into the characters. As we mentioned, the show was edgier when we were making it for digital, so moving it has been a little tricky. We had to change the title from Mother F@#*er to Significant Mother and replace some dildos with cucumbers… you know, that kind of thing. But along the way, Alloy Entertainment (our production company) and CW have been really wonderful collaborators. From the beginning they've helped us shape our vision into something that's hopefully not just funny, but that also has a great deal of heart. And they've been on our side in figuring out ways to keep a little of the racier humor intact. We've been really lucky.
What are you watching on TV right now? Where do you see innovative programming?
In terms of what we watch, it's pretty varied. After a day of writing jokes, sometimes it's nice to watch a really plotty drama… Orphan Black, The Following and Penny Dreadful, Mad Men, House of Cards, Homeland, and of course a little #TGIT (anything Shonda). In terms of comedy, there's so much good stuff out there. From the wackier Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, and Last Man on Earth to the more traditional family comedies like Modern Family, Blackish, and Fresh Off The Boat, there's plenty to keep you laughing. And, while the latter three do feel familiar in terms of their conceit, the amount of substance and heart they are able to weave into a family comedy is pretty innovative. Also, if you can find it, the late (read: cancelled) Fox series Surviving Jack was fantastic.
What advice do you have for producers looking to write/create a television pilot? What should they focus on, and what do you feel can be left out?
Focus on characters. High concepts don't mean a lot unless you have really interesting, three dimensional characters to deal with the high concept situation. The point of high concepts, in our opinion, is to watch people that remind you of the people you know try to get through a situation you could never have imagined. Also, focus on your own voice rather than trying to mimic what's already out there. Even if you have no idea where your idea fits in the traditional landscape, write it anyway. From what we've found, all platforms are looking for something unique right now. This has not always been the case, so revel in this time! TV is really embracing creativity. It's exciting.
Any advice for creators submitting to the New York Television Festival?
Honestly, same as above. In terms of pilot specifically, think about long term potential. Make sure that you don't wrap things up too neatly so you leave the viewer/reader wanting more. We got the advice, and it seems to hold true, that in a good episode of TV, you always want to ask a question, answer it by end of the episode, but then ask a new one. So, for a pilot, answer the question of that episode, but end by asking the question of the series.
Check out previous downloads here:
Alumni Q&A (Richard Keith and Erin Cardillo) - 5/29/15 | Alumni Q&A (Damian Lanigan) - 5/29/15 | Chicago Comedy Panel - 5/18/15 | Big Laughs at Just For Laughs - 5/5/15 | Alumni Q&A (Whatever Linda) - 3/27/15 | Insights from the intern bullpen - 8/27/14 | Insights from the intern bullpen - 8/19/14 | Insights from the intern bullpen - 8/6/14 | Insights from the intern bullpen - 7/30/14 | Insights from the intern bullpen - 7/24/14 | Rory Covey of My Damn Channel's Honchos - 4/10/14 | Drama advice from Siobhan Byrne O'Connor - 4/3/14 | NYTVF Alum Danny Abrahms - 3/21/14 | Drama Advice - 3/13/14 | Advice from Chicago - 3/10/14 | Unscripted LA Panel - 2/25/14 | Drama Development - 2/20/14 | MSN Development - 2/12/14 | Casting - 2/5/14 | The Network Development Process - 1/29/14 | History Development - 1/15/14 | Comedy Formats - 3/18/13 | A&E Pipeline - 4/3/13| Fox Script Contest - 4/10/13 | From Film to TV - 5/17/13 | Lifetime Unscripted - 9/4/13