How does a tv show get made?

Before I started working in TV – I found that it was impossible to understand the “how” of a tv show. How did it get on tv? How did it get made? How did it get “green-lit,” whatever that means?

It turns out, this question is more detailed that you’d like to think but the formula in doing so is so seemingly simple.

It starts with an idea. As all great things do – many writers will have had this idea for years and have written it out back when they were assistants. They will carry this idea around with them as they grow from Production Assistant to Writer’s Assistant and eventually to Staff Writer. By then, hopefully, the writer will be able to find an agent. Finding an agent will be hard since this day in age we are working on peak TV, there are more writers than agents. Ideally, you’ve nailed down that agent. Your idea will still sit with you. You’ll have friends look at it and have revisions made. Your idea will grow, stop growing, begin growing again and then completely shift into something else several times.

Your agent will get you promoted in your show if it lasts more than two seasons. Ideally, they’ll get you booked into other projects after that too. If you keep landing shows that aren’t great you may need to fire that That agent is the one pitching to production companies. If the production company likes it they’ll partner with the writer and then go to the studio. If the studio likes it, then they will go to the network. If the network execs like it – they’ll go to the head of their company, the president of entertainment, and tell them they have to greenlit the show.

It’s simple – there are so many ifs, whys, and hows to it, but the overall set up is simple. Now the next question is – how do you get an agent? That’s the thing that gets the ball rolling. Well, that is not so simple – getting an agent is just the first step and they tend to find you instead of you finding them.

The easy way to get an agent is to be a writer on a writing staff. Someone on the writing staff can refer you to their agent or the coordinator at the agency will identify you as a potential signing target as you are on the staff and un-repped. Ideally you’ll have an original piece (that would have gotten you on the writing staff to begin with) that an agent will read and be wow-ed by. Getting an agent is all about luck and timing and having the same group of people like the material that you make.

And then the circle begins again.

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