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The Making of a TV Show from the Ground Up, Part 6

So, I wrote SECOND SHOT in 2021. It sold to Kensington in late April of 2021 and got a shopping deal in early May of 2021. It went to auction for TV in late May of 2021. We had a deal on it by mid-summer. Things were moving right along and it was all very exciting!

And then we waited.

And waited.

If you think having a baby takes a long time, you haven’t witnessed the birth of a TV show.

I already talked about how involved the contracts are, and they can take months to hammer out.

The next big delay in our show was the director. Ours is ridiculously hot and was very busy filming at the time they attached to my project. We had to wait for the end of filming of what went on to become a ridiculously successful TV show, and then our director was asked to direct a very large movie for a very large movie franchise. Obviously, the director couldn’t turn that down. Then, the movie ran long, and post-production ran really long. In fact, the movie’s release had to be delayed for eight months. Meanwhile, we were waiting for the director to free up.

It’s a normal part of the TV/film business that projects have to wait for the big stars and big talent to be free to work on your project. I’m told getting all the big stars and talent together at the same time to work on the same project can also be quite a trick. I haven’t encountered that yet, though.

Also, it’s why the lead actors on a TV show or film often aren’t hired until JUST before the project starts principal photography (better known as filming). It’s because you never know who’s going to be available until the very last minute. This is why many big projects will announce a lead actor or director who backs out of the project at the last minute and is replaced by someone else. Schedules are terrible to coordinate.

The third big delay for us was sound stage space.

Sound stages are giant warehouses built specifically for films to be made in them. They are air-conditioned and heated, they’re usually sound-proofed pretty well, they have huge electrical systems for running lights and cameras. They are built so sets can be constructed inside them. They have huge doors so heavy machinery can move in and out. Cranes will fit inside the big ones.

You get the idea. They’re specialized beasts. There are also a finite number of them in the world. When the pandemic started, all filming everywhere shut down for months. Then, when people figured out you could mask, Covid tests became more widely available, vaccines came online, etc, filming on everything resumed.

Meanwhile, everyone was trapped at home and demand for new television content skyrocketed.

By the way, if you noticed some really BAD TV shows coming out in late 2021 and early 2022, that was because the streaming services were pulling everything off the shelves they’d ever filmed and releasing it…some of that content had been shelved previously because it was deemed not good enough to air. But they were out of new content and desperate.

At any rate, during the pandemic, studios and streaming services were scrambling to find new projects and get them into filming ASAP. So, a backlog of shows from before the pandemic and a tsunami of new shows were all suddenly competing for the same sound stage space. It created quite a filming logjam, and shows were asked to work around the clock, literally, to maximize sound stage usage.

In the middle of this massive shortage, Hengdian World Studios in China, a humongous studio with 130 sound stages and dozens of full-sized outdoor sets—like a full-sized White House, a full-sized Forbidden City, a Versailles mock-up, and mock-ups of other palaces, forts, ancient cities, pyramids, and more—got into a big tiff with the major western studios, and they all pulled out of China.

And boom, the sound stage shortage was suddenly even worse.

Just out of curiosity, I looked up how many sound stages there are in the United States. At the end of 2021, there were 1,704. They’re not created equal, of course. Some are much bigger and fancier than others.

Disney has 7 sound stages of its own. Warner Brothers has 37. CBS Viacom has 18 sound stages, mostly smaller in size for television. Netflix has leases on over 50 soundstages worldwide. Los Angeles has 384 certified sound stages. Some of these are very small, of course, useful only for sitcoms or talk shows. Others are huge and able to house giant movie sets.

The largest film stage in the world is Stage 15 at Babelsberg Film Studios in Potsdam, Germany (78,954 sq.ft.). The second-largest stage in the world is the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios in the UK. It is currently 59,000 square feet.

While I was looking up those numbers, I also ran across another interesting number. The total spending of film and Tv production globally in 2020 was $220 billion. The world’s biggest single spender was Disney, who spent $28.6 billion on production that year.

Whee! That’s a LOT of money!

Next time, let’s talk about scripts and writers and how all of that happens. Until then, go watch a new movie or TV show and let me know what you think of it!

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