NOTE: I had this little stress-release blog post ready to go at some point this month, and I’ve decided to let it fly as is because NBC has released the full REVOLUTION pilot online (check it HERE, if you want)
JJ Abrams is producing a pilot for NBC with Jon Favreau directing. It’s called Revolution and debuts this fall. It’s plot involves a modern day world suddenly deprived of power…
…which in itself is not an original idea. “What if the world suddenly lost electricity?” is not unique, but when I watch Revolution this fall, what I’ll be paying attention to is what happens in the pilot after the time jump, when the world is over-grown and a small group of survivors are sent into the woods.
If the pilot goes a certain way, it might reveal some shady business and that could set off a whole series of debates about entering your finished work into contests or film festivals.
The New York Television Festival is an annual New York event where content creators come together to pitch TV shows in pilot and script form. The yearly Independent Pilot competition puts your completed work in front of executives from A&E, NBC, IFC, MTV Networks, Syfy, Versus, Speed, TruTV, Fox, Fox Television Studios and Red Arrow Entertainment. Additionally seven talent agencies (CAA and William Morris included) get peeps at the up and coming work.
The idea is: if you have a good pilot, they will help you develop it further or will develop you as a creative. The execution, though, looks shady coming out of NYTVF 2011 where my production company, Brillhart/Gonzales Productions LLC partnered with Dinosaur Diorama (webseries The Burg, The All-For-Nots, Greg and Donny and DioramaTV.com) physically shoot their pilot “Powerless” starring NBC star Kelli Giddish (then recently off the short-lived Chase, but in the middle of internal discussion to join Law & Order: SVU, where she is currently).
“Powerless” is about a trio who are in the woods when an unexplained and unexpected event cause electricity the world over to suddenly disappear. The pilot episode does what it’s supposed to do in an abbreviated half-hour format establish our 3 characters, let the power go out around the world, then start the first season’s story arc with some mysterious men in hoodies stalking one of the better-equipped survivors as the others worry about the fate of their hometowns and loved ones.
Kelli Giddish was heading up a pilot that was entered into the NYTF in June at the same time she was being groomed at NBC to make the move from Chase to SVU. Independent research into the festival has been unable to prove who saw what when, but when the pilot saw it’s in-festival screening in the fall, a follow-up with a low-level NBC executive had already been set up, implying one of two things: 1) NBC was nice enough to meet with everyone who completed a pilot in the competition or 2) NBC was aware of “Powerless” before the screening date in October 2011.
Diorama submitted what they saw as the storyline for their hour-long pilot plus bullet points on how the content of that pilot would spin off into season-long storylines. After that information exchanged hands, NBC ceased all contact with Dinosaur Diorama and Kelli Giddish made the move to Law & Order: SVU.
Meanwhile, Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and JJ Abrams of Bad Robot announced they would be making a high concept pilot together. This news came in September 2011, before “Powerless” screened to the public, but after NBC had shown interest in Dinosaur Diorama and their submission.
Come February 2012, NBC picks up this mystery high concept pilot and reveals it’s called “Revolution” and the high concept is: An adventure series in a world suddenly and inexplicably without power. Jon Favreau was quick to be added as the pilot’s director and NBC went right ahead unveiling JJ Abrams’ new mystery box (NBC has not responded to requests for comment on this story).
Dinosaur Diorama, meanwhile, quietly looked into what just went down to no avail. Like was stated at the beginning, the high-concept premise is high enough that no one can cry foul for having a similar inciting incident. However, as more and more footage from Revolution gets shown or discussed at places like Comic Con or during the Television Critics Association press tour, we start seeing more of a strong female lead stomping through the forest, caring about her loved ones as some (not-hoodie-wearing) conspiracy forms at the edges.
Depending on what the pilot of Revolution holds, we might see a bit more kerfuffle about what was in that correspondence traded between Diorama and a low-level NBC executive, but I do know this: the complete silence from NBC and NYTVF on the existence of “Powerless” and its cosmetic similarities to “Revolution” is disconcerting. If one of the season-long arcs pitched by Diorama shows up on broadcast NBC, all the festival entry forms, e-mails and phone records will be examined. Right now, it’s Diorama who is waiting, having been unable to establish when someone from NBC saw “Powerless” and who that executive spoke to afterwards. Worst case scenario, NBC actually took part of “Powerless” over to “Revolution,” but I doubt people like JJ Abrams and Eric Kripke are capable of blatant theft, so this would be inadvertent infringement on their behalf. Something you can barely prove: the grey fringe of intellectual property.
The real problem is you have aspiring creatives who submitted something to a credible festival/contest/outlet only to have that exact plot show up on the network that controls the career of your proposed star. Regardless if any illegality went down, the strange timeline filled with easily clarified question marks allows for the illusion that something shady might have happened, which gives me pause about submitting to any festival that allows big league executives to see your stuff, then disappear.
Let me be perfectly clear about my intentions here - I would like people to see Powerless. It was a pilot that I thought worked for the budget Diorama was able to secure. I can’t imagine that, entertainment law being what it is, there will be legal action that develops from just this pilot.
It just sucks. That’s my conclusion. It sucks.
The Powerless trailer is here:
The Powerless Proof Of Concept Pilot is here:
The Revolution trailer is here:
Truths you might be interested in:
- My production company helped shoot “Powerless” but was not involved past the production stage or in the pre-production phase.
- I have been in contact with Dinosaur Diorama recently and they declined to contribute directly to this post.
- I haven’t seen Kelli Giddish in person since I had a guest spot as a suit salesman in the last episode of “The Burg.” I did not contact her about this post.
- I currently have no open business with Dinosaur Diorama and am not planning to be involved in any legal action concerning “Powerless.”
- I am currently Executive Producing a pilot starring Sean Huddock, also a lead in “Powerless.” It’s called “Burn The Ocean,” it’s unrelated to “Powerless” and we have not discussed “Powerless” or “Revolution.”