Game Over – Making a TV Pilot
“Well of course, everything looks bad if you remember it.” – Homer Simpson
A Brief Intro
For those who listen to my podcast, you’ve heard me mention the TV pilot I made a few years back. As time has passed more and more people have asked to see the pilot, and asked why it was never released.
The first reason why I never released it was because I was pitching it around, and didn’t want anything out there. But also I wasn’t happy with how it turned out. Well I’ve finally decided to release it, in its entirety. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Again listeners of the podcast know this as I’ve discussed ad nauseum some of the problems which prevented my full focus on producing the actual project so rather than reiterate them here I’m just going to focus on the positives as well as how I did everything so you can use these methods for your project. After discussing the pilot with several new managers, colleagues, producers, and friends they encouraged me to just release it. So after having it reedited, and the intro & outro redone, here it is. So please watch the pilot on Youtube, and let me know your thoughts. Is this something you’d watch? Can you see the potential?
Also if you’re interested in seeing the detailed journey and some tips I pass out along the way please continue reading the detailed blog post below about making Game Over, otherwise enjoy the pilot. Additionally I was a guest on Alex Ferrari’s Indie Film Hustle discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of making Game Over. CLICK the image below to listen!
Game Over –
The Journey from Pre to Post Production
Tagline: In life there is no reset button
Logline: Mixing geek and video game culture with elements of the retail world, GAME OVER is a half hour comedy about five employees
working at a video game store who are trying to reach the next level in their lives. Set in a strip mall in suburban Philadelphia, GAME OVER focuses on these employees as they interact with insane customers, other stores and each other. The best way to describe GAME OVER is, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” meets “Clerks”.
- Jim Lloyd (Kenneth McGregor)
- Dr. Watson (Brian Anthony Wilson)
- Wade Gates (Michael Tamin Yurcaba)
- Brock Corman (Jamie Richard)
- Jason Spungbauer (Steve Underwood)
- Trey Hightower (Robb Stetch)
- Valerie Hightower (Tammy Jean)
- Yuppie Parent (Lisa DeRosa)
- Gabriel Van Berg (Will Ball)
- Walter Kronsky (Sean Egan)
Jerry Gerbil (Vikram Joshi)
Lei Pingdamutan (Candy Washington)
- Written and Directed Dave Bullis
- Produced by Dave Bullis & Chris Pierdomenico
- Filmed at Sun Center Studios in Aston, PA
- Cinematography – Brian Simon
- 1st Camera – Mike Biasell
- 1st AD – Zach Zimmerman
- Boom Mic Operator – Shawn R Simon
- Script Supervisor – Cheryl Wallace
- Set Design – Johnny Walker and Mallory Holloway
- Costume Design – Annette Johnson
- Stunts – Jae Green, and Mohammad Ali
- PA’s – Eric Torbio, Mallory Holloway, Ian Johnson
- Editor – John Fallon
- “Game Over” theme song – Lyrics & Performed by Megaran, Produced by Kyle Murdock
- Intro & Outro Credits – Michael Dougherty
- In Game Footage – Power Drill Massacre – created by Ben Cocuzza (Puppet Combo)
- Special Thanks to Sun Center Studios, David Raynor, Rockstar Games, Patrick Scott Patterson, Tastykake, Seasons Pizza, Cocco’s Pizza, AD Lane
Thank you to all of our IndieGoGo backers and all of the people who have supported this project!
- Michelle Santiago
- Danny Donnelly
- Stan Kumiega III
- Andrew Shapren
- Kathryn Sprandio
- Victoria Gates
- Eric Thompson
- Jane Hoffer
- Jason heffner
- Garrett Smith
- Daniell Rowles
- Mike Virata
- Jessica Henderson
- Justen Overlander
- joseph dicamillo
- Melissa O’Donnell
- Rajesh Koomar
- Rachel Steinberg
- Dante Feraco
- Paul Miller
- Gary King
- Darla Henning
- Wedge Wegman
- Carole Dean
- Marvin Burwell
- Angelo Bell
- Audrey julienne
- Steve Nguyen
- Brian Wright
- Lisa Fusco
- AD Lane
Ideas & Influences for creating Game Over
The problem with pitches is sometimes we can’t imagine quite what the show will be. Hence the need for Sizzle Reels/Proof of Concepts. At the time (2009/10), I had shoot a student film and a 5-6 short films. Some okay & others are unfinished. I didn’t want to make another short film, I wanted to really challenge myself since I shot a lot of short films at the same location. What if I did something different? Something I can do myself but at the same time really challenges me professionally?
So I started brainstorming ideas, and one thing that kept coming back to making a TV pilot about my time working at EB Games/GameStop in 2001-2002. What if I created a TV pilot Proof of Concept (back then the hip term was, ‘Sizzle Reel’), and used that as a calling card?
The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Pilot – Charlie Has Cancer
The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Pilot – Charlie Has Cancer is the cornerstone of why I wanted to make Game Over. The huge difference is that fact that this pilot cost a few bucks which was to buy a mini dv tape. They used Glenn’s kitchen and a camera they already had.
Kevin Smith made this indie gem in 1993, shot at the convenience store where he worked. He sold his comic book collection to help fund the movie as he shoot his on actual film.
Reservior Dogs Rehearsal/Pitch
Tarantino’s pitch/rehearsal for Reservior Dogs to show people again what this can be. Here Tarantino is playing the role Harvey Keitel ended up playing.
Things could always be worse, you could have your pilot turned into the Clerks TV show.
Writing the Pilot
From Sept 2001 to December 2002, I worked at EB Gameworld, which is now have been remodeled as GameStops. I’ve always said that everyone should have to work in retail for at least three months to fully appreciate what it’s like working in customer support and face to face sales.
Rather than write on archetypes (which I think is a bad way of writing) you use the various gamer personalities.
Favorite Genre: First-person Shooters
The only thing Trey takes seriously in life is his gaming. Whether it comes to his job, his customers, his boss, or his coworkers, Trey
could not care less. He only works at Game Over until he can make it as a full-time professional gamer. It also gives him a chance to try out the latest games without ever having to pay a dime for it.
Favorite Genre: MMORPGs
When not utilizing the couch or the bathroom, Brock works at Game Over. Though not the sharpest tool in the shed, Brock is always willing to help out the gang when they get into trouble. His absolutely passion is gaming, playing the kind of games that one would only pause to grab a snack or use the bathroom. Along with his passion for gaming, Brock is a movie enthusiast, as well as a professional wrestling buff. Not necessarily by choice, Brock lives with his coworker Jim.
Favorite Genre: Puzzle Games
Jason is the most level-headed of the bunch, always questioning the antics and trouble his coworkers consistently find themselves in. Trying to capitalize on a budding career as a writer, he is currently pursuing a degree in English at the local university. Still living at home with his parents, Jason strives to be in a much better sitation than where he is at the moment.
JIM KAUFMAN (played by Kenneth McGregor)
Favorite Genre: ?
Jim’s past, and certainly his present, are shrouded in mystery. It’s difficult to say if he is, in fact, a paid employee of Game Over, even
though the employees and customers have seen him every day for as far back as they can remember. His tales of days long ago are more than likely fictionalized, but his cohorts have learned to just go along with them. More so than his stories are the outlandish problem-solving methods. When the team runs into trouble, Jim is at the ready to assist, though it may make them worse off than before.
Favorite Genre: Money
The bumbling manager of Game Over, Wade finds great difficulty in managing the employees of his store, let alone running the store itself. He still lives at home with his mother (or his mother lives with him, depending on who you ask). Though not the most knowledgeable of the gaming universe, Wade strives to make his small business a successful one.
The Pilot Episode – The Launch Party
Synopsis: The Game Over store is hosting a midnight launch party for the release of a new system. When manager Wade brings one of the systems to the store to raffle, store employees Trey, Brock and Jim use the opportunity to try it out. After accidentally breaking the system, the employees hatch a scheme to rig the raffle by having frequent patsy, Van Berg, win the raffle so they can avoid getting caught.
Finding a Location
Once I had the script in a place I wanted it, I just started pitching. Obviously GameStop isn’t going to entertain an idea like this so I made a list of video game stores I could pitch to.
Most companies nowadays put various email addresses on their corporate website so it’s not that hard to find. We had a game company agree to not only fund the pilot but also let us shoot in one of their stores in Delaware. Counting on this money, and location I started to build a team from that.
Soon however, they backed out as their lease in that store was up, and also they didn’t have the marketing budget anymore to give us the money. I was in the same position as before.
Reaching out to an independent game store, they agreed to everything as the previous company did. I even location scouted the store, and meet the owner face to face. A few weeks passed, and we got him the publicity as promised, and I was on the way to pick up the check from him, he was impishly told me that he couldn’t have it there anymore as he didn’t want to ‘babysit’ us.
So finally I reached out to a ton of other places to build a set. An abandoned blockbuster, an abandoned supermarket, an abandoned Thrift Drug, a comic book shop, and the last place, Sun Center Studios, where we held auditions, said yes and now we could finally start to move forward.
To rise the other funds needed to continue we started a crowdfunding campaign. This is WAY before everyone had a crowdfunding campaign. When I brought up using IndieGoGo, a lot of people (and I mean virtually everyone) had no idea what it was. We did more explaining then pitching but we still managed to rise a few thousand that way.
Crowdfunding is a full time job. It’s an absolute grind. I occasionally help others with crowdfunding campaigns so here’s a few tips from me to you:
- Build your launch – You need at least 3-6 months to build a campaign of contacts, perks, etc.
- Crowdfund offline – We also accepted donations via Paypal which is good since people don’t have/want to sign up for Indiegogo
- Email List – Make sure you have a solid email list. Social media is great but email marketing is where its at. Once email marketing becomes over saturated, texting campaigns will be the new norm, mark my words.
- Follow the 1% rule – Take the amount of people you tell about your campaign, and take 1%. That 1% is whose actually going to donate. So if you tell 100 people, 1 person will donate. This is how you safe guard yourself. It will encourage you to tell more people about the project too.
If you want ever more crowdfunding advice, I also wrote, The Beginner’s Guide to Using Social Media in Crowdfunding Indie Films, for the Indie Film Hustle blog.
Building the Set
Since we now had someplace to build the set we could start the set design. Luckily for me a Blockbuster and Eckerd Drug were both closing and I was able to walk in and buy everything at a cheap price.
If there are no stores closing in your area, always check online (Ebay, Good Will, etc) for discount items. Good Will and other places like Big Lots and Dollar General are great places to find wardrobes, fixtures, props you can destroy, etc for dirt cheap prices.
“The fact is, you don’t know what directing is until the sun is setting and you’ve got to get five shots and you’re only going to get two” – David Fincher
We shot Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Each day we ran over time, and had to pay extra to keep a guard there.
Then we shot again next Sunday at another location.
Post Production – Editing, Pitching & Burn Out
After Game Over was completed, we had to move quickly to take down the set as M Night Shyamalan’s, “After Earth”, was scheduled to start filming. We tried to sell what fixtures we could but mostly we threw a lot of it away.
We had a fund rising party to raise some funds to pay for production. This was going to be the big reveal of the trailer but since the editor was MIA, I had to whip something up in a hurry which wasn’t too good.
After that I started to edit the footage myself. I put the episode together and managed to pitch it to a few networks, including G4. G4 was the perfect network for a show like this as at the time they had, Attack of the Show, and the rest of the time ran repeats of Cops. Right around this time, G4 was sold and became the GQ network ending the hope of having it on the network.
After Game Over, I was approached about helping two other productions with their pilots as well as making another short film, and then a trailer. Frustrated with Game Over, I took these other jobs in hopes of just taking a break from it. The one TV pilot was completed but at the end the guys who made it were no longer friends. The other TV pilot was never fully completed and even so, there was another show that came on with literally the exact same premise.The short film I made was ‘In The Deathroom’ and I was able to organize a shoot at Eastern State Penitentiary to film it there. The editor of this film ended up losing all of the footage. Several people asked if I was going to sue for damaged but it would be pointless. The trailer project was Charlie. Directed by Chris Witt, written and produced by us, we ended shooting it on a shoe string budget but really amped up the production value. As we started to promote this trailer, we received a bogus cease and desist letter. After all of this I was simply burned out so I took a break from all of filmmaking from 2014-2015 just concentrating on the writing side.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I started to come back to Game Over, and take another look at the footage. It’s now October 2017, and I’m not getting back into doing film stuff again and after speaking with different people we agreed since all of this time and effort went into making Game over, it’s time to release it.
I’m thankfully to meeting John Fallon (the new editor), and Michael Dougherty (the intro & outro designer) who helped me immensely with getting the cut up to speed.
How I Would Have Done Things Differently
I would have filmed this at someone’s house and called the episode, Happy Birthday Spungbauer.
The concept would be its Jason’s Birthday. To celebrate he’s throwing a small party at his house with everyone playing a new videogame, Brainbuster, in a 16 player X Box 360 deathmatch. This would have been a much better idea because it would have been in one location which would be Jason’s house. I wouldn’t need to set dress too much because it just needed to look like a normal house.
- A Story – Jason has gotten a new game, ‘Brainbuster’, a new First Person Shooter, for his birthday. His birthday wish? To beat Trey at the game
- B Story – Trey wants to dominate at the game but it’s hard when he has Brock and Jim on his team in team battles
- C Story – Wade wants to attend the party as well and keeps calling Trey to come in for his shift which Trey wants to avoid
- D Story – Brock and Jim forgot to bring a gift and search Jason’s house high and low for a gift
Not only would this be easier to producer (a HELLUVA lot easier to produce) but also would have been cheaper, easier to control, and even better as a pitch. You can also see from the storylines ideas above how the conflict would rise organically for the situations.
What would I need to film this?
- I would have had almost the same crew
- Same gear as before if possible
- If I was making this today, in a pinch I would have used my phone
- H4 Zoom recorder
- I would have used the same location as I did before as this worked out beautifully
- If I couldn’t I would have rented some space at a local theater
- In a pinch, I could always ask actors to record auditions and send them in
- Same actors as before since casting process would have been the same
- I would have brought in a few extras to fill out the extra players during the scenes with game play. This would also work in setting up future characters.
- Jason’s House – I could have grabbed a house from anyone I know and shot around their schedule.
- Living Room
- Game Over
- We wouldn’t have to show the entire store, only a few close ups of Wade on the phone would do.
- Jason’s House – I could have grabbed a house from anyone I know and shot around their schedule.
And right there that would have been a saving of a ton of money just doing the above.
Potential Future Episodes
ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US: A new videogame store opens in the shopping center, worried that they might take away customers from the store the guys go undercover to spy on the store to see how they do business.
BETA: Trey quits his job at the store after being offered to work as a beta tester for a new videogame company. He soon realizes that the new job isn’t what he’d thought it’d be.
BLACK FRIDAY: Wade, prepares for whats supposed to be the biggest sales day of the year. He has all the employees working to ensure they beat last year’s numbers. Meanwhile Brock’s title at a local buffet is being challenged.
EVERYBODY’S FIRED: The employees finally push Wade over the edge as he fires everyone. The employees scheme on how to get their jobs back.
FOOLS IN APRIL: April Fool’s pranks quickly get out of hand as the employees try to ‘out-prank’ each other.
GAMERS N ROBBERS: When the store is robbed, Brock is embrassed during the holdup. He then goes out to clear his name while Kronsky launches his own investigation into finding out who the robber is.
GAMER PARTY: Jason’s hosting a gaming party at his house. Gathering sixteen people, he soon begins to regret it as things start to get out of hand.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM: With Jim;s birthday right around the corner, Brock trys to plan the ultimate surprise party for him and everyone tries to figure out Jim’s actual age.
HE’S DEAD, JIM: A Comic-Con comes to the area where Jim is mistaken for a cast member of a hit sci-fi show.
INSERT COIN, PRESS START: A roadtrip for the guys as they go to what is supposed to be a legendary arcade spot.
JASON SPUNGBAUER VS THE WORLD: Jason’s after the girl of his dreams. He learns that she likes guys in bands, so he sets out to learn the guitar and ‘defeat’ her current boyfriend.
JOB TYCOON: Jason and Brock both need to earn extra income. Jason because he needs money for school, Brock for his new online girlfriend. Jason takes a job at Jerry Gerbils while Brock gets a job working for Jim’s new business venture inside Game Over.
KARATE CHAMP: Trey fearing that a customer is going to beat him up, signs up for Karate classes at
the local farmers market. While there Brock tries to fleece videogames from the sellers, Wade looks for a cake for his mother, Jason is looking for a gift for a friend, Jim is looking for an item that may no longer exist.
MADDEN CURSE: After Brock gets in deep with a fantasy football money league, he’s forced to become a fantasy football genius or else pay the fee.
ROAD RAGE: Trey is invited to a videogame tournament when the other employees want to tag along, Jim rents them a winnebago. The result is a long, dangerous road trip as Trey tries to get there in one piece.
ROMERO & JULIET: Halloween time. The guys go to a ‘haunted hedgemaze’ where they get lost for hours not able to find their way out.
THE GIRL WITH THE DOUBLE DRAGON TATTOO: A remake of the 90’s videogame film, Double Dragon, is filming near the Game Over store causing the employees to try and get out set.
SEX, LIES, & VIDEO GAMES: Valerie is Dj’ing at a new club. Wade feels he needs to get back into the dating scene so he asks the guys if he can come along with them to a nightclub. At the nightclub, Trey, Brock, Jim and Jason all give Wade tips on picking up girls.
VIDEO GAME VIOLENCE: When a US Senator wants to ban all violent videogames, Trey launches his own crusade to defend videogame violence.
WATCHMAN: Kronksy creates an alter ego Superhero to help him fight crime not only in the strip mall but the city at large.
WRESTLEFEST: With a the release of a new pro wrestling game, the company gives the Game Over store a pro wrestling ring as a promotional item. The employees set up the ring and plan to hold their own wrestling
The World of Game Over
I wanted the world of Game Over to exist not within a vacuum but feel like a actual organic store in this world. The strip mall is a mix of crazy themed stores and “normal” stores intertwined together.
Abdullah’s House of Waffles – An eccentric chicken and waffle restaurant in a Middle Eastern style
Johnny Gerbil’s – A complete knock off of Chucky Cheese’s, Johnny Gerbil’s is your low rent child’s birthday party destination
Outer Realm – A comic, movie, and specialty store
Game Over – A video game store run by Wade, and his employees
Food Warehouse – A typical BJ/Costco knock off
Pacino’s Pizza – The stores pizza character bares a strong resemblance to a very well known actor
Karate Champ – A martial arts dojo
Bookworms – a independent book store
General Tso’s – A Chinese restaurant run by a man claiming to be the real, General Tso
Sweathogs – A 70’s disco gym
Kronsky’s Shack – Where security guard Kronsky spends most of his time
I’d Buy That for A Dollar store – A dollar store based off of Bixby Synder from Robocop
Mall Offices – Where the strip mall management are located
Some Advice for Making Your Own Episodic Series
If you’re going to make your own show whether to show as proof or to put as an episodic series, it has to have some production value. It cant just look good with color grading, etc but the sets have to look authentic. Its not enough to simply have the means you have to be unique and stand out where you can.
– Write a movie within your resources
Oren Peli made Paranormal Activity in his house, The Blair Witch Project was made in the woods, and Clerks was made where Kevin Smith worked.
Make three lists. A location list, an actors list, and a crew list. Always be evolving these lists as you progress. Want to know if you’re moving forward? You’re not working with the same people you did when you first started.
– Less is more
Same the few thousands of dollars of stunts and explosives when you have a bigger budget. That goes for your romantic comedy movie too.
– Making a Short Film into a Feature length film
Michael Kehoe is a filmmaker who I had on the podcast a few months who turned his short film, Hush, into the feature length film, The Hatred. If you want to see the details of that journey, I created a detailed post about the film from idea to distribution from Lionsgate.
– Play to Your Strengths
Trust me you don’t have to be good at everything. In fact trying to be good at everything is holding you back. Concentrate on your strengths whatever they might be, and hire people where your weaknesses are.If you know you’re not a technical filmmaker, fine, hire an experienced DP. If you know you’re not a good networker, then you know you have to find someone that is.
– Transparency Goes Along way
Just be honest with people. Everyone. At all times. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you.
There was and still is tons of people who told me I couldn’t do this. I was listening to Kevin Smiths audio book recently as a lot of people had recommended it to me. I know hes very divisive right now but he makes a great point. Hang around with people who ask why not? Not why? As in why aren’t we making a movie? We cant we film here? Why cant we do this? Trust me on this one if you don’t have confidence in yourself no one else will. If you want to go out and do something, make a plan, and go do it. Whats the worst that could happen?
For the love and art of filmmaking,
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