My friend Danny was asking about the television pilot I wrote (“My Babysitter Is an Alien”) that should be shooting in January. He was wondering if there was a network attached – which there isn’t. Of course that prompted the question: “Is it typical for pilots to be filmed without studio or networking behind it?”
It's actually rather unusual. It costs a butt load of money, and in some ways hinders the studios liking it (as they would not have had any input).
If it is made independently, there is often an understanding that it will be re-shot if a studio picks it up; or it is going off-net (off network -- to a cable station) – which is often more tight with budgets.
In the case of “Babysitter”, the financer has enough money that it didn't matter to him -- and he wants his kids to star in it, which would never happen if they weren't already proven. Miley Cyrus, daughter of a country recording star, had to fight tooth and nail to get the network to consider her at all for ”Hanna Montana.” And she already comes with connections.
If my producer makes the pilot and it tests well, he has proven that his kids can do it.
[Lucille Ball did this way back when -- after the networks said that America would never accept a mixed race marriage (Cuban to white) on television. She and Desi toured a version of "I Love Lucy" across the country, proved it was a hit in fly-over states, and shut out the studios argument that they needed to cast a pretty white man as Lucy's husband.]
More and more writers are following that example these days, making their mark by filming their scripts (rather than depending on a read) -- usually making it for the internet, creating a buzz there, and hoping that translates to a studio gig.
So unusual, but a growing trend.
Just my thoughts,