Dave Pullano | TV Producer, Writer,
In our continuing series of interviews with key TV
industry professionals, we're thrilled to have Dave
Pullano sit down with us and share his first hand
experience and perspective. Dave is an Executive
Producer, Writer, and Director, working in both
feature films and reality-based programming. He was
a Senior Producer for 5 years on the hit syndicated
series, "Blind Date", and most recently penned with
writing partner the feature film "Porky's" for
Weinstein Company. He's produced pilots for
overseen production at various cable networks,
TVWV: Thanks for taking some time
out to sit down with us, Dave. Let's roll back the
clock... You have a sketch comedy background, as well as
writing for the National Lampoon, but what was your
first job in the film and TV industry?
Pullano: My first industry job was as the
receptionist for Miramax Films. I was just happy to
get my foot in the door and the relationships I made
during that time are still paying off today. My
first real writing job was for an MTV animated
sketch show called "Head Trip." It was at the peak
of the "boy band" frenzy - 'N Sync and Backstreet
Boys ruled the airwaves and I was like, what the
hell happened to MTV?! Great experience, though.
TVWV: When you first started writing, were you
always focused on story and spec scripts, or were
you formulating concepts and "ideas" for shows as
Pullano: A little of both. It's really hard to sell
anything without some sort of track record. I'm
finally at a place where I can pitch movie projects
because the buyers know I'm capable of writing a
TVWV: What do you think are the most important
elements in a good project for television? As a
producer, what do you look for, and what do you try
Pullano: Character, character and character. Did I
mention character? In television, I'm not a big fan
of "high concept." Look at Cheers, Friends, or
Seinfeld - - just great characters who you want to
watch every week sitting around in bars, coffee
shops and apartments. On the unscripted front, the
same thing. On "American Chopper," I could care less
about how Harley's are built, I just like watching
Paulie and sons every week
TVWV: Let's talk about "Blind Date"... what's
involved in a daily syndicated series? It must have
been a madhouse producing enough content to air. Can
you describe the dynamics of how a show like that is
Pullano: Syndicated TV is like a widget factory...
you need to constantly feed the beast. Luckily, we
had a very funny writing staff of 10 to help pull it
off. And then there's casting, which can be a bitch
- we needed about 700 daters each season. Then, the
field crews were shooting almost every day and
night. And of course, you're screwed without a good
post department. They'll make or break ya. Bottom
line, you need a very large and talented crew.
TVWV: When you're editing coverage of real people,
what's the approach? What are you hoping to get out
of the content?
Pullano: Staying true to character. Any given
episode could be edited a thousand different ways.
In "Blind Date" for instance, you watched what
people said about each other after the date and
worked backward to support their statements. You
also want your content to follow basic story
structure when possible - The classic "man overcomes
obstacles to reach goal."
TVWV: You've also had some success optioning your
own tv show concepts to larger companies in
television. When you're the one doing the pitching,
what's your typical approach in a verbal pitch? In
contrast, what's your written pitch like?
Pullano: I really feel if you can't pitch the
concept in under a minute, you're screwed. My
written pitches include a simple log line, why the
concept's different, and the breakdown of a typical
episode. Remember, you're rarely pitching to the
final decision maker. You're trying to make it easy
for the exec you're meeting with to explain to
their boss. I have an agent who's great at playing
Devil's Advocate before the pitch, so I'll be able
to nip potential problems in the bud.
TVWV: For the new Writers out there, are there
better chances of breaking in with the sale of a
reality tv concept, or a scripted project?
Pullano: Reality TV is getting harder and harder to
pitch. People have heard EVERYTHING. But if you do
the work and find some interesting real characters
that people will want to see every week, you might
have something. The next Dog, or Ace of Cakes or
American Chopper - - real, interesting, non-actors
that anyone trying to break in can find on their own
and base a show around. There's so much crap on the
air that everyone thinks it's easy to break in, but
it's not. With no experience, scripted TV is even
harder. BUT, a good spec feature script always
stands on its own merits.
TVWV: Do you see reality television expanding or
Pullano: I think there will always be ebbs and flows
with "reality" on network TV, but most cable
networks can't really afford to produce scripted
television. Reality will always be a staple and I
can't see it ever going away. It's cheaper to
produce and can be just as entertaining when done
TVWV: What advice can you give to a writer just
starting out in the business?
Pullano: A bad idea scribbled on a piece of paper is
better than the greatest idea in the world floating
in your head. WRITE! REWRITE!! WRITE SOME MORE!!!
Join a writer's group where you can get constructive
feedback on your work.
TVWV: So what keeps you going in such a competitive
Pullano: Fear. Love of what I do. Painkillers.
TVWV: What are some of your favorite shows? Can you
enjoy TV after working night and day in it? Or do
you do other things for entertainment to escape the
Pullano: I get inspired by the amazing work of
others, so I stay tuned in. Current faves on TV: The
Office, Entourage, Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm,
The Daily Show, Lost. I'm a total geek with Lost. I
check out message boards and freeze-frame for clues.
On the unscripted front, "The Most Dangerous Catch."
TVWV: Without giving anything away, what types of
projects are you working on now?
Pullano: Four different unscripted pitches, I just
finished a spec for a horror movie, started my own
website (www.davepullano.com), going out with two
feature pitches, and a sitcom treatment. Oh yeah,
and I just submitted a proposal for a children's
book. It's all about the hustle.
TVWV: On the issue of copyright protection, what
advice can you give to a writer out pitching a
concept for television?
Pullano: If you really want to protect yourself,
register with the WGA and copyright your work. Still
doesn't mean you won't get f--ked, though. Try to
stay clear of the sleazy people as well.
TVWV: Is Hollywood a "closed door"?
Pullano: The beauty of this town is that any idiot
can make it. It's also one of the problems.
TVWV: You now have your hand in features, most
recently with The Weinstein Company. Will you be
focusing your career more in the direction of film
Pullano: My game plan when I moved here was to have
TV as my steady gig and write features in my down
time. I'm sticking with it.
TVWV: Thanks for taking time out for us. We'll watch
out for your next show!
Pullano: Please do! We could use the ratings.