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Channel 101

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"Go out and make lots of stuff, because it all makes you better at what you do." -Sandeep Parikh

Channel 101 is a short film festival (usually monthly) in Los Angeles, which also has a sister festival in NYC, Channel 101:NY. Channel 101 is the creation of Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab in which participants submit a short film in the format of a pilot under five minutes in length. The event is structured such that a panel of previously succesful submitters what pilots are shown, and a live audience decides which pilots continue as a series for the next screening in much the same way TV programs are rated and managed. According to the Channel 101 website, “Channel 101 is a chance to sit in the worn-out chair of the fat network exec, drunk on the blood of lowly artists whose right to exist is given in exchange for their ability to nourish...You run the network. You pick the programming.”


Roughly every month, a screening for Channel 101 occurs at the Downtown Independant theatre in Los Angeles, with (usually) ten shorts being screened. At the screening, the audience votes on which shows they would like to see return. The top five shows are entered into the “prime time” slots on the Channel 101 website, and get to make a follow-up episode for the next screening. This process continues with new “episodes” being shown at each screening until one fails to make the top five, at which point the series is “cancelled.”

Some successful shows also can choose to be voluntarily cancelled by running over five minutes, (The first to do so being Time Belt), disqualifying the show from continuing and leaving one last unvoted episode. Shows that fail to make the prime time spot are known as “failed pilots.” An added benefit of having a prime time series is that prime time directors are part of the panel that decides which five new pilots will be shown alongside the five established shows from the previous screening.

Shows that fail to make the screenings are known as “rejected pilots.” Each calendar year of the festival is referred to as a “season,” comprising of 10 screenings, due to there being no December screening, plus month break “to allow the creators to rest” between spring/summer and the November screening, which is the yearly awards show (The Incredibly Prestigious Achievement Award or “Channy,” so named as a parody of Emmy).

It is considered a gratifying learning experience.[1]

History Edit

The Channel 101 Experience46:34

The Channel 101 Experience

A historical retrospective on Channel 101 LA

Channel 101 on sundance channel03:14

Channel 101 on sundance channel

Harmon and Schrab on G408:46

Harmon and Schrab on G4

Old G4 Interview.

The idea for Channel 101 began in 2001, when Schrab invited several friends over for a screening of Jaws 4, but challenged them to bring a short film predicting what would happen in the movie.

In 2002, three more short film challenges were issued, but the group of viewers outgrew Schrab’s living room. Instead, the screening was moved to the backroom of an LA nightclub. Additionally, friends of friends of the filmmakers were beginning to ask what this “festival” was called and how they could enter. In 2003, Schrab and Harmon named their creation the Super Midnight Movie Show and decided on a monthly screening and a five minute format. However, they quickly realized that once the show started growing, it would only be a matter of time before a large number of low-quality submissions were entered, and filmmakers would need to be turned away for time constraints. They decided to adopt a TV network-like ratings model where the audience votes on which films they like, and popular filmmakers were allowed to screen more films accordingly. In 2004, a pilot for a reality show about Channel 101 and its filmmakers was shopped to FX Networks, but was eventually passed on.[2] A sketch comedy show called Acceptable.TV based on the format of Channel 101 and executive-produced by Harmon and Schrab began airing 23 March 2007, for a short period on VH1.[3]

The success of Channel 101 led to a sister festival in New York, Channel 101:NY. 1999: After creating Heat Vision and Jack for the FOX network, Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab are banished from legitimate television.

What Channel 101 is not Edit

Channel 101 Orientation by Tim and Eric02:16

Channel 101 Orientation by Tim and Eric

Channel 101 is not a website.

It's a live film festival. It happens to have a website, in the same way that Burger King has a website. If somebody asked you what Burger King was you certainly wouldn't say, "it's a website about burgers." No, it's a restaurant. It just happens to have a site.

Same here. Channel 101 is about the live screenings. So if you see the people who run it treating the forums as if they were little more than an annoyance and a necessary evil, that's why. Neither the forums or this website lies at the center of the Channel 101 universe.

This is, incidentally, also why people are sensitive over forum criticism of the shows in the front page. See, once they're on the front page, they've already been judged. They're not asking for our opinion. That's not what they're there for. This isn't, this isn't They don't have online voting.

I know lots and lots of people stroll in - including me - thinking this is just an online presentation where the readers rule the roost, where the filmmakers are sitting with their hands clasped in their lap, anxiously waiting to hear what we say. Lots of sites do work that way, sites with advertisements and popups that depend on the voter traffic to make money.

This one doesn't.[4]

Submitting a Pilot Edit


Make the first episode of any kind of show you want, no longer than 5 minutes. Do not strive to fill 5 minutes. It can be five seconds long. 5 minutes is the absolute maximum.

Here are some things that DON'T tend to work. No rule against them, but just so you know, these things never get into the show:

  1. Five minutes of your recently taped live improv show, shot from the back of a black box theatre, entitled "[name of troupe] TV" or "The [name of troupe] Show."
  2. A five minute trailer...for your TV show? I don't get it. "In a world...?" Come on, man. Think about it.
  3. Thirteen five minute excerpts from your cable access show. With your big long enclosed letter about which episode we're supposed to show the second month, after you get picked up.
  4. The five minute cut of your old-ass, HACK-ass, LONG-ass SHORT FILM, entitled "[name of short film] episode 1" or "The [name of director/lead character] files: episode 1: [name of short film]." If you do not know the difference between a short DV film and a five minute DV pilot, here is the most crucial one: If they were holding remotes, would the audience be likely to flip around during your submission? If yes, you have submitted a short film.

Your show has to have some kind of title that will be seen on screen. You don't necessarily have to create an elaborate title sequence, but your show has to have a name, and the people watching it have to know what that name is, because they'll have a ballot sheet in front of them.

Put your show on the BEGINNING of your MiniDV tape. Do not "cue it up" in the middle of your footage tape, your tape will get rewound and we'll never find your submission. DVD is acceptable but it's going to suggest to us that you didn't shoot your pilot recently with us in mind. Also, we watch the DVDs last and we grumble about it.

A few seconds of color bars or black leader preceeding the show is fine, in fact, we'd recommend it.

Label your tape - not just the plastic case, the actual tape, with the following information:
Your name
The title of your show
Your email address
Mail to this address by the deadline:
Channel 101
P.O. Box 29400
Los Angeles, CA 90029-0400
Do not give us the only existing copy of your work. Do not expect your tape back.

We will email you to let you know if your work will be shown at the next screening. If it is, the audience will vote on whether or not you should make a second episode. If you get enough votes, your video will be in the Prime Time section of this site the morning after the screening. If you don't get enough votes, it will be in the Failed Pilots section. Prime Timers get a few extra days on their deadline for the next month, but will be subjected to the same scrutiny as all the new pilots. Sooner or later, your show will be cancelled by the audience, at which point it will go into Cancelled Shows.

All legal rights to your material remain with you. If we decide to screen your show, we are simply showing it to a small audience of fellow artists and curious onlookers, then posting it on this web site, with full credit given to you. Nobody is paying or taking money to see your work.

We reserve the right to reject any submission for whatever reason we see fit. The best way to increase your shot at some screen time is by making something that's going to make the screenings enjoyable. Make it move, make something happen, keep it short.

And the most important guideline of all: Do this for yourself. Entertain yourself. If you try to figure out how to please other people, you'll usually fail to do just that. Good luck and have fun.

Timeline Edit

2000: Rob Schrab makes a series of home movies about eating poop and having sex with babies. Dan Harmon, not to be outdone, makes a movie about Chris Tallman coming back from the dead and raping him in the ass.

2001: An innocent lunchtime decision to rent a bad film leads to a creative challenge: Attendees of that night's screening of Jaws 4 in Rob Schrab's living room must bring their own "prediction" of Jaws 4's storyline, in the medium of their choice. To complement the puppet shows, poems and mix tapes, Rob Schrab offers up a video featuring his own penis in the lead role and a DV revolution begins.

2002: A "Fresh Horses" challenge is issued and a slightly larger circle of friends participates, outgrowing Schrab's living room. For the "Creepshow" challenge, a larger living room is acquired but over 100 people show up. The "Batman" challenge takes place in the back room of a Los Angeles nightclub but the audience keeps growing and strangers begin asking for the "name of the festival" so that they can submit.

2003: Harmon and Schrab "name the festival" the Super Midnight Movie Show and make some decisions: For ease of coordination, the show will be monthly, and, for audience safety (from Scott Chernoff), the videos will be limited to five minutes in length. Two Super Midnight Movie shows are done at Improv Olympic West: The "Music Video" challenge and "Saturday Morning Challenge." Then, Harmon asks one of the employees why she's "being such a cunt" and they stop doing the show.

Harmon and Schrab soon grow to miss the monthly event and they analyze the situation. The problem with the Super Midnight Movie show was that once it got too big, some creators would have to be rejected. Either that, or a large percentage of the show has to be crap, the problem with that being that the audience will stop coming if they lose faith in your judgment. Schrab, a genius at avoiding responsibility, comes up with the idea of making the audience responsible, and over the course of that afternoon, he and Harmon devise some very simple rules and give the show a new identity: Channel 101. No longer a show, in fact. A living, autonomous, untelevised TV network, powered not by promise of reward to the artist, but by the artist's desire to reward the audience.

For the audiences that attend the live screenings, Channel 101 is a chance to sit in the worn-out chair of the fat network exec, drunk on the blood of lowly artists whose right to exist is given in exchange for their ability to nourish. If there are 10 shows in the screening and 7 of them are good, that means 2 good shows aren't coming back and the power of life and death is in your hands. Base your decision on whatever you want. You run the network. You pick the programming. Then come back in a month and see the next episodes of the shows you picked- plus a healthy crop of new pilots. Dump the whole lineup and start fresh, or keep your favorite show running all year. Unlike "real" television, at Channel 101, what you want is what you get more of, and the day you stop wanting something is the day it stops.

For the creatives that participate, Channel 101 is where the rubber meets the road. The deadlines are unreasonable, the time limit is impossible, the pay is non existent and the judgment is blunt. The amount of ego and sense of entitlement with which you enter is exactly proportional to the amount of pain you'll experience before you leave. Channel 101 is where you learn three things: How to fail, how to succeed, and finally, how there is no difference between the two. After all, the only thing as bad as being told your pilot failed is being told that your third episode was worse than your second. And the only thing as good as having the number one show is having a chance to come back with something new. In the mean time, you become harder, faster and fearless. You surrender to the audience as life-giving God and acquire total creative freedom through that surrender. You make connections with fellow creatives, you have something to look forward to all the time and for a few shining moments here and there, you're in the zone and your life takes on a little meaning.

Audiences: Please join us at our next FREE screening. We have one every month here in Los Angeles. Directors: Be a part of our movement. Every month you sit around and think about what you're going to do is a month you could've done something. Turn yourself loose and submit to Channel 101.

From here on


Wikipedia's outdated "Notable Shows" listEdit

Since this list, there's been Breaking Good, Everything, Baby Mentalist, Oh Shit, Car Jumper.......

Trivia Edit


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