"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.
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. 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.
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
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 ifilm.com, this isn't newgrounds.com. 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.
Submitting a Pilot
EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS INVITED TO SUBMIT A CHANNEL 101 PILOT.
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:
- 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."
- A five minute ...movie trailer...for your TV show? I don't get it. "In a world...?" Come on, man. Think about it.
- 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.
- 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:
The title of your show
Your email address
Mail to this address by the deadline:
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.
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 Channel101.com
- Jack Black: Computerman, Time Belt, Laser Fart, Exposure, Water and Power
- Drew Carey: Call Me Cobra, Yacht Rock
- Sarah Chalke: The 'Bu
- Jeff Davis: Laser Fart, House of Cosbys, Ultraforce
- Flavor Flav: Six Months to Live
- Kato Kaelin: Call Me Cobra
- Jason Lee: Yacht Rock
- Bob Odenkirk: Your Magic Touched Me: Nights
- Sarah Silverman: MESI, Channel 101: The Musical
- David Faustino: Skateboardpunks, The Amazing Christopher
- Ethan Phillips: The Wright Stuff
- The Lonely Island: The 'Bu, ITV Countdown
- Jimmy Kimmel: MESI
- Paget Brewster: Time Belt
- Chris Tallman: Time Belt, The Wright Stuff, Ultraforce
- Donny Most: Channel 101: The Musical
- Derek Mears: Nightstalkers, Ultraforce, My Rockstar, Vengeance
- Chevy Chase: Water and Power
- Joel McHale: Water and Power
- John Oliver: Water and Power
- Paul F. Tompkins: Sunday Detective Film Theater
- Sandeep Parikh: Raptor, Blood Oath of Three Men and a Baby.
- Felicia Day: Blood Oath of Three Men and a Baby.
- Brian Posehn: Call Me Cobra
- Steve Agee: Yacht Rock, Making Mistakes, Wade and Eric sold a Movie, Car Jumper
- Fred Stoller: Groove Fighters, 2 Girls 1 Cup The Show, Tales From Railroad Times
- Tim Heidecker: House of Cosbys, Documentary: The Series, My 2 Fathers
- Eric Wareheim: My 2 Fathers
- Aziz Ansari: Water and Power
Wikipedia's outdated "Notable Shows" list
- Classroom—Longest-running prime time show (13 episodes total); parody of after-school specials
- Chad Vader—A popular video series that was created for Channel 101, but was cancelled after only two episodes. The creators, Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, went on to continue the series, and it became an extremely popular series on youtube where it was "featured" multiple times.
- The 'Bu—Second-longest-running prime time show (11 episodes); also known for being filmed with new casts and crew for the last three episodes. The show was created by The Lonely Island.
- Computerman—Starring Jack Black as a cross-breed of a man’s DNA and his home computer.
- Brently and Mrs. Gould-Starring Brently Heilbron and his 85 year old sidekick, Mrs. Gould (played by Jean Farber).
- Call Me Cobra—Starring Drew Carey, a show about a man who is mistaken for a professional killer, but takes the job for the money.
- House of Cosbys—About a man who clones Bill Cosby several times over.
- Laser Fart—Long-running series starring Dan Harmon, noted for guest-starring Jack Black.
- Time Belt—Previously held the record for longest-running prime-time show; The show was created by Chris Tallman.
- Kicked in the Nuts!—Starring Family Guy writer/co-star Mike Henry. A Candid Camera parody that consists of an orange-haired man kicking men in the testicles, later to their delight when he tells them that they are on TV. Made reference to on the Family Guy episode “The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire.”
- Yacht Rock—Credited for launching a revival of “smooth music” in popular culture.
- Channel 101: The Musical—Fully orchestrated Broadway style musical featuring Sarah Silverman and Happy Days' Donny Most.
- The Most Extraordinary Space Investigations—Starring Dan Harmon, Sevan Najarian, Justin Roiland and Sarah Silverman. Noted for intentional mistakes, and purposely performing notable errors.
- Twigger's Holiday—Colorful Musical about a kid growing up. Starring Rob Schrab.
- Shitbuster—Holds the record for most downloaded failed pilot. A revived short series starring Chris Romano as the original Shitbuster ran for 3 episodes.
- The Jogger—Cancelled pilot about a jogger solving problems, it garned praise for the choreography and was later featured in Entertainment Weekly. The show later had its rights picked up by a production company. 
- The Wright Stuff—Starring Ethan Phillips as President Teddy Roosevelt. Created by Ford Austin & Scott Ingalls. Became the highest budgeted Channel 101 series at $5000 per episode.
- I Love Vaginas—The creators, at age 14, were the youngest ever to make it to the Channel 101 screening.
- The Serious Businessman—This show’s challenge to its rejection by the voting panel created the "Chauncey" system.
- Sockbaby—Zero-budget martial arts from Doug TenNapel, the creator of Earthworm Jim.
- Cautionary Tales of Swords—Trip Fisk (Michael Ashe) tries warning the world of the dangers of sword ownership, and later, decides to fight the problem himself. Created by Drew Hancock.
- Return to Supermans—A send-up of Turkish versions of American cinema (such as Turkish Star Wars). Created by Aaron Moles. Featured on G4's Attack of the Show
- Ultraforce—3 episode sci-fi action spectacular created by Jeremy Carter and Matt Gourley of the Superego Podcast. It featured Derek Mears, Jeff Davis and Chris Tallman.
- Planet Unicorn - Fictional stories revolve around three talking unicorns - Feathers, Cadillac and Tom Cruise - who were created by an 8 year-old gay boy named Shannon.
- Ikea Heights - A melodrama shot entirely in the Burbank California Ikea Store without the store knowing. Featured in the LA Times.
Since this list, there's been Breaking Good, Everything, Baby Mentalist, Oh Shit, Car Jumper.......
- Stats up to January 2006:
- 135 Different shows had been screened.
- 33 made it in to prime time and were voted back for 66 more episodes.
- That makes the average length of a show 3 epps including pilot. That makes this next stat even more amazing.
- The longest running show was The 'Bu (no shit).
- It ran for 11 shows and had a episode screen in 03 04 and 05.
- The shortest show was the Mustache Contest which made prime time but never got a second show.
- During the Bu's 11 show run they had 8 months off.
- Laser Fart had 7 months off during it's 10 epp run.
- Molly & Ringwald, Computerman, Time Belt and Yacht Rock on the other hand have all done five straight epps.
- Longest running shows average prime time rank: