The Chicago Comedy TV Pilot Competition was discontinued as of 2016. The reason: times have changed significantly since it began 10 years before. Then, a TV pilot competition was a major way for Chicago filmmakers to get their ideas before industry decision-makers and the media. Today, web series are more popular than TV pilots among independent filmmakers because they can be made in shorter, more affordable segments, and as well, are assured immediate viewing online.
The Chicago Comedy TV Pilot Competition was begun in 2007, at the 10th anniversary of the Chicago Short Comedy Video and Film Festival. It was intended to be a special event for that anniversary, and like the shorts festival, was only open to Chicagoans, but it was unclear how many pilots were being made in the city by independent filmmakers, so it might have been a one-time event. In fact, there were many accomplished entries, such that it was clear the competition was viable as an annual event.
At that time, there was only one festival in the U.S. solely dedicated to TV pilots; the Chicago Comedy TV Pilot Competition was the second. Producer Marion Sours received valuable support and advice in setting up the format of the event from Kathy Byrne of the Chicago Film Office and Elizabeth Donius of IFP Midwest. Also valuable was the input provided by the late Tom Whedon, celebrated writer and producer of popular Hollywood comedy television shows, then an instructor at Duke University, who later served on the jury for nine years.
The event was held in a theater through 2013; for the last 3 years of the event it was an online competition. When in the theaters, local celebrities from Chicago TV shows appeared to give entertaining short talks before the screenings: Ben Hollis of Wild Chicago; Mike Schmiedeler of Towers Productions; Al Samuels and Kevin Fleming of Sports Action Team; Pat Johnson and Regina Fraser of Grannies on Safari; Tony Lossano and Mariana Perin of The Big Fat Nude Hippo Show.
Jury members over the years were from such prestigious Hollywood studios as ABC Studios, CBS Paramount Network Television, Comedy Central, Fox Broadcasting Co., and Universal Television. And such important talent agencies as 3 Arts Entertainment, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, International Creative Management, and United Talent Agency.
The winners of the festivals are posted on this site (see First Place Award Winners page). It was always a hard choice for the jury members to choose. As attendees at the event would testify, every pilot that was a finalist in this competition was funny and very much worth seeing. As one Hollywood jury member said: “This is the best comedy film festival I’ve ever seen.”