Channel 101: an opportunity for budding filmmakers, actors and writers

Based in Los Angeles and New York, Channel 101 is the name of two independent monthly amateur film contests that have been running for over a decade. They have groomed and bred an alumni of talented personalities in filmmaking and the wider world of entertainment. 


Channel 101 is a free contest in which you film a five minute pilot, generally comedy based*, that you send in to be reviewed by a screening panel. If the pilot is considered good enough to be screened, it will be played in front of a live audience in either LA or New York, whichever you submitted it to. If it’s rejected, you can get free advice on what about it didn’t work. Anyone in the world can submit a pilot to Channel 101, and it’s free besides the costs of your own time and production; the screenings are completely non-profit and unsponsored. 


*(However, you are not exclusively limited to comedy; you can submit whatever you like, and experimental, arty shows have also been successful. More serious, dramatic pilots tend to not work in the format.) 


Each month’s screening will consist of approved pilots and the newest episodes of returning shows. After the screening, the live audience votes on which shows were best: the top five shows can make another episode for the next month. You can also self-cancel your show, and this allows the opportunity to have a much longer (within reason, about a half hour at most) episode as your finale.  


Channel 101, in its original Los Angeles form, was founded by Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty) and Rob Schrab (The Sarah Silverman Program, The Lego Movie 2) two writers who have gone on to become famous and successful in their own right. The screenings were originally created as a place for some amateur filmmakers to make some silly entertainment amongst themselves, but it has grown into a legitimately educational and community-building society of filmmakers. 


Eventually a sister venue was founded in New York called Channel 102 (now Channel 101 NY) which has gone on to breed its own personalities, especially comedians, and for a brief time Channel 101’s community was producing a TV series adaption called Acceptable.TV that was an attempt to capitalize on YouTube’s early revolutionary period of amateur film-making on TV. 


Writers, directors, actors and other crew members have gone on to gain successful careers on various shows and movies as the years have gone on, but the community has remained a strong collective. The TV show Rick and Morty, which is in fact partially a spiritual successor to a much more puerile Channel 101 pilot, was created by Justin Roiland, a prolific member of Channel 101’s history, with Harmon, and many writers and other crew have been Channel 101 stars in the past. Channel 101 has evolved from a small silly activity between friends with video cameras to one of the best kept secrets on the internet. 


If you want to try your hand at developing your skills in filmmaking, be it writing, acting, directing, or any other crew work, you should consider checking out Channel 101 and considering submitting to the event.  


Discretion: The author has personally been blogging about Channel 101 Los Angeles and Channel 101 New York for nearly a decade now, and I have been a long-time fan of the events.  


Photo Credit: Flickr @Jsawkins