Open Road's Prolific Path Through Pilot Season

by Paige Albiniak  |  05.26.2016

​NBC’s trailer for new family drama This is Us (above) has been seen nearly 60 million times across all digital platforms—with 40 million streams on Facebook alone—since its release at the NBC upfront on Monday, May 16.

Last year, CBS’ Supergirl was the trending trailer, with more than 10 million views.

Both trailers—and many more—were worked on or cut by Open Road Entertainment, led by Lon Moeller, president of broadcast, along with his team of producers including Celia Hubbard, Alex Justinger and Bridget Paulson.

Altogether, Open Road Entertainment ended this upfront season with 14 trailers going to series and 11 shown on New York City stages, after working on 30 pilots for the five broadcast networks and two cable networks. That’s up from last year’s 20 pilots on which Open Road worked. Besides Supergirl, on which Open Road ended up not cutting the final upfront trailer but working on the show’s launch campaign, Open Road also cut trailers for NBC’s Blindspot, the one break-out hit from this season, as well as Fox’s The Grinder, starring Rob Lowe and Fred Savage; The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Containment and ABC’s Blood and Oil and The Real O’Neals, among others.

The company’s attitude, when it comes to the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of pilot season, seems to be “give us more.”

“This is our favorite time of the year, there’s no other time of year like it. You are working incredible hours and you aren’t sleeping that often, but there’s so much passion and creativity and you really get to switch between ten different things,” says Hubbard, who, among many other things, worked on the cutdown for new CBS show Pure Genius. “That’s my favorite. You are using your brain in so many different ways, switching from network to network, show to show. You can’t pinpoint what will inspire you, but the results are insane when you get to work on that much stuff.”

The trailer that Open Road is arguably proudest of this year—and there’s 60 million reasons why—is This Is Us, which everyone on the team says was a collaborative effort.

“All of us touched this one, while normally we would have someone be assigned to something,” says Moeller. “One of our editors laid down the ground work and set the tone of the first version, which started it on the whole process to where it finally ended up. It really was a team effort. That was why for me it was so special—it is the most collaborative thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Unlike Supergirl, which was the TV version of a much-loved DC comic, This is Us is an untested ensemble family drama, not the kind of thing that usually trends. The show — from Dan Fogelman, writer and producer of Crazy, Stupid, Love — tells the story of several people who are all celebrating their 36th birthday on the same day and how their lives intersect.

“It’s been the most multi-faceted, involved, upfront piece we’ve ever been a part of and I think that shows,” says Justinger. “It’s incredible how many hands touched it. It started out very strong, got noted to death, and then came out in the best possible way.”

Beyond This Is Love, Open Road’s producers each had passion projects they got to pursue this upfront season.

For Paulson, that was Fox’s Son of Zorn, a mixed-media comedy from Phil Lord and Chris Miller and starring Jason Sudekis and Cheryl Hines.

“It’s such a fun and ridiculously hilarious show,” she says, “and I really loved working with the editor.”

Paulson had experience working with Lord and Miller on the theatrical side, having cut the trailer for the wildly successful Lego Movie, so she had the advantage of understanding the comic duo’s sensibility. Open Road also cut the trailer for Lord and Miller’s Last Man on Earth, starring Will Forte.

And Hubbard loves medical dramas, so she was the natural choice to work on Pure Genius, which stars Augustus Prew as a brilliant and wealthy Silicon Valley billionaire who opens a cutting-edge medical facility and recruits the world’s best doctors to work there.

“I feel like this one is different from typical medical dramas,” she says. “It’s really cool visually and it has an emotional edge to it. It’s a new type of medical show that has both a lot of heart and a lot of modern technology.”

Other producers and editors in Open Road’s shop also got to work on shows for which they felt a particular affinity. In one case, an editor professed that he was a “huge MacGyver fan” and next thing that lucky guy knew, he was editing MacGyver trailers.

“The truth is if you can find things that people are passionate about, when they want to be part of something, that passion translates. We promote that here throughout the whole place and all the staff,” says Moeller.

Open Road Entertainment got its start as a trailer house for movies and only moved into broadcast a few years ago. That movie experience is something that sets Open Road apart — the shop tends to cut TV trailers as if they were movies, giving them story arcs and just enough plot that viewers feel like they’ve been told a mini-story.

“We get a lot of stuff that’s intended to be more like a theatrical trailer,” says Moeller. “We’re telling a story but we also want to entice people to want to see more.”

Here are a few more of Open Road’s trailers that networks showed off in New York last week:

NBC’s The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson:

E!‘s The Arrangement, produced by Hubbard:

Fox’s reboot of Prison Break, with Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell reprising their original roles:

Fox’s The Mick:

ABC’s Imaginary Mary, starring Jenna Elfman and Rachel Dratch:

ABC’s American Housewife, starring Mike & Molly’s Katy Mixon:

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