Creator, writer, director, executive producer, editor and star actor of the critically-acclaimed show Louie, Louis C.K. has been able to turn a budget of $250,000 per episode into 13 award wins out of 47 nominations.
Compared to shows like Two and a Half Men, where Charlie Sheen’s salary alone was five times more than Louie‘s budget, the show’s success has been considered to be an anomaly in the television world. However, not all shows are created equal.
In return for greater creative control, C.K made do with a significantly smaller budget and filled many roles himself. With this added sense of freedom, C.K. was able to build the show he wanted because he knew all of the facets in creating a television show from the ground up.
“I taught myself how to do everything. And that’s what gave me the license to do this.” – Louis C.K. on WTF with Marc Maron
In middle school, he spent countless hours locked in the AV room experimenting with the equipment, and learning how to fix hardware ranging from computers to overhead projectors. In high school, he toiled away at an internship at a local access cable television station that gave him access to professional soundboards, cameras, and editing bays. Thanks to his experience with the AV Club, he was the one fixing, repairing, and re-wiring most of the equipment at the television station, earning him trust and time to experiment.
“They are just worried that you might break it. It costs money. But I fixed that shit. I became that little techie kid who would fix the cameras, so certainly they trusted me with it. I had keys to every room in that station… and I would shoot my own little videos.” – Louis C.K. on WTF with Marc Maron
C.K. was trained in almost every role associated with producing television and film all before he ever made his first television pilot. By learning how to shoot, direct, edit and act, C.K. had the insight that allowed him to know what should be expected from each member of his television crew and how best to maximize what they are capable of creating.
Instead of outsourcing to fill the roles, C.K. was able to create the vision he knew was possible based on his years of experience in the industry. This carried over to his experimentation with distribution, netting himself $1 million in 12 days after charging $5 for a download of his comedy special.
If you want to ensure your vision comes to life, you must be able to show how exactly you wish for your product to be. This can mean putting more hours into a more rounded skill set, but it will provide perspective and experience on all sides of your industry.
Louis C.K. has done it. Chefs have been doing it for years in their kitchens. Will you?