Poker TV Show Un$uited Hopes to Go From Pilot to Series
New Jersey film producer Tom Baldinger wants to make pokers next (first?) great TV show, and hes been working hard to take his latest project, Un$uited, from its first two pilot episodes to a full series.
Its not an easy task, especially in todays competitive content environment, but Baldinger sees an opportunity to make a heartfelt show that finds an audience of poker fans and casual audiences alike.
The story is straightforward in its opening episodes. The main character, Greg, turns his back on the family business and moves to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player. The problem is that Greg is bad at poker, and all of his friends know this, but he doesnt seem to have a clue. The adventure takes Greg from one dingy Vegas poker room to another while he loses all of his money and rubs elbows with cameos like 1983 WSOP Main Event champion Tom McEvoy.
Baldinger, the shows co-creator and executive producer, is an independent filmmaker from New Jersey. It stars Michael Satow as Greg and Tony Denison as his father, Scott. Also making an appearance is Dan Lauria, who may be remembered from his time on The Wonder Years and as Vince Lombardi on Broadway.
"Originally Our Plan Was to Make a Movie."
The shows producers and stars have been hosting screenings at poker events to build buzz for the project, most recently at a World Poker Tour event at Seminole Hard Rock in Florida, where Baldinger sat down for an interview with PokerNews.
Our executive producer (Kent Radford) approached me with the idea for this story during COVID, Baldinger said. Originally our plan was to make a movie, but as we started to write we realized there is more to this story. So we wrote the pilot, which then manifested into two episodes.
Traditionally, a TV show gets its start as a pilot. Network executives will judge the project on this one episode and what is called a bible, or a larger outline of the shows ideas for an entire season and beyond. The network, if it approves, will then order the show for a certain amount of episodes or a full season.
"We could license a full season of something like Un$uited. The strike put everyone behind and now everyone needs content.
Its not that way anymore, specifically with what just happened with the WGA/SAG strike, Baldinger explained. It really screwed up the platform of new shows coming out. There were no new shows for the fall, and they are scrambling this spring. Now theyre trying to get things ready for summer and fall of next year.
So, what does that mean for a show like Un$uited?
What we are finding out is that there are streaming services and networks that are licensing fully-produced TV shows. We could license a full season of something like Un$uited. The strike put everyone behind and now everyone needs content.
Its a crowded landscape, but Baldinger is confident in the project and the people behind it, who have worked hard for well over a year to bring the show to fruition.
From Concept to Pilot
When we first got the idea it took us a couple of months to write the full pilot and the second episode. We went right into production pretty quickly.
The show shot on location in Las Vegas and the casino interiors were done at the now-closed Showboat in Atlantic City.
We filmed at Hotel Galaxy (a hotel on Dean Martin Drive, one of the backroads near the Strip), and that is an interesting hotel. Theres a moment in the first episode when our main character returns to the room, you saw the TV off the wall and it looked like the room was trashed that looked like that when we showed up. When we walked in we said, oh my god this is the perfect set. They must have known we were coming!
Shooting in Las Vegas lends the show some visual authenticity, as well as a depth that might not exist if they tried to fake those scenes.
It took us about two months to do the casting and another month of finding locations in Vegas and Atlantic City. Filming was about six weeks, and then the post-production, which takes a long time. It was almost a full year until it was completely ready to start putting out there.
We want to get more poker players in the series doing cameos, like McEvoy. Tom is great, he was a great resource for us on set to make sure all of the poker scenes looked good and were as legitimate as we could do it."
After the show was ready for an audience, Baldinger and his team of producers started hosting private screenings around the poker community, including one at the WSOP this summer.
We want to get more poker players in the series doing cameos, like McEvoy. Tom is great, he was a great resource for us on set to make sure all of the poker scenes looked good and were as legitimate as we could do it. He also introduced me to Matt Savage, and the World Poker Tour has been a tremendous supporter of the show. Matt will be our official poker consultant when we get started.
Baldingers goal is to find financing and a home for the show, all while navigating the new landscape of content distribution. If he can finance the entire first season, Baldinger can distribute it as a full package, bypassing the traditional pilot process and the reliance on networks and executives.
Our focus is to get the poker community behind the show. Having screenings with poker professionals who come up to me and give their feedback is great. Right now our biggest strategy is to make the first season and partner with investors and others within the poker community. We also plan on doing some more screenings to build up the interest in the project.
For more information on Un$uited, visit the 624 Productions website. Check out the trailer below:
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