Craig Piligian (pictured), president and CEO of Pilgrim Studios, will be inducted into the Realscreen Awards Hall of Fame on June 2 during the Realscreen Awards ceremony in Santa Monica.
Piligian, who began his television career in the news business as an assignment editor at Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV, entered the then-nascent reality programming sphere through his early production work with Real Stories of the Highway Patrol and as one of the original executive producers of CBS’ iconic competition series Survivor.
Upon founding Pilgrim Films & Television in 1997, Piligian honed what would become known as the company’s trademark testosterone-fueled programming style, with such massive docuseries as American Chopper and Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, both for Discovery.
Both series enjoyed long runs, with Chopper on the air for a decade and the Emmy-nominated Dirty Jobs on for eight seasons. Other Piligian and Pilgrim series that have made great impact on American television – both cable and broadcast – include top paranormal series Ghost Hunters, currently in production for a 10th season on Syfy, and the series that catapulted Mixed Martial Arts into a television phenomenon, The Ultimate Fighter, which began its long TV tenure on Spike and is now moving into its 21st season via its current home, Fox Sports 1.
While more recent hits such as Fast ‘n’ Loud for Discovery, Wicked Tuna for National Geographic Channel, and Swamp Pawn for CMT continue in the Pilgrim tradition of testosterone TV, Piligian has steered the company towards a diverse range of programming, including such female-skewing hits as the NAACP Image Award-winning Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s for OWN, We TV’s My Fair Wedding with David Tutera (now airing as David Tutera’s CELEBrations), and Bring It! for Lifetime.
Another Pilgrim production blasted its way into pop culture in 2013, when Discovery kicked off its tent-pole ‘Shark Week’ strand with the “mockumentary” Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, which grabbed the highest ratings of any program in the strand’s 26-year history. Piligian has also taken Pilgrim into the scripted space with great success, as seen in such Lifetime movies as Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy, and the award-winning Abducted: The Carlina White Story.
At the end of last year, Pilgrim got its first scripted series pick-up via Recovery Road for ABC Family. This year, Piligian optioned the World War II non-fiction book Double Agent by Peter Duffy, about the dismantling of a German spy ring in New York City, which he plans to turn into a feature film.
“The evolution of Pilgrim Studios’ programming has not only mirrored the evolution of the unscripted genre – it has also influenced that evolution,” said realscreen editor and content director Barry Walsh. “Craig Piligian has not only carved out a niche that has proved to be one of the most popular within reality television, but he is also taking the company – and the genre – into new, exciting and unpredictable territory. For that, we feel he deserves to be honored as Producer Extraordinaire at the Realscreen Awards.”