Why Television Writers Need To Take Advantage of Festival Opportunities
It's imperative for writers seeking to tell stories through long form (otherwise known as television - but even that definition is raidily evolving with streaming and on demand platforms) to consider the opportunities presented by festivals such as NYTV.
The New York Television Festival just wrapped up it's week long event with screenings, panels and gathering opportunites at spaces such as the Helen Mills Theater, Event Space, the SVA Theater (as a selection judge for SVA's Dusty Festival - I love this space!) and Tribeca Three-Sixty.
A brief history if you are unaware - NYTF began was founded in 2005 as the industry’s first creative festival for television artists. A pioneer of the “independent television” movement, the Festival strives to construct new and innovative paths of development and talent identification, while simultaneously complementing the traditional television development model.
To learn more about NYTF and their submission policies, follow this link: NYTF
Just as the nature of television is changing, so is the process of developing projects and discovering talent. As the community and industry moves toward a even more creator driven model, it's important for writers to be educated as to the paths you can take to see your vision and work realized.
As producing costs continue to fall due to technolgical advances (cheap HD 4K cameras and editing on laptops), and distribution channels like YouTube and Vimeo provide a free to low cost platform to showcase yourt vision- the ability of writers to connect with talent in front of and behind the camera becomes more imperative than ever.
Now, obviously, this has been the trend for easily the last half decade. But the focus has been on "reality" personality driven projects that have created "You Tube" Stars of comedians, gamers, and sketch groups like DanTDM, JennaMarbles, and Smoosh. With the duo Smoosh, their online popularity has led to a feature film.
I bring these examples up as a wake up call to writers waiting to have their scripts read by development executives. Whether you are repped or not - you must realize that execs continue to go beyond the traditional methods of finding "content" and fresh voices.
This is about controlling your vision. The steps between script, development, and production are opportunites to water down your vision for the sake of "being seen", and yes - of course, a paycheck. But the steps to that paycheck are growing longer and the paycheck growing smaller...
This path means more heavy lifting. More sweat equity. Possibly a little debt. Or a lot.
But consider this - a well produced project that clearly shows your voice as a writer allows you to build an audience and demonstrate to an executive what your vision is. A script, no matter how brilliant, needs to be read. Needs to be approved. Needs to move through the steps that can take weeks, months, years... or never.
We all want to get paid. But as more produced work can be seen, it makes it harder for writers to rely on executives reading their script and "seeing" their vision on the page.
Instead of this being a development that hinders your dreams, look at it as an amazing opportunity to gain control and create your work.
At NYTV this week, pilot projects produced from around the country (not just LA or NY) were seen by Festival partners for those deals are A+E, AMC, Channel 4, Comedy Central, FYI, HISTORY, H2, Lifetime, Starz, truTV, WEtv and Red Arrow Entertainment Group’s Left/Right and Fabrik Entertainment. These led to over twenty (20) development deals and hundreds being invited to pitch.
My dear friend Matt Servitto (Sopranos, Banshee) produced a series of short films entitled The Lords of The Playground with Jason Kravits (30 Rock, Royal Pains). These shorts were optioned by CBS for development.
Your writing must be as strong as ever in this ever more competitive environment. But that should be looked at not as discouraging - but hopeful!
Strong writing with a powerful vision will always attract talent. Use the ability to produce at a low cost to your advantage. There is great talent everywhere. Begin to build your collabrative skills. Producing and working to see your script realized will always challenge you and hone your abilities as a writer.
And now more than ever, can that work be seen.