TV Insights, Observations and Obsessions from the NYTVF
Check out our Q&A series with Fest Founder Terence Gray (and others), designed to provide submitting artists and TV fans with insight to the current development landscape. If you're thinking about submitting to the NYTVF, this is for you.
Development Advice and Introspection from Drama Panel in LA
Partly inspired by our newly announced development award with Lionsgate and Channel 4, the NYTVF was very excited to host a panel, with Indiewire, that focused on drama development. Moderator Dana Harris (Indiewire) was joined by Pam Veasey (In Living Color, The Tomorrow People), Chris Selak (Lionsgate Television), and Elizabeth Newman (CAA) for a riveting exploration of the television landscape. Though topics were far-reaching and broad, there were key points brought up that should be incredibly useful for a new, independent creator.
While no network, cable or broadcast, is looking for the same show, one thing that everyone is looking for are shows that spark a conversation. With the growing prominence of DVR and online viewing, television networks need to find shows that demand live viewing. As CAA's Elizabeth Newman pointed out, the new term du jour is "noisy" shows, though that in and of itself is packed with meaning and open to interpretation. To Pam Veasey, a noisy show is one that has a strong voice and a centered focus, more akin to what people used to see in the world of independent film: boutique television shows that could only come from one mind. For Lionsgate's Chris Selak, noisy television is all about being provocative. Noisy TV gets attention and creates a conversation. Though examples were varied, panelists mentioned ABC Family's The Fosters as a prime example of noisy television.
The Cable-ization of Television
The state of television is ever-changing. Pam Veasey, who brought 25 years of television experience to the table, remembered a time not-long-ago when a show she was working on was cancelled while still pulling in 20+ million viewers an episode. Now, even the biggest shows on television would be happy for those numbers. And as the viewing public has become fractured across multiple cable outlets, broadcast networks have looked to bring the appeal of cable shows and bring it to 'mainstream' television. This included looking at more shows with one artistic voice, looking more at serialized content, and producing shorter-run series that keep intact the show's core focus. As Chris Selak pointed out, there has been a "big shift in the last 2 to 3 seasons towards serialized content" and that most broadcast networks aren't looking for procedurals. However, this shift hasn't been seamless, and networks still have a few insurmountable hurdles. As Pam Veasey said, there is still a clear divide between cable and network in terms of what you can say, both in terms of actual language and in how that is presented. There are more taboo subjects on broadcast television now, and you don't see that as much in cable. Also, there is less chance of risk-taking in broadcast television. Network execs may be excited to hear about a risky new show, but they're not likely to actually develop the show all the way to television screens. Also, in many cases, the shorter seasons of television shows have less to do with a shift towards 'cable'-esque shows about more to do with getting talent. Halle Berry might not do a 22-episode series, but she might be enticed by a 10-episode commitment.
The Creative Mecca of Cable, The Money of Broadcast
Across the board, we are seeing more creative content on cable than ever before. As cable networks work to establish and nurture a brand identity, they are reaching out for content. This is not only true in cable, but also in online distributors like Amazon and Netflix, who are putting out a strong roster of original programming. Still, even with the creative freedom, there is still more money to be made on broadcast television. As one panelist pointed out, one Castle is equal to 10 White Collars.
An Even Playing Field
With more players in the game than ever before, now is the time for independent creators to find a voice on television. It can be difficult to break into television, but there are multiple, organic avenues for creators to try (*cough* The NYTVF *cough*) – don't try to push right to the front of the line, and put in your time. As Elizabeth Newman pointed out, there are so many people looking for new content, so writers need to bet on themselves and nurture their own ideas. While you're working at a lower rung, spend time with your ideas and honing your voice.
More and more, executives want to see new ideas, and that means that more people can get an audience. Chris Selak pointed to the fact that Lionsgate is an independent studio, and as such they are very idea-driven, As Pam Veasey said, we're in a place where writers can go online, can pitch directly to networks – there are so many places to go! Ideas will always win, and even with the barriers that new creatives face, there is still a somewhat open door.
For more information on this panel, check out NYTVF's Twitter account. Additionally, be sure to look at the newly announced Lionsgate and Channel 4 Drama Award, which is offering a $45K development deal to one of NYTVF's 2014 Official Selections.
Check out previous downloads here:
MSN Development - 2/12/14 | Casting - 2/5/14 | The Network Development Process - 1/29/14 | History Development - 1/15/14 | Comedy Formats - 3/18/13 | A&E Pipeline - 4/3/13| Fox Script Contest - 4/10/13 | From Film to TV - 5/17/13 | Lifetime Unscripted - 9/4/13