New York Television Festival Puts Emphasis on Networking, Talent Scouting

The 11th edition of the New York Television Festival kicks off today with an expansive competition of independently produced programs and panel sessions with notable talent and TV execs.

The field of TV yakfests is growing, with newer festivals popping up around the country from Austin to Atlanta, and even film festivals such as Sundance and Toronto are showcasing small screen fare. But industry insiders say the NYTVF has distinguished itself as a forum for networking and talent scouting, thanks in part to its proximity to so many TV and digital buyers. And from the start, NYTVF founder-exec director Terence Gray put a premium on showcasing the work of indie producers, even DIY projects that allowed budding auteurs to demonstrate voice and vision.

The fest’s growth has serendipitously coincided with the explosion of demand for TV and digital content.

“At a time when television is driving the conversation, both creatively and from a business standpoint, the time for independent television has arrived,” Gray told Variety. “There are more buyers of episodic television than ever before, from broadcast and cable to digital platforms. Indie filmmakers are embracing the television medium. And new technologies are making it easier than ever to not only produce, distribute and promote content, but also to innovate.”

Over the past decade, Gray has enlisted impressive industry support for the festival in the form of development deals and mentoring programs offered to festival winners by major players including A+Networks, Fox, AMC Networks and the Orchard.

The 2013 NYTVF competition gave a big boost to the producers behind the animated shorts “Animals” that were picked up to series earlier this year by HBO with the Duplass brothers producing. The shorts screened at the festival, which led to creators Phil Matarese and Mike Luciano signing with ICM and connecting with the Duplass brothers. The shorts screened at the Sundance fest this year, where it wound up nabbing a two-season order from HBO.

Other fest participants have gone on to development pacts and staff positions on shows. Examples include Richard Keith and Erin Cardillo, creators of CW’s “Significant Mother,” who won the comedy script concept sponsored by Fox in 2013.

The festival runs through Saturday at various venues. Highlights of this year’s schedule include Tuesday’s keynote conversation featuring top female exec producers and showrunners, an appearance tonight by Dan Harmon and “special guests” and the premiere of WGN America’s drama series “Outsiders.” NBCUniversal is using the NYTVF as a testing ground for its newly unveiled Seeso subscription comedy streaming service.

But at the NYTVF, the real action begins on Wednesday with the competitive screenings and networking sessions set as part of the NYTVF Connect sessions at the Helen Mills Theater.

(Pictured: “Girls” exec producer Jenni Konner, right, and Slate’s Willa Paskin at the 2014 New York Television Festival

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