The 13th New York Television Festival kicks off today with 52 pilots screening, 20 development scripts circulating, and new partnerships with Hulu and Audible aiming to channel talent toward emerging platforms.
Through October 28, the festival will feature workshops and industry meetings as well as panel discussions and keynotes featuring notable producers and writers including Shawn Ryan and Lena Waithe, talent like Amy Sedaris and Jordan Klepper, and a range of network and agency execs. One themed night, on October 24, will be “Comedy for Change,” featuring Waithe, who won a writing Emmy last month for Netflix’s Master of None, plus two panels featuring writers from multiple late-night shows taking stock of comedy’s role in journalism and activism. World premiere screenings on tap include include S.W.A.T. from Sony/CBS, Nude from Starz and Search Party (Season 2) from TBS.
Terence Gray, the festival’s founder and executive director, said the recent push by film festivals into showcasing television (as Tribeca did with its debut TV festival last month) is no threat to the NYTVF. “It really makes a statement about the artistic medium of television and the incredible work being done across the board,” he tells Deadline. “They’re being held up among the best works of any kind. So that strengthens the overall movement and the overall TV community.”
Hulu is supporting the New York fest for the first time, Gray said, primarily in the hopes of discovering animated work. (The pilot episode of animated series Animals first screened at NYTVF en route to a Sundance premiere and a deal at HBO, which has just renewed the show for a third season.) Audible is on the hunt for an audio comedy series, something once unthinkable that now seems logical in the age of podcasting. AMC Networks, a longtime festival presence, is pushing its Shudder OTT service as a conduit for horror or thriller projects. Topic, the multi-faceted media arm of First Look, is also aboard. All four corporate sponsors have pledged to offer at least one development deal to someone from the festival pool.
Diversity is another key goal for the festival, Gray said. Among the 52 pilots, 71% have a woman in a core creative role, meaning producer, director or writer, and 44% have a person of color in such a role. Of the 20 scripts, 55% are credited to a female writer or co-writer, and 30% are from persons of color. More than half of the scripts came to the festival without representation.
Convening meetings between creators and potential buyers is a priority for the festival. Last year, there were roughly 500 of those, with this year projected to top out at 600. TBS and Warner Bros. Television are the newest ones to join the roster of 75 companies (spanning networks, studios, agencies, production companies and digital entities) participating in the meetings.
New board members at the festival include IFC president Jen Caserta, plus Amy Emmerich of Refinery 29, Ayala Cohen of ICM and Michael Schmidt of Red Arrow Entertainment.