TV Takes Over the Festival Circuit

by Paige Albiniak  |  03.23.2017

TV isn’t just taking over your free time, your conversations and your social media feed, it’s also taking over the festival circuit, where events like Comic-Con, Sundance, SXSW and now the Tribeca Film Festival are focusing ever more on television.

Tribeca on Thursday announced the line-up for its second go-round of the Tribeca TV program, which will take place during the overall festival run April 19-30. The program will feature 15 shows, including five series premieres, four season premieres, three independent pilots, one feature documentary and sneak peek of documentarian Ken Burns’ latest film, The Vietnam War, airing on PBS this fall. Burns also will be presented with the Festival’s new Citizen Filmmaker Award.

“Coming off of a very successful first year of Tribeca TV, we curated this year’s program to include an expanded, exceptional lineup of top-notch shows and dynamic storytellers both in front of and behind the camera,” said Cara Cusumano, director of programming at the Tribeca Film Festival in a statement. “As the TV landscape continues to evolve in exciting, cinematic directions, the festival creates a unique opportunity for audiences to discover together on a big screen what everyone else will eventually be talking about from their couches at home.”

Among the series premieres are Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Elisabeth Moss; NatGeo’s Genius, starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson about the life of Albert Einstein; USA Network’s The Sinner, starring Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman; and There’s ….. Johnny! from NBC’s comedy streaming service SeeSo.

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The festival also will turn the spotlight on returning shows, including Comedy Central’s Another Period, Hulu’s Casual, Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Seeso’s There’s ….. Johnny!, and Showtime’s Episodes.

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Finally, it will offer a special screening of three pilots by independent producers — Black Magic for White Boys, Lost & Found, and Manic — followed by a conversation with the creators.

Trifecta is just the latest festival to jump on the TV train: many other festivals have been seeing an influx of TV shows for years now.

San Diego Comic-Con, in particular, has been gradually moving away from movies and toward TV for years ago, especially as genre shows have become so popular. Warner Bros. has been especially effective in marshaling the fan fever of Comic-Con to help promote new series, and other networks have come on strong with programming and marketing activations all across the Convention Center and Gaslamp Quarter.

This year, the Sundance Film Festival screened several TV shows, including ABC’s Downward Dog, starring Fargo’s Allison Tolman, and CNN’s docu-series The History of Comedy.

In 2016, Sundance saw premieres from Hulu’s 11.22.68, starring James Franco, and Starz’ The Girlfriend Experience, executive produced by Steven Soderbergh and starring Riley Keogh.

“We opened our eyes to allow more television,” festival director John Cooper told Yahoo TV at the time. “It’s been growing very organically. The creators lead, and we try to provide the best platform we can.”

And TV has invaded Austin’s SXSW, which launched as a music festival and has evolved into a two-week study at everything on the cutting edge of music, movies, technology and TV.

Several networks brought big new premieres to Austin, including Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, AMC’s The Son, Starz’ American Gods and Netflix’s Dear White People. Other networks didn’t necessarily host screenings but did run marketing activations, such as TNT’s pop-up beach for Animal Kingdom and Netflix’s pop-up Los Pollos Hermanos for Better Call Saul. NatGeo also created the ‘Further: Base Camp’ to promote Genius, offering an augmented reality experience.

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