Four years ago I wrote my first feature for the New York Times (“Small-Screen Sundance”), about an ambitious new event called the New York Television Festival. Founder Terence Gray and his associates wanted to do for independent television what festivals like Sundance had done for independent film, by exposing new and exciting works into the marketplace that might not otherwise get screened. Since the fall of 2005, the annual, week-long event has incorporated series premieres, industry panels and screenings of undiscovered pilots, along with an awards ceremony at week’s end. NYTVF has united aspiring television directors and producers with industry insiders, helped get a few pilots sold to networks and cable channels and has been a springboard for various talent to find opportunities in the world of television.
This year, the festival’s fifth annual opening night event at the Times Center in Manhattan spotlighted the premieres of two new ABC comedies, Modern Family and Cougar Town, just prior to their national airings, which were followed by an upbeat panel with actors Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell and Busy Philipps, moderated by Entertainment Weekly staff writer Tim Stack. And, of course, there was the after-party where festival attendees got to mix and mingle. It’s probably a novel concept for many members of the public to watch TV shows on a large screen, and every year it’s always interesting to see how they respond, particularly to the comedies. Modern Family went over well with the large crowd last night and elicited plenty of laughter, and Cougar Town got a decent response and offered a few zingers. Tomorrow night features a fan screening for the pilot of ABC’s Flash Forward, an epic new drama that is highly apropos for a larger screening format.
NYTVF 2009 runs through Saturday night and will include panel appearances from Late Show With David Letterman co-head writers Justin and Eric Stangel and SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis (on Tuesday night), The Cleveland Show star Mike Henry, cast members Reagen Gomez and Kevin Michael Richardson and executive producer Rich Appel (Thursday night), 30 Rock writer-producers Matt Hubbard (fresh from his Emmy win) and Kay Cannon (Saturday at noon) and keynote speaker and Battlestar Galactica/Caprica creator/writer Ronald D. Moore (Saturday at 6 PM). Check the NYTVF schedule of events for all the details. There’s plenty for TV buffs to absorb.
ADD attended the opening night festivities and nabbed interviews with Bowen, Burrell and Philipps on the red carpet (Q&As are forthcoming), sat in on the show premieres and panel and then journeyed down to the after-party. Following are more pictures from the event.