TV Crashes the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

2016 Sundance Film Festival
Sundance, the largest independent film festival in the United States, has a popular newcomer: television.

TV series are a steadily increasing presence at the annual Park City, Utah event, with many big announcements and launches for 2016.

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

Eight series are making their debut at Sundance, including Hulu’s “11.22.63” – a J.J. Abrams-produced time travel show starring James Franco that involves the JFK assassination.

“The line between TV and filmmaking feels very porous,” said Bridget Carpenter, “11.22.63” showrunner. “It’s getting harder to make films, and it’s getting easier to make television.”

"It positions these shows as being something different and special if they make it into a film festival," adds Cooper.

Sports channel ESPN is premiering all 7 ½ hours of its O.J. Simpson trial-inspired docuseries, “O.J.: Made in America,” which mainstream audiences won’t be able to see until June.

And Netflix is revealing “Chelsea Does,” a four-part reality series/documentary about comedian Chelsea Handler.

“In most cases with festivals, the frustration people experience is hearing about — and having online conversations about — projects they don’t have access to, ones that have to go through the theatrical window and all the downward streams of distribution on a staggered basis,” said Netflix VP of original documentary and comedy programming Lisa Nishimura, emphasizing Sundance as a solid distribution method.

Cooper observes that in the current world of entertainment, “there are a lot of filmmakers swapping back and forth between film and television.”

“Why not make it a film and television festival,” posits Starz CEO Chris Albrecht, “since people are crossing back and forth between those worlds with an ease we’ve never seen before?”

Author: Brian Cameron


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