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INTERVIEW: North Fork TV Festival’s Christina Wayne And Noah Doyle On This Year’s Festival And More

Nicole Barylski

Between screenings of Jonathan Avigdori's America, Theresa Rebeck's The Russian Cousin, Ante Novakovic's Russian Room, and Michael Levin's Alive in Denver, an Actors Panel with Italia Ricci, Eka Darville and Brian J. Smith, Showrunner's brunch with Theresa Rebeck, Keith Eisner, and Rockne S. O'Bannon, conversation with Aida Turturro, fête celebrating Bridget Moynahan, the North Fork TV Festival - taking place Thursday, September 6 through Saturday, September 8 - has a lot of exciting programming to offer this year.

We caught up with Festival Director Christina Wayne and Founder Noah Doyle to learn more:

Christina, this will be your first official year with the Festival. When did you originally hear about it and what made you want to join?

CW: Last year I was asked to do a panel so I was on the showrunner/producer panel that I did with Sarah Treem and Janine Sherman Barrois. That was how I was introduced to it. Noah and I had met through mutual friends and as we started talking about it last summer before the festival, I came on board to do that and just started getting really involved with it. I think it's a really phenomenal thing to bring to the North Fork. I think it's something for the TV business that has not really existed. As TV becomes sort of the biggest content producer now - with over 500 shows being made this year - I think it's desperately needed in the TV business for people to show their pilots and people to get together to hear about the business and learn how people on TV actually do it. I was just so impressed with Noah who is sort of a force of nature. I don't think I had a choice after doing the panel, actually.

How do festivals like North Fork TV Festival impact the industry?

ND: Just to give you a little bit of context, when the group of us tried to get this off the ground four years ago, the idea of film and independent film was sort of known in the media industry. But, four years ago if you had said TV or independent television pilot, the idea that someone like Theresa and her commercial success would be personally financing an independently produced TV pilot has only existed the last two years at most. Our ability to find high quality TV pilots has drastically changed in a short period of time.

Have any of the pilots featured been developed?

ND: What we recently learned was a pilot from year one was just optioned by Warner Brothers, The Come Up, and that's in development. We were really excited about that. From year two, one of the pilots we should be hearing about really soon. The last two years there has been some commercial interest in the pilots. I think the better measure of success for the creators is that a lot of them left the Festival and got work in the industry - whether that was writing, acting, producing, or directing. Whether it's someone working for Daymond John at Shark Tank, writing his Netflix movie or another person being cast in an HBO show - there's a number of specific cases we can point to that the Festival's absolutely helped a number of the artists get professional work.

CW: And they got professional representation.

What will this year's programming entail?

CW: We talked about really bringing in people that really run shows and create shows because that seems to be one of the bigger topics that people want to hear about, especially writers that are getting into the business. I'm in business with Theresa Rebeck right now for a show on YouTube and we were lucky enough to get her to come on board and agree to come to the festival. At that point, we didn't know that she had produced an independent pilot yet because I hadn't seen it so that was just fortuitous. Noah was able to bring on the other two producers and we formed this fantastic panel that's happening.

ND: There's two industry panels that we host. One is the Showrunners and the second is the Actors Panel. I think one of things we've done differently than in the past is we've spent time in helping curate the moderators. The women who is leading the conversation with the Showrunners is Caroline Framke, who is the TV Critic at Variety. For the Actors Panel, we're bringing in Rebecca Dealy who is a casting director. Our hope is that by bringing in a casting director to have this conversation with three young rising established television actors is to help the community really understand what's the mindset of a casting director when they're interviewing actors and helping them understand how it is to get work and what they have to go through because so many people want to enter the TV business and just don't even know where to start. That's one of the goals we hope to accomplish in our actors panel. Of course in the Showrunners Panel, we have someone that has been covering episodic scripted series for not a couple of years, but a decade and I think the conversation she's going to have with some pretty eminent showrunners, it should be interesting and the fact that we can do that at The Halyard during a brunch on the water, I think is going to be a conversation with a lot of breadth and depth.

Is there anything new this year?

ND: Every year things are always going to be changing. The venues that we're going to be hosting our evening events - we're starting off Thursday night at The Gallery Hotel, which is just a quaint and beautiful location in the heart of Greenport. Friday, we'll be coaching everyone after the screening of the pilot and presentation about the Canopy Award to Greenport Brewery in Peconic - where the HooDoo Loungers, a good South Fork favorite, will be performing. Saturday night the Greenport American Legion, which the town invested over $1 million on renovating, we're taking over that 1,000 person venue and we've partnered with the North Fork Art Collective and we're going to change the venue into what they refer to as a "world within worlds." I promise you this, at this time last year I was not interviewing and talking with scaffolding people. I think everyone who is at our closing party is going to be in for a real surprise. What I always tell people is coming for the TV and stay for the beer, wine and oysters.

Could you speak a bit about the pilots?

ND: There's a lot of festivals out there that have 20/30 films or other TV festivals have 20/30 TV pilots that they're showing, what's special about us is that we've stayed consistent to our mission, which is we're making big bets on a small number of creators. I think everyone's in for a real treat. There's comedy, drama, people who deal with internationalism and a lot of other darker themes. It's a very well curated program and I think if you are able to attend the entire festival you won't feel like you're watching any one pilot twice. We're going to make you laugh but we're also going to make you scared.

CW: The quality of the pilots is really impressive. They look like they are made for more money than they are. They're being made with a high level of craft. They definitely seem like the sort of presentation that buyers are looking for. It's been proven now with High Maintenance and Search Party that you can make your own independent show for a pilot or a couple of episodes and get it picked up. People are consistently now looking for new talent that way. I think people will be really impressed and I actually think there's a really good opportunity for buyers to find new shows out of these four pilots.

Cristina, you have over 20 years of experience in the entertainment business - including working on Mad Men and Breaking Bad - how has the industry changed throughout the years and where do you see it going?

CW: I think it had shifted dramatically. I started working in television in 2005 and the entertainment industry since the early 90s. In the past four years, the industry has shifted greatly with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and all of these new buyers, Apple. So there has been an enormous amount of TV being made. The biggest shift I've seen is it is much harder to launch a show and have it be recognized than say back in the days I launched Mad Men and Breaking Bad at AMC. My experience of launching I'm Dying Up Here at Showtime, which we launched season one about three years ago, capturing an audience is much more difficult, getting critics to write about your show on a consistent basis - not just when it premiered - but to have an ongoing dialogue is much more difficult when you have over 500 shows being made. I see that as not getting better in the near future, but I do see a contracting coming down. I don't think that the amount of programming that is being made right now is going to be sustainable. So, I see places that are not platforms, especially independent TV studios having a much harder time sustaining a business. I think that the model now that's shifted greatly is all of these platforms want to fill in their content and self distribute because they have platforms all over the world, so independent studios and major studios that aren't affiliated with a direct network are going to have a very hard time sustaining in the way that they used to. Places like Sony used to have ten or 15 shows, but they're just not able to do that anymore because the buyers don't want a studio partner.

For more information, visit www.northfork.tv.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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