Television has taken on a very cinematic quality, with shows like Game of Thrones getting the same kind of hype and anticipation as blockbuster movie releases. With the fall premieres fast approaching, there’s no better time to celebrate the small screen, and no better way to do it than on the big screen.
That’s what the inaugural Tribeca TV Festival aims to do with a host of shows projected onto giant movie screens for attending audiences to enjoy.
The new festival, sponsored by AT&T, is spun off from the television track of the Tribeca Film Festival and runs from this Friday through Sunday. It features both season and series premieres, talks with the cast and crew and TV-related VR experiences.
Notable highlights include a conversation with the cast of Will & Grace (Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally) as they reprise their roles in a new series more than a decade after the original show went off the air.
“After two successful years of Tribeca TV at our April Tribeca Film Festival, we felt like there was the enthusiasm from audiences and from networks to create a new space to platform exciting work being created, especially at a different time of year,” Cara Cusumano, director of programming for Tribeca TV, told AListDaily. “Since we began Tribeca TV, the number of shows created in a single year has surpassed what even the most dedicated fan can possibly consume, so there was a clear need for a curator to come into the space. Our track record of discovering and spotlighting the highest quality storytelling in film, VR and digital work brings a lot of value to TV audiences looking to know what is worthy of their attention and to networks needing to be sure their work is recognized.”
Cusumano also emphasized how the Tribeca TV Festival is a freestanding fall event, and that Tribeca TV will continue to be featured as part of the Tribeca Film Festival in April. Both events follow similar formats, hosting premieres followed by in-depth panel discussions.
Other debuts coming to the Tribeca TV Festival include Ten Days in the Valley, a mystery starring Kyra Sedgwick; Liar, a new drama series coming to SundanceTV; and the YouTube Red police procedural parody Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television starring (surprise!) Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars; Party Down) and Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale; Orange is the New Black).
VR projects include Look But With Love, a VR series coming to Within, the content platform created by film and VR pioneer Chris Milk. Additionally, there will be the Mr. Robot Virtual Reality Experience, the Snatch VR Heist Experience from Crackle and Timeless: Continuum Recon, which takes users back to 1969 to witness the first moon landing in promotion of the time travel show.
Although VR experiences might seem a little out of place at a festival designed to celebrate the “golden age of television,” Cusumano explains how the experiences fit in with the rest of the showings.
“When we first set out to make a TV Festival, the first question we had to think about was, ‘What is TV?’ And we decided that for us, that meant episodic, regardless of how those episodes are delivered,” said Cusumano. “Our festival is inclusive of all episodic storytelling, across platforms. We are interested in the ways these kinds of traditional barriers between mediums are coming down, and think that’s an interesting space to explore. As a festival that has always embraced VR and other forms of forward-thinking new media, it was a very exciting opportunity to be able to include an episodic VR piece—and one from one of our feature film alumni (Milk), which speaks even further to how all of these traditionally separate formats are emerging.”
While television is taking its first steps into episodic VR storytelling, content on digital channels such as Netflix have already made huge impressions on the industry, as digital has quickly risen to compete with broadcast and cable channels.
“We sought to program this lineup the way people really consume TV, which includes traditional networks, digital platforms and maybe even some VR,” said Cusumano, explaining how the festival balances between different platforms. “We wanted the representation of shows to be reflective of our audience and encompass fan favorites and new discoveries in equal measure, so we were open to all channels of distribution.”
As viewers grow more accustomed to TV binging through digital channels, Cusumano shared her thoughts on whether weekly episode releases were still relevant for today’s audience.
“There’s something still appealing about watching a show week-to-week,” she said. “We get to build anticipation, formulate theories and talk with other fans about what might happen next. It brings an enjoyable communal experience to a medium which is so often enjoyed alone.”