'Will & Grace' Panel to Headline New Tribeca TV Festival

John Russell

TV has been making inroads into film festivals for years now. More and more prestigious industry events are premiering high profile new series and launching special programming devoted to “episodic content.” But on Wednesday, a major player on the American  festival circuit announced its own television-focused festival.

In September, the Tribeca Film Festival will launch the first ever Tribeca TV Festival with a slate of programming that includes major series premieres and advance screenings of acclaimed shows. The festival runs September 22-24 in New York City.

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'The old-fashioned walls between different mediums are coming down,' says Tribeca Film Festival director of programming Cara Cusumano.

“We’re a festival that’s been platform-agnostic or platform-curious, especially the past two years,” says Cara Cusumano, Tribeca Film Festival director of programming.

The new festival, she says, grew not only out of the success of Tribeca TV, the film festival’s section devoted to television, but also as a result of the caliber of talent working in TV now and massive audience interest in the medium.

“When you see the confluence of those three things; exciting work, excited audiences, and sheer numbers, that’s the perfect place for a curator to serve a valuable function and provide an access point.”

Cusumano says it is important for the Tribeca TV Festival to cover the episodic landscape, from broadcast to cable to video on demand. The inaugural event will feature the series premieres of TruTV’s At Home with Amy Sedaris, SundanceTV’s Liar, and ABC’s Ten Days in the Valley.

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The three-day fest’s sneak peeks include episodes of FX’s critical darling Better Things, Fox’s Gotham and the season opener of ABC’s Designated Survivor. On the streaming front, the cast and creators of Amazon’s Red Oaks will gather for the show’s third season premiere, and YouTube will host a summit of the creators involved in the service’s Creators for Change initiative.

The highlight of the festival is sure to be a conversation with the cast and creators of NBC’s highly anticipated Will & Grace revival.

The festival will also offer a glimpse into the future with the world premiere of virtual reality series Look But With Love. “We think these point towards what comes next in the world of serial, episodic storytelling, and how people will experience stories going forward,” Cusumano says of the VR series as well as YouTube’s initiative. “We want the festival to be really forward-looking.”

Cusumano sees TV today as similar to independent film at the dawn of the festival circuit. “There’s a lot of independent work and multi-platform work, and audiences don’t need to just rely on scheduled airtimes to decide what it is that they’re going to watch,” she explains. “It made a lot of sense for the festival to come in and start serving that purpose.”

Tribeca TV Festival, Sept. 22-24, New York City, tribecafilm.com/tvfestival 

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