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Debate – Should Television Have a Place at Film Festivals?


Posted July 30, 2017 by

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Should Television Have a Place at Film Festivals?

Recently, the Sundance Institute unveiled its new look for the 2018 festival and some significant programming changes. During the past couple of years, Sundance has debuted new series in its Special Events section, but due to television’s success, the Institute created an Indie Episodic category for storytellers to submit their work.

Sundance isn’t the only major film festival to incorporate television. SXSW, Toronto, and Tribeca among others have preceded. And with each passing year, film festivals and other major outlets are continuing to blur the line between features and episodic. A series debut at a major film festival provides a sense of prestige and an additional opportunity to generate buzz.

What prompted the incorporation of television into major film festivals? In the past 10 years, television quality has rivaled and even surpassed that of feature films. While the mainstream film industry is facing a remake and sequel crisis, television has seen a renaissance in original and compelling storytelling. Could this have been caused by the lack of originality in mainstream films and the lack of accessibility to many independent features? With today’s television, audiences have access to the interesting stories they crave without having to leave the comfort of their home- and often paying for a month’s worth of content for the same price as a movie ticket.

Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon- and premium networks such as HBO and Showtime have allowed series to thrive. These platforms have millions of subscribers (Netflix alone boasting over 100 million)- therefore the budgets to afford the best production quality and biggest talents for content. Actors, writers, and directors are flocking to television because it often allows more creative freedom and career depth. With each new series, there are hopes of becoming the next Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, or This Is Us. A show that finds major success can launch the careers of some and revive the careers of others.

However, despite television’s advances, there are some leaders that do not believe that episodic and streaming content should be displayed at film festivals. There are many that believe that there should be a separation from the traditional theatrical experience. Filmmaking can be an art when done correctly, but should television be a part of that?

What do you think?


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Written by:

Adriana Gomes-Weston
Freelance Contributor

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