Earlier this week we spoke with Noah Doyle, who founded the North Fork TV Festival with his wife Lauren. After their success last year, the North Fork TV Festival is back in 2017 with a star studded cast of panelists, four premieres of independent TV pilots, and the first annual North Fork TV Festival Canopy Award, which is being received by Actor Chris Noth (Law and Order, Sex and the City). The 2017 North Fork TV Festival runs Thursday September 7th - Saturday September 9th.
GNF: What was the impetus for the North Fork TV Festival?
ND: There are hundreds of film festivals around the country, if not around the world, but if I asked you to name a festival that was solely dedicated to sharing independently financed television pilots with the public, you could probably count them on one hand. I grew up going to film festivals and watching cinema. I think they play an important part in our culture - but as media habits have changed, my personal viewing habits have changed. I’ve fallen in love with the episodic series, which is essentially media dedicated to long-form story telling. What basically started gaining popularity with shows like Sex and the City. With the emergence of streaming and binge watching, those habits have only continued to grow in popularity. I think artists have started to realize that they too want to be in the business of making, not just movies, but also TV series - without having to follow the traditional system. That’s part of the reason that you need a festival where these artists can be discovered and their work can be shared. Not just for the North Fork community, but also the media world and the buying community.
GNF: Would you say there is a focus on New York and/or local artists and writers? Or is that the mainly the North Fork Canopy Award in particular?
ND: There are really three types of programming that are going to happen at this year’s festival. The idea is that we are going to grow and add a day every year until we fully reach our mission. Much of the talent is connected to New York and Long Island in particular.
The first part of the programming is the actual independent TV pilots that are being premiered. It starts Thursday night with Greenport which was written and shot on the North Fork of Long Island. MFI (Manhattan Film Institute), Tony Spiridakis, Shannon Goldman and the whole hometown crew will be there. Then we’ll move into three other independent TV pilots - one on Friday and two on Saturday, which are absolutely phenomenal.
The second thing we’re going to do is a handful of panels geared towards discovering the TV business. One of those panels will be writers, artists, and creators, who really have a NY / Long Island connection, I mean Sarah Treem is literally filming The Affair that week and then coming to the panel that Saturday. Christina Wayne lives in the Hamptons and she was the executive behind Madmen and Breaking Bad.
The third component that is new this year is the North Fork Canopy Award. We are honored to be presenting the inaugural award to Chris Noth who has filmed in New York State, not over years, but decades. His work really starts back with Law and Order. There really was no better person that on the one hand symbolizes a TV star, but also started and developed his career in New York. And of course the Canopy is a symbol of our commitment to the wine and agricultural businesses that are located on the North Fork.
Those three parts really define what the festival is, but overall our hope and our mission is that buyers and media will see one of these four TV pilots and greenlight it, and make it into a series. Then years from now people will say “Well I saw the pilot in Greenport.”
GNF: Why Greenport?
ND: Everybody asks me that, it’s funny too because when I’m on the west coast, I literally have to take out my iPhone and show them it’s not the Hamptons. I have a home out [on the North Fork] and I love it. I grew up in Commack and my grandparents were from Rhode Island. So I spent my whole childhood, basically every school vacation going back and forth along the North Fork at a very young age. I spent a lot of time at Harbes pumpkin picking with my family. When my wife said I decided to get a place out East, it was an easy choice. The thing I love about the town of Greenport is that it reminds me a lot of what Park City looks like. You have a main street, independent restaurants and taverns, and also a beautiful theatre, the Greenport Theatre. If you walk in there, you’ll see a photo on the left side. I don’t know how it was shot, but it must be almost 80 years old. It’s a photo of this group of people all dressed up to go to the theater with their hats and everything in the style of 30’s or 40’s - it’s like a true Saturday night at the movies. That picture, if we could do the 2017 version of it, then I think we’ve nailed it.
GNF: There has been a lot of press lately touting the North Fork as this sort of Un-Hamptons. Would you say the North Fork TV Festival is the Un-Hamptons International Film Festival?
ND: This is not a film festival. The Hamptons have cinema, the North Fork has TV. I’ll leave it at that. If you want to watch independent film and movies, I encourage you to buy a pass to the HIFF. If you are very passionate about the next hot thing on TV, then come out to Greenport after Labor Day.
GNF: One of the premieres I saw on your website was interesting – Greenport, filmed on the North Fork. Have you come across anything else produced or filmed in this area for consideration, and would you say there is a scene burgeoning?
ND: The work that the team over at Manhattan Film Institute does that supports and encourages the arts is amazing, it’s absolutely phenomenal. And despite being different organizations, the fact that we’re able to open up the TV festival with a pilot that was filmed locally could not have checked more boxes for me, and for the message about what NFTV festival is trying to do locally. The fact that that even in the North Fork, people can go out and raise money for friends and family, and make a TV pilot - and they should know that we are a place that they can come to try and get it sold. TV is a billion plus industry, we have studios, we have talent, we have writers, what we don’t have in Suffolk county in the market is a place for people to buy and exchange their ideas, and that’s really at the root of what we are trying to create.
GNF: On the topic of bringing new pilots to market, how did things turn out for last year’s pilots?
ND: What’s really interesting about last year vs his year is last year the two independent TV pilots we did were actually from Canada and Northern Ireland. Both of them pre-festival had already been picked up by government money, but not by US distributors. I have had so much going on with this year’s festival, I just have not stayed as close to the contacts of those pilots as I would have liked to, but they definitely had been sold and are being developed abroad. It’s an interesting concept what they do in these countries - they have local production requirements and so that really fosters a private/public partnership making television that normally wouldn’t happen. Looking at what’s going on with Canada and Ireland could be an important model for Suffolk County, if they really want to continue to foster independently made TV.
GNF: Anything else you want to tell people about this year’s North Fork TV Festival?
ND: Buy your tickets early. Our goal is to sell out before the show. We have a special screening of “From the Ashes” from National Geographic Channel that is free to the community, which will feature a Q&A with Alan Eyres, SVP of Programming & Development at National Geographic Channel immediately following. We’ve really tried to keep prices incredibly low and reasonable, so I would say is buy your tickets early, don’t wait!