The North Fork Becomes a Hub for New TV

A scene from the pilot for "The Russian Cousin," which will be screened at the North Fork TV Festival
A scene from the pilot for “The Russian Cousin,” which will be screened at the North Fork TV Festival

Television is coming into its own as an art form, and producers of independent television see Greenport as a locus for a new generation of television writers looking to show off their work.

The North Fork TV Festival, now in its third year in Greenport, will be held Sept. 6 through 8, with the screening of four new independent TV pilots, panel discussions for industry insiders and families, and parties at venues throughout the village and beyond.

Festival founder Noah Doyle says when the festival first started, “it was like pulling teeth to find people who had made independently produced TV pilots,” but this year, the festival received 53 high-quality, independently produced pilots.

Mr. Doyle says that good writing is what makes a good pilot, and 80 percent of the entries he received this year cost less than $50,000 to produce.

The festival’s honorary chairman, Bill Persky, knows something about the changes in television over the decades, starting work writing for the Steve Allen Show in the 1960s, creating the television shows “That Girl” and “Good Morning, World” before becoming a regular writer on the Dick Van Dyke Show.

“Noah, who is the most powerful force this side of Hurricane Maria, just called me and he had this idea (for the festival) and I loved it because I love television, and I’ve watched how it’s developed from what it was to what it is…. This thing, in three years, has grown into a major event.”

“The depth of the characters and depth of subject matter being dealt with are things that were being dealt with before, but not on the visceral level they are now. It’s almost as fast as Instagram. It’s that current… When I was a writer on the Dick Van Dyke Show, you couldn’t even use the word pregnant.”

“With all the options now, you could literally watch TV from morning to night, never do anything else, and never finish watching,” he added. “When I began my career, there were only three places you could go to have a pilot made — the three networks — and if they weren’t interested, that was it.”

Mr. Doyle said this year’s festival is curated around just a few pilots that festival judges believe are ready to show TV buyers.

“We are one of the handful of festivals around the country solely dedicated to episodic scripted television,” he said.

“What makes a good pilot is you want to see the next one,” said Mr. Persky. “It can be as expensive, have the biggest stars in it, but if when it’s over I say I don’t want to see next one, it’s not a good pilot.”

“You can tell when someone made and indy film and tried to pursued us it was a TV pilot,” added Mr. Doyle. “Most story arcs are a minimum of six hours for a season, and a maximum of 12 to 14 hours.”

A scene from the pilot for "America," which will be screened at the North Fork TV Festival
A scene from the pilot for “America,” which will be screened at the North Fork TV Festival

This year’s pilots include “America,” directed by Jonathan Avigdori and Rani Sa’ar, in which a group of Israeli immigrants new to Los Angeles learn the challenges of pursuing the American Dream. This pilot will be the first to be screened at the Greenport Theater, on Friday, Sept. 7 at 3 p.m.

“The Russian Cousin,” Theresa Rebeck’s story of a young Brooklynite who is unprepared to host her quirky, sultry, and slightly suspicious cousin visiting from Russia, will be the second pilot to be screened Friday evening, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept. 8 at 4 p.m., the festival will screen the pilot for “The Russian Room,” about a family who runs a Russian bath house trying to stay on the right side of the law in the 1980s.

The weekend concludes with the screening of the pilot for “Alive in Denver” on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m., about a group of twenty-somethings who survive a meteor strike and have to cope with life after the end of the world.

The festival opens Thursday evening, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m., with cocktails and appetizers at Kon Tiki at the Gallery Hotel on Main Street in Greenport, followed by a Brunch Panel on Friday at 11 a.m. at The Halyard at the Soundview. Following the screening of “The Russian Cousin,” Greenport Harbor Brewing Company in Peconic will host an opening night party with music by The HooDoo Loungers at 9 p.m.

A scene from the pilot for "Alive in Denver," which will be screened at the North Fork TV Festival
A scene from the pilot for “Alive in Denver,” which will be screened at the North Fork TV Festival

Saturday’s programming begins at 11 a.m. with a Family Screening  and Dance Party with Jennifer Oxley, Co-Creator of the hit PBS Kids Show “Peg + Cat” and a 1:30 p.m. Actors Panel, both to be held at The Greenport Theater.

“Every year, Bill and I and our team solicit feedback from a larger group, and we saw a trend of people asking us to do something family oriented,” said Mr. Doyle. “The core of our festival is ‘episodic scripted, and children’s programming is episodic scripted. Jennifer Oxley, in addition to developing the hit “Peg + Cat,” is also developing a series on Clifford the big red dog. We’re excited to bring her out to show her episodes.”

Rebecca Dealy from Chrystie Street Casting will moderate an in-depth conversation with television actors Italia Ricci, Eka Darville and Janina Gavankar about working in today’s TV industry.

A closing night party, kicking off oyster season with a theme of “Worlds Within Worlds,” will be held at the newly renovated Greenport American Legion at 9 p.m.

“In partnership with the North Fork Art Collective, we’re going to make the inside absolutely gorgeous,” said Mr. Doyle. “We’ll have live music, wine from Bedell Cellars and a number of food vendors.”

For more information on the schedule of events, visit northfork.tv. A 10 percent discount on tickets is available by entering the promo code NFTV10.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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