TV Talk at the Vancouver Film and Television Forum

Add a Comment by Rebecca Bollwitt

I’m a big fan of television and every fall there’s a new show out there that captivates my attention, makes me laugh, and inspires my writing. We may not watch shows when their air live but being at home on the couch with my husband is downtime that I truly value. If Olivia Dunham, Sheldon Cooper, and Tommy Gavin happen join us, all the better.

Photo credit: dailyinvention on Flickr

Yesterday I attended the TV Talk day of the Vancouver Film and Television Forum. The first session was R.I.P. Conventional TV featuring the following panel:

Moderator: Andra Sheffer (Executive Producer, Independent Production Fund)
Speakers: Steve Billinger (General Manager, Digital Programming and Business Development, CBC), Sue Biely (Independent Media Consultant), Michael Ghent (Creative Director, Film and TV Forum), Chantal LeBlanc-Everett (Head of Production & Development, Lifeforce Entertainment), Chris Van Noy (VP Digital Strategies, Jumpwire Media)

To start things off Michael Ghent quoted a book, which I can’t remember, but it was something along the lines of dabbling in new media is like being a newlywed; everything’s really confusing and you get screwed a lot. The idea is to open up and expand your exposure and your audience beyond one platform. Cross-promoting and nurturing your audience so that you can build a brand is key.

Takeaways from the panel were numerous. Steve Billinger from the CBC started off by mentioning the latest social media application, Foursquare. He said it can help communities and even broadcasters participate and reward loyal fans and customers. “Look at Facebook, Twitter etc. and then think about how that can be used as traction for a show.” The CBC was first to post their primetime programming on iTunes Canada and this month they’ll be launching something similar to Current.TV.

Chantal LeBlanc-Everett works for Lifeforce, which supports professional-looking online shows (think Diggnation, FunnyOrDie, CollegeHumor etc.). These are programs that can get off the ground online even if (especially if) networks shoot them down. The idea of having this panel was to show writers, producers, and industry hopefuls that they can still get their shows made — just in different ways.

Independent Media Consultant Sue Biely called herself a sh*t disturber right off the bat. She mentioned local success stories like Tiki Bar TV, which started out in Gastown and has moved to do major production in LA. She also touched on various revenue models such as have subscriptions. Sue gave a quick rundown of new media producers vs conventional TV producers. She said new media producers work fast, take risks, and thrive on innovation. Meanwhile conventional TV producers need a story, are contemplative, and require structure. New media producers get motivation by not having that traditional structure and bureaucracy. Her words of advice to the crowd was to find your audience and go hyper-niche. Other panelists agreed on this as well and Chantal mentioned Gary V’s Wine Library TV as a great example of this.

The last presenter on the panel was Chris from Jumpwire Media. He had a more analytical approach for the audience and presented a few content trends: YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, 30% of households have DVRs, Mashups, Machinima, the “new narrative”, and Freemium vs Subscription.

It was also mentioned that the Canadian Media Fund will soon only support programs that are on multiple platforms — meaning if you have a TV show you must also have a blog or website offering up content there or video on demand. Several agreed that they would infest in reality/lifestyle type shows and that’s where the market is heading. Shows grow because of their fan-base and if you can reach out and grab the attention of a group that’s hyper-niche, your audience will become your advocates.

The next panel I attended was LOL – Comedy Rules, with the following:

Moderator: Roman Danylo (Writer, Comedy Inc.)
Speakers: Greg Garcia (Creator, My Name is Earl) & Jennifer Celotta (Writer/Consulting Producer, The Office)

Mark Buckland, Jason Lee, Greg Garcia (right)

Rainn Wilson, Jen Celotta, and Charlie Grandy win WGA awards – source

It was incredibly interesting to hear about the writing process from both Jennifer and Greg. They spoke about their inspirations, the “rules of comedy”, and how they create stories that include jokes, instead of building an episode around just the joke. We also got the view the cold opening for tonight’s episode of The Office and hear about how each worked their way up in the industry. Jennifer got her big start on Home Improvement and Greg started out working on Step by Step and then Family Matters.

I didn’t take many notes during this session since I was just simply inspired by all they were saying. I’m not a comedy writer for prime time television but the concepts are similar for any form of writing. It was really neat to check out this portion of the Vancouver Film and Television Forum leading up to the film festival and I was thoroughly impressed by the caliber of the panelists. Hopefully in the future they can include some Canadian talent or representatives from a web-only series.

You can still get tickets for the VFTVF which is happening at the Vancouver International Film Centre until Saturday.

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