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Time for TV?

Tips & Resources

(By Theresa Syn)

The sun has gone down on yet another cycle of the legendary Sundance film festival. Held in Park City, Utah from the 17th to 27th of January, the annual film festival had its first full screening of the 7-part television series Top of the Lake directed by Jane Champion. The entire series comprised of 6 hours of screen time ran from 9am to 5pm on 20th January with only two intermissions.

Top of the Lake is a story about the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl (played by Jacqueline Joe), daughter of a local drug lord (played by Peter Mullan). This mystery involves detective Robin (played by Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss) whose limits are put to the test in the search. This thriller series will have its television debut on 18th March at 9pm on the Sundance Channel.

Mad Men’s Actress Elisabeth Moss in Top of the Lake 

We’ve definitely seen more of TV at film festivals in the recent years. In 2010, Carlos, the French-German television and cinema biographical movie premiered as a three part TV series on the French channel Canal + the same day it was screened at the 2010 Cannes. The 2012 South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival also screened the first three episodes of HBO’s Golden Globe’s winning TV series, Girls.

Looks like television is going to be a rising trend for film festivals in the years to come. That leads us to one question: Is television the way to go for independent filmmakers?

Artistically, yes. According to an article by Indiewire, it says, “Television’s serial format lends itself to accretive stories and characters that develop over time, providing a built-in opportunity for the rich characterizations and measured storytelling style that has characterized so many independent films.” The episodic structure of a television series will allow the filmmaker, who has so intricately designed his characters, to flesh out their personalities and possibly work on the significance of secondary characters that are often neglected in movies.

Also, with a deeper understanding, the audience will start to grow attached to the character and will keep them coming back for more. It is tough to create such a strong emotional attachment with the audience within the short two hours of a movie.

Viewers of HBO’s ‘Girls’ have grown to love Uptight Marnie (Allison Williams), Free-spirited Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Frustrated Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Peppy Shoshanna (Zonia Marnet)

Filming for television might also make more sense commercially. One of the main concerns indie filmmakers have is finding the right distribution and audience for their films.  Evan from Huffington Post has noticed that some indie films have “terrific stories, with great direction and unique characters that for various reasons are difficult to categorize and tricky to market… But with the reach and influence of cable TV right now, I can say they [have] a better chance of reaching an audience and influencing the culture.” Instead of waiting for theatre seats to be filled, television shows on cable channels like HBO reach out to a variety of viewers including unsuspecting channel surfers who might be end up being potential fans of the show.

It is interesting how great films have transitioned from movie theatres to the comfort of our own homes. To which I say, to my fellow couch potatoes, raise your soda cans and cheer because we can expect to see more great television in the years to come.


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