TV joins the party at the Sundance Film Festival | WBEZ
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TV joins the party at the Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival, founded by Robert Redford, has traditionally been the most important venue for premiering independent films — short, feature-length and documentary— for the big screen. But in the past few  years, more TV content is being showcased.

“It’s a gradual evolution that’s being spurred in part by a bevvy of new companies involved in streaming video," said Brian Steinberg, senior TV editor at Variety. "Netflix, Amazon and the like are looking for original content, fresh content, that will get people to buy their service."

Steinberg said cable networks like HBO and CNN, and broadcast networks, are also looking for the type of content that surfaces at Sundance: high-quality drama, documentaries, edgy comedy.

Entertainment author and blogger Jim Hill said Hollywood studios increasingly back only “reboots, sequels and franchise films.”  He said that's driving a lot of creative projects onto the small screen: TVs, laptops, iPhones. 

Hill pointed to Hulu's new miniseries "11.22.63" from Stephen King, J.J. Abrams and Bridget Carpenter, about the JFK assassination.  It was premiered at Sundance.

“The concern at the studio level is: 'It’s a period drama and kids today don’t know JFK from LOL, so we’re not making that movie," said Hill. "But from Hulu’s perspective, the fact that it’s a complex story that can’t be told in two hours of screen time, made it ideal.”

Media writer Staci Kramer said there’s ever-more crossover in the entertainment industry — directors, producers, writers and actors working in multiple media. And Sundance is lending its imprimatur to this, by showcasing all these new “made for TV” dramatic miniseries and documentaries at the festival.

“You add an excitement level,” said Kramer, “and another pipeline of money and creativity.”

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