With the Los Angeles Film Festival wrapping up and Outfest starting up, it's easy to forget what's lacking from all the festival galas, tributes, and Q&As: the medium of television. Despite that Los Angeles is the hub for most of the television production in the world, TV—unlike its more respected counterpart—enjoys no festival of its own. The National Association of Television Program Executives plans to change that.
"There are film festivals in Los Angeles, but there is no TV festival in Los Angeles. We have the most incredible resources and businesses and minds and thought leaders in the world working here in Los Angeles, and yet we have never showcased that," said Beth Braen, senior vice president of marketing for NATPE and program director for the festival.
The inaugural 2007 LATV Festival, scheduled for July 24–27 in venues across Los Angeles, will feature panels of showrunners and producers—including Greg Daniels (The Office), Jenji Kohan (Weeds), and Carlton Cuse (Lost)—a television-producer boot camp; and a day devoted to the world of podcasts, mobile and viral videos, and other new media. With many panels focused on the impact of user-generated content from unknown performers and producers and how to distribute and promote content online, the event will offer quality information for actors looking to launch their careers through the Internet.
"It doesn't take much to produce your own digital content and get yourself some darn good promotion, so we have a session on multiplatform strategies," Braen said. Digital Day panels taking place July 25 feature speakers from YouTube, Revver, MySpace, and Yahoo and examine the strategies behind successful Web videos such as those posted by the masterminds behind lonelygirl15.
The LATV Festival grew out of the NATPE TV Producers' Boot Camp, a production intensive for aspiring and established TV producers. The fifth annual Boot Camp, running July 26–27, will feature three separate pitching events. The career clinic "Packaging Yourself" will cover how to pitch yourself to hiring managers and studios; in the fest's Pitch Pit on July 27, media consultant and pitching coach Laurie Scheer will lead workshops to help prepare attendees for meeting one-on-one with reps from companies, including Fox Reality, Hallmark Channel, and Lifetime. "We don't have low-level people taking these pitches," Braen said. "We're talking about vice presidents and higher taking these pitches. It's something that we pride ourselves on."
Actors will also have the opportunity to meet reality-TV casting director Allison Katz from 3 Ball Productions (The Biggest Loser, Beauty and the Geek) and other reality producers during the Boot Camp event "Behind the Scenes: Casting Your Reality Project." Another panel, "Understanding the Agency Culture," will look at the structures of major talent agencies—including the William Morris Agency, Creative Artists Agency, and Endeavor—through the expertise of panelists Philip Irven, vice president of television at Rebel Entertainment Partners, and William Morris vice president and agent Adam Sher.
Former actor and comedian Amber J. Lawson has attended three of the Boot Camps to learn how to leverage her skills as a performer and producer to create better opportunities for her career. At last year's Boot Camp, she met National Lampoon editor-in-chief Scott Rubin and showed him short films from her live show Comedy Cocktail.
"He flipped out, and he was like, 'This is amazing!' He came to one of my shows and said, 'We want to be in business with you,' which is a dream come true," Lawson said. Now Lawson works as a producer of live events for National Lampoon and is in the process of resurrecting the live Lemmings tour—the Woodstock spoof that launched the careers of John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Christopher Guest—as a comedy troupe.
Lawson will introduce the Boot Camp panel "Stage to Screen: The Comedy Trail" (July 26 at the Comedy Store), which will reveal strategies for turning live stage acts into prime-time TV comedy. Panelists include David Albert Pierce of Pierce Law Group and Randi Siegel, executive in charge of alternative programming for the Fred Silverman Co.
"If you're not being proactive in your career, then what are you doing, really?" Lawson said. "I think—especially today with so many outlets—you can create your own career. You can become your own star so much easier than before the Internet and this digital revolution began, and there are so many different outlets [in which] you can actually get paid to be an actor…. If people are not taking advantage of them, then they're missing out."
Tickets to LATV Festival's individual breakfast events, screenings, discussions, and receptions are $20–$40; Digital Day passes are $265–$355; Producers' Boot Camp is $375–$500; and all-access passes are $775–$1,035. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.latvfest.net.