Creating or Waiting?
What A Filmmaker Found at NATPE LATV Fest
By Ally Raye

The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) held it’s fourth annual LATV Fest this past week at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel. This premier event included top-level TV and digital content producers, development executives, agents, advertising and brand executives, software solutions, technology and equipment, as well as many independent artists and creators from various facets of the entertainment industry. This event provided a venue to share solutions for adapting and succeeding in the ever-changing present and future media landscape.

Highlights of the festival included a keynote address by comedian and show business veteran Howie Mandel, Newsmaker Luncheons, richly diverse speaker panels, intimate Pitch Critique sessions, Mentor Networking Round Robins, and the ever-popular Pitch Pit which included representatives from APA Talent and Literary Agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME2), LMNO Productions, and RDF USA/Pangea, among others.

The annual NATPE Innovator Award was presented to the producers of ABC’s critically acclaimed unscripted reality series EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION. EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION is produced by Endemol USA and chronicles the lives of deserving American families as their homes undergo a transformation. NATPE created the Innovator Award to recognize outstanding achievement in nonscripted programming, the recipients of which showcase extraordinary passion and leadership, leveraging their platform in new and productive ways.

The energy was high at the NATPE LATV Fest, with professionals and eager independents pitching, networking, and assimilating all the information the illustrious panels were providing. Through much of these activities however, I continued to hear one word repeatedly- “change”. The entertainment industry as a whole is changing. As emerging technologies expand, the economics of the industry fluctuate, and the traditional paths into the various facets of the industry dwindle or cease to exist, change is the only thing inevitable. But change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And, circumstances that appear to be a serious roadblock, may in fact lead to innovations and new directions that were once not considered.

Take for instance the story shared by NATPE LATV Fest Newsmaker Luncheon panelist Robert King. Robert and his wife Michelle are the creators, executive producers, and showrunners of the CBS hit television drama THE GOOD WIFE. But Robert did not set out on a path to become a television show creator. Robert was a feature film writer. He spent years writing screenplays, with many getting optioned. Then something happened- the 2007-2008 Writer’s Strike. To insiders, it was “the strike that went on far too long.” So long, in fact, that signs of how it was changing the industry started during the strike and have continued to this day.

During that time, Robert and Michelle King both began contemplating what they might have to do if the strike were to last even longer and cripple their ability to make a living as entertainment industry writers. “We thought we might have to get into teaching”, Robert said. “But neither one of us had done that before, so we just didn’t know what we were going to do.”

The answer came to them while watching TV. Every few weeks on the news, another politician was seen at a podium with his wife beside him, confessing his transgressions and infidelities. The King’s watched as these stories kept popping up. Then one day they ended up in a conversation about it. They discussed, “What about the wives? Who are these women? What are their lives like? Where do they go from here?” These questions, we now know, led to the creation of a hit television series.

But, where do filmmakers stand in all of this? Why would a filmmaker attend a conference that focuses on content? Put simply, because the landscape of the industry is changing. As shared above, a feature film writer has a hit television show on CBS. It is something he would never have dreamt of and yet his ability to change and forge new ground has lead him to success, instead of a teaching job in a crippled California economy.

Movies are visual stories and thanks to advances in technology and digital media, there are now numerous outlets for filmmakers to get their stories told. Attending a variety of industry conferences and events such as the NATPE LATV Fest can prove valuable in helping aspiring filmmakers explore the ever-evolving ways to create and get things done. Have you approached a brand to get funding for your project? Have you explored digital platforms that can distribute your film trailer and get you much needed attention and “buzz”? Have you considered your film project as a franchise or a multiplatform property? Can your film inspire or become a television or web series, or video game? Does your project have a mobile app? Questions like these help to inspire new thoughts and new ways of thinking. They also open the door to new relationships with people who can be instrumental to your project and career.

Actor and comedian Kevin Pollack hosted the panel with Robert and Michelle King and said something that seemed perfectly poignant, “If you’re not creating, you’re waiting.” The room packed with hundreds of NATPE LATV Fest attendees sat silent following those words. Then, after a pause, the crowd applauded. Robert King laughed and said, “I guess that about says it all.”