The seventh annual New York Television and Film Festival started Tuesday with screenings of Fox's "Allen Gregory" and comedian Marc Maron's pilot presentation — as well as Maron's powerful expose of cat-wrangling in the entertainment industry.
The festival was created to help pilots unattached to networks — including Maron's — find homes. But it also encourages relationships between artists and development partners. It has led to 13 guaranteed development deals this year, said founder and executive director Terence Gray.
Maron's pilot — made with Jim Serpico and Denis Leary's production company, Apostle, on a tight budget — perfectly captures the spirit of the festival, Gray said.
"It embodies the whole festival in the sense that it was made as an independent pilot and it was financed that way," he said. "We have 48 official selections that are made roughly the same way — that are independently financed pilots that are the best of the best."
Maron's discourse on the business of supposedly camera-ready cats came during a panel discussion (moderated by your humble correspondent), about his new pilot presentation, tentatively called "Maron."
Co-written by Duncan Birmingham (on left in photo with Maron, above), the show follows a comedian named Marc Maron who — like the real Maron — examines comedy and himself through his successful podcast, "WTF With Marc Maron." The first episode features Ken Jeong, a real-life past podcast guest.
Like the others in the festival, Maron's show was shot on a tight budget: He personally made coffee for Ed Asner, who plays his father, and it was shot in his real home, which he calls "the cat ranch," because of his habit of adopting strays. One of the toughest aspects of filming at home, he said, was having to lock his real cats in his bedroom to accommodate the feline actors who play them.
"If you're making things in movies or whatnot, here's a little advice: Don't fucking work with actor acts," Maron told an enthusiastic panel audience. "Because the one thing you always have to remember is: They're cats. I don't care how long the cats been in show business, it's still not gonna do what you fuckin' want it to.
"You've got a guy who's a cat handler — there's a fuckin' racket. You want to get into show business? Get yourself a few cats and try to convince people that they're show cats. … This guy had a cage, he sat there, and all you've got to invest in is some kind of weird khaki shorts and shirt getup and show up with cats and charge whatever the fuck you want."
(In case you've been waiting for it, we're not going to attempt a transition here about how making great television is like herding cats.)
The festival hasn't led to a show getting on the air yet. But IFC did pick up two shows from the festival last year — "Greg and Donny" and "Pointless" — which shot pilots for this year.
The festival's development partners including FX, IFC, MTV, Sundance Channel, Fox, A&E, SyFy, MSN, and SevenOneInternational, Red Arrow Entertainment. Additional partners include ABC Studios, Hallmark Channel, United Talent Agency, International Creative Management, VH1, Spike, Comedy Central and Logo.
In addition to the "Allen Gregory" screening, the festival will also feature screenings of NBC's "Prime Suspect" and Logo's "The A-List: Dallas," a discussion of comedy writing with Jason Sudeikis, a diversity panel with J.B. Smoove, and a keynote from Damon Lindelof. It runs through Saturday.