On the Scene at aTVfest: A Digital Media Experience -- The Secrets Behind 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' ' CeeLo Green's The Good Life' ... and So Much More
It turned out to be the calm before Winter Storm Pax threatened Atlanta, but instead of calm, there were three days and nights of excitement as the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) presented its second aTVfest: A Digital Media Experience, with screenings, panels, Q&As and parties at venues throughout the Midtown area.
Even during the winter season, there is certainly no shortage of media and film festivals, most of them well-established. So that’s why it was especially impressive that this new entry drew such light and heat to an otherwise chilly Atlanta February 6-8, thanks to previews of highly anticipated new shows including Sundance Channel’s “The Red Road,” TBS’s ”CeeLo Green’s The Good Life” and Fox’s “Gang Related.”
But it’s not just about TV shows, although there were also screenings of “Looking” (HBO), “Justified” (FX), “The Walking Dead” (AMC), “The Americans” (FX) and “Archer” (FX) along with the Season 3 premiere of “Dallas,” upcoming on TNT. And naturally there are respected honorees, who this year included Angie Harmon, who received the Spotlight Award, Connie Britton, who was honored with the Icon Award, and Megan Boone, who received the Rising Star Award.
The fest celebrates design, creativity and innovation in television and media production, showcasing quality work in broadcast, cable, online, music video, animation, advertising and social media. Award-winning above and below-the-line talent take part in a series of informative panels, discussions and workshops held at SCAD’s state-of-the-art Digital Media Center, its main Atlanta campus and at the stunning new SCADshow theater, with finishing design touches put on just hours before the opening-night screening.
Many producers, writers, directors and industry executives from companies including ABC Entertainment, AMC Networks, FX, Discovery Channel, FremantleMedia, National Geographic Television, HGTV and The Gersh Agency come in from Los Angeles and New York, and there is major representation from the Atlanta-based Weather Channel and Turner networks including TBS, TCM, TNT and CNN.
Hometown heroes Green and the reunited Goodie Mob (Big Gipp, T-Mo and Khujo) drew a sellout crowd to SCADshow to preview their new show with executive producers Andrew Jameson and Eli Frankel.
“The opportunity came from Andrew,” said Green, who was sporting a black “Sons of Anarchy” T-shirt. “TBS wanted to get into reality and I had said ‘no’ before but when we were in the studio [making an album] we realized we missed each other after 14 years. So this was an opportunity to showcase where we are now.”
Shot during a seven-week residency in Las Vegas, “The Good Life” is partially scripted in a style that Jameson compared to Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
“The guys are coming up with great ideas but some of them are disastrous and pretty outrageous, like incorporating a tiger into their act,” he said.
“It’s like a dream come true for us,” said Khujo, before the discussion shifted to the origins of the Goodie Mob 20 years ago, when Southern rap was not accepted outside the region.
“We loved each other and hated the stereotype. The way we behaved was in revolt,” Green recalled. “We were a collection of MCs, poets and philosophers -- a band of gypsies.”
Speaking of “Curb,” which has not been on HBO since 2010, I had the opportunity to interview its executive producer Tim Gibbons in a 90-minute session at the Digital Media Center’s theater.
“It’s up to Larry, whenever he wants to come back. HBO has given him an open door -- and they never give him any notes,” said Gibbons, who is currently the EP of BET’s breakout hit “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
The audience was treated to a round of clips from “Curb” as Gibbons explained that absolutely none of the show was scripted and that David often preferred that some of the cast, especially Cheryl Hines, who plays his wife, not even see the outline so that they would come to their scenes totally fresh. Rehearsals are only for camera blocking and “mumble” dialogue is used so the improv and jokes are as spontaneous as possible.
“Much more footage is shot than in a scripted show and Larry will star certain lines in the edit that can become the centerpiece of a scene. The whole process can take up to a year for 10 or 12 episodes,” he said.
Gibbons said “Real Husbands” developed from a skit Kevin Hart did on the BET Awards lampooning Bravo’s “Real Housewives.” It blew up on social media the next day and the network moved quickly to develop it.
Billed as “the fakest reality show ever,” and featuring J.B. Smoove, Nelly, Boris Kodjoe, Nick Cannon and Duane Martin, it premiered in January 2013 and is currently shooting a third season.
Other well-attended panels included “Instant Classics: Lifestyle Television Series We’ll Never Forget,” “Network Branding in the Age of Digital Media,” “The Pitch,” "Big Vision Empty Wallet: Strategies to Get Your Foot in the Door Without Breaking the Bank,” “Sci-Fi on TV,” “Beyond Passive Entertainment: The Second Screen,” “Demystifying the Development Process” and “Deconstructing the Co-Production Deal.”
The events went late into the evening as organizers, led by SCAD President Paula Wallace, hosted afterparties at Atlanta hotspots including Lure, Livingston Bar + Restaurant and Tap.