Megan McLachlan is attending the 7th annual SCAD aTVfest in Atlanta, Ga., which includes television panels and celebrates TV premieres, like Hulu’s Pen15.
Atlanta may not be New York or Los Angeles, but there’s a ton of talent in this city. That’s something that television panels held at SCAD Atlanta emphasized throughout the second day of the SCAD aTVfestival.
How to Get Ahead in Television
Vice president of Echo Lake Entertainment (TV) Chris Davis, voice-over artist Alexa Kahn (Ice Age: Continental Drift), and Echo Lake Entertainment talent manager and producer Lauren Williams chatted with students about breaking into the business. Two of the biggest takeaways: Be kind (Kahn admits to sending a ton of handwritten notes to prospective employers), and to not compare yourselves to others and to be yourself (which is a good motto for life in general).
Actor DW Moffett, who also happens to be the TV and film chair at SCAD, also provided good info on auditioning and the craft, with his biggest piece of advice being if it’s not fun anymore, or you lose heart, don’t torture yourself. He also pointed out that with movies constantly being filmed between Atlanta and Savannah, you don’t have to move to LA to be a working actor.
Meet the Executives panel
So what does it take to get a script on TV? Certain networks are looking for particular projects (HGTV’s Loren Ruch admits that they like “sunny” shows), and some even admitted to passing on shows that went on to become huge hits (a certain Netflix show about Reasons. . .). Panelists included Juliet Blake, head of television TED; Jenn Gerstenblatt, vice president of original programming at Freeform; Max Kisbye, executive vice president of development and production MGM Television; Loren Ruch, group senior vice president of production and development HGTV; Jonathan Sinclair, executive vice president of programming and development OWN; and Michelle Sneed, president of production and development, Tyler Perry Studios. Most of the panelists admitted that they did not come from entertainment backgrounds and made their way through by working their way up.
Wonder Women: Acting for Television
Television legend Robin Givens admits that the TV has changed since she was on Head of the Class in the ’80s and ’90s.
“I was thinking of Lisa Bonet recently,” says Givens, who now has a recurring role on CW’s Riverdale. “When I first started in television, Lisa was on The Cosby Show and I was on Head of the Class. There weren’t many black women on television. And now we’re kind of everywhere, in a very normal, easy, this-is-how-the-world-looks kind of way. One of the reasons why I love [Riverdale] so much is that the writers on the show put all different types of people together, all different colors, and they’re moving in this world like this is how the world is.”
She, Helene Yorke (The Other Two), and Melissa Roxburgh (Manifest) spoke in a Wonder Women panel about auditioning and casting.
“Every pilot season there’s one pilot I fall in love with,” says Roxburgh, of her mysterious disappearing-plane NBC series. “When this one [Manifest] came along and I knew this one was my favorite for the season, I didn’t even think I was going to be a part of it. The fact that everyone else has fallen in love with it the way I have is just encouraging.”
Hulu’s Pen15 Creators Reveal How They Ground the Teenage Experience
Anna Konkle, Maya Erskine, and Sam Zvibleman have created a truly beautiful show about teenhood at the turn-of-the-century in Hulu’s Pen15, which just dropped on Hulu. The gimmick (two thirtysomethings playing versions of their teenage selves opposite teenage actors) could fall into parody territory, but it never does, something co-creator Zvibleman was always confident in.
“I never was worried because [Konkle and Erskine] come from experimental theater,” says Zvibleman, “and they’re actors, not just comic actors. I just knew that their performances would ground it.”
Konkle says that Zvibleman’s style added an earnestness to the series, since her experimental film with Erskine, for which the series was based, is a bit more goofy. “There’s something about that collaboration that grounded it even more.”
One of the biggest tricks Konkle and Erskine pull off (other than looking like teenagers) is making you root for these teenage romances, which are effectively between Mary Kay Letourneaus courting Vili Fualaaus.
“We never wanted to make it a joke,” says Erskine. “We wanted to try to make it as real as possible. Even though it’s crazy, because I really am an adult. We were definitely towing the line in what’s appropriate.”
Watch the first season of Pen15 on Hulu here (now streaming).
The final day of the festival!