From October 11 to 15, the annual Independent Television Festival—sponsored in part by TV Guide Magazine—brought together industry pros and emerging talent in Manchester, Vermont.
Since it launched in 2006, ITVFest has been offering writers, editors, producers and directors a chance to connect with the folks who could get their shows on the air. “There needs to be a place where television executives can find the best new independently created stories,” says Philip Gilpin Jr., ITVFest’s executive director.
Original series submitted at previous ITVFests have been optioned by major studios, and some are currently being shopped around to networks and streaming platforms.
This year, for the first time, the creators of the festival’s winning shows were granted a sit-down with programming and development honchos from HBO (another ITVFest sponsor). “Obviously, we can’t force a network to guarantee a deal,” Gilpin says. “But we can put you in the room.”
As for who got the golden tickets? That’d be Matt Ferrucci for Companion, a comedy about a troubled NBA star who hires himself a minder, and Andrew Bryan and Alicia Davis’s Shepherd, a drama featuring a priest turned vigilante. It may be just a matter of time until one of these—or any number of the projects—turns up on your screen. Says Gilpin, “There were a few that got the audience reaction, ‘Where’s Episode 2? I want this on my television tonight!’”
NewFilmmakers LA (NFMLA) interviews Companion creators Matt Ferrucci and Nick Mouyiaris in the latest installment of Stage 5. NFMLA is a non-profit organization designed to showcase the innovative works by emerging filmmakers from around the world, providing the Los Angeles community of entertainment professionals and film goers with a constant surge of monthly screening events.
COMPANION WINS BEST TV COMEDY AT INDEPENDENT TELEVISION FESTIVAL
Pilot also nabs the Best Director award and HBO Development Meeting
Los Angeles, CA — The pilot Companion, a new TV comedy series about a sober companion for celebrities and star athletes, won the award for Best TV Comedy at the Independent Television Festival in Manchester, VT on October 15th. Co-creator, co-writer, and director Matt Ferrucci also took home the award for Best Director at the prestigious festival that celebrates the best new television programs created on independent budgets. With the win Companion also scores a development meeting with HBO.
Created by Ferrucci and Nicholas Mouyiaris and executive produced by Alain Uy and Angela Calero of Them Too Productions, the series centers on Nick Foster, a sobriety coach who makes his living keeping the rich and famous on the straight and narrow. In the pilot, Foster comes to the aid of NBA superstar Jay “J-Train” Tyrell after he is arrested for soliciting drugs and prostitutes. Each season follows the fascinating and dysfunctional world Foster inhabits and the high-profile addicts he must help along the way. Nick Foster is played by Michael Marc Friedman, who is represented by Darren Trattner at Jackoway, Tyerman, Wertheimer, and Jay Tyrell is played by Ray Stoney, who is repped by April Lim at Global Artists.
"These awards mean the world to us. To be able to independently create a show with your friends and have it recognized on this level is incredibly gratifying,” said Ferrucci. “All the hard work and sleepless nights were worth it. We can't wait to make more and have people see this show."
“When we started this project earlier this year, all we wanted to do was make sure that we served the story well,” said Uy, who is repped by Mark Holder at Zero Gravity. “Now, the real work begins. We’re all looking forward to the opportunity of taking the next step forward of developing this story further.”
The next screening for Companion will take place at the New Filmmakers LA Festival on November 18th in Los Angeles. For more information on the series, visit www.companiontheseries.com.
COMPANION REVIEW - HOLLYSHORTS FILM FESTIVAL 2017
By Stephen Fife, Editor-In-Chief - 8/31/2017
In addition to the film shorts, there were also several “proof of concept” episodes or fragments presented for TV series. But this was the only one that seemed to me to have both their concept and their execution together, and the only one that I could see finding a place at a studio and in our hearts. In the half-hour comedy series, Michael Marc Friedman would play Nick Foster, a “sober companion” who looks after wealthy clients with a history of abusing drugs, alcohol, whatever. As the Companion team so eloquently puts it: “Basically he’s a babysitter – except the babies are rich assholes who shoot dope and drink their millions away.”
So far they’ve only shot the pilot episode, which was screened at the festival. This has Nick trying to keep disgraced NBA superstar Jay “J Train” Tyrell (Ray Stoney) on the straight and narrow as he attempts to rehabilitate his badly-damaged image and get back into the league. Not easy when Tyrell has five children with six baby mamas (it’s complicated) and now apparently has a 6th child on the way with his wild new girlfriend. The episode had a great flow and was consistently fun and suprising. What made it work so well for me was the chemistry between the actors Friedman and Stoney. Also, it wasn’t written so that Tyrell was simply the fuck-up and Foster his keeper. No, Foster needed something from Tyrell too, and this gave the show a nice balance, and a sense of unpredictability too.
It wasn’t certainly the first show I’ve seen in a while about heterosexual men which explored the bonds of friendship and insecurity in an interesting way. It feels contemporary, fluid and even sexy. I can certainly see guys tuning in who watch sports on TV and spend hours listening to the anchors on ESPN. It has that male vibe, but with a quick wit and a cool eye for all the lies that men tell each other, along with the lies we tell ourselves.
The plan is for Nick to have several different clients, so this would be an anthology series, but with some clients recurring (breakdowns do happen) and others being run into again by chance. I have no idea how that aspect of it will work, but I’d take this series any day over Ballers. What I’ve seen so far has the kind of magic coming off it that I associate with TV success. We’ll see how far they’ll be able to take that. Here’s hoping they’ll be given a decent shot.