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Last night I moderated an IFP panel at DCTV, co-sponsored by the New York Television Festival, on transitioning from film to TV. It consisted of two TV execs — Colleen Conway (VP of Reality and Alternative Programming, Lifetime Networks) and Erin Keating (Director of Development & Production, IFC TV) — and one filmmaker, Alrick Brown. Filmmaker readers will be familiar with Brown as he was one of our 2011 25 New Faces and won an Audience Award at Sundance for his debut feature, Kinyarwanda. Brown recently broke into television by directing an episode of the upcoming ABC documentary crime series, Final Witness. All three were great panelists, with Conway and Keating sincere in their interest in material from new filmmakers but honest regarding the process by which that material filters to them. Namely, it helps to know someone, with that someone being an agent, lawyer or manager who can submit the project on your behalf, or perhaps a production company already in business with the broadcast entity you are targeting. Keating admitted that she’s not allowed to read unsolicited submissions; in fact, she’s not even allowed to open them. For her employer, the threat of future lawsuits makes it too risky to accept ideas that aren’t filtered through industry channels.

Obviously, this is not what the room full of people wanted to hear. One audience member voiced her frustration in the form of a question, asking how the industry can claim it’s looking for new ideas while making it so difficult for outsiders with those ideas to cut through. That’s when Brown jumped in with this impassioned response, which I’ve embedded below. To summarize: yes, it’s hard, but that’s the reality. Accept that it’s near impossible to break through that wall… and then go do it. But, really, Brown says it better than me, so watch him now.

By the way, one way to break into television is through NYTVF’s original Independent Pilot Competition. The deadline is July 18, and you can read about it here.

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