North Fork TV Festival 2023 Was a Star-Studded Celebration of the Small Screen
Stars of the small screen were on the East End in November for the annual North Fork TV Festival. Founded in 2016 to celebrate independent scripted television and to provide a platform for emerging creators, the festival includes the Independent TV Pilot and Script Competition — and, this year, honored six winners out of a record 300 entries.
But much of the star power was provided by two familiar faces: Emmy Award-winning actors Kelsey Grammer — who plays haughty psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers, Frasier and the current Frasier reboot — and Carrie Preston, best known for portraying quirky lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni on The Good Wife, The Good Fight and the upcoming CBS spinoff Elsbeth.
Grammer kicked off the festival by guest bartending during Friday night happy hour at the Sound View hotel in Greenport, pouring beers from his Faith American Brewery alongside his daughter, actress Greer Grammer. The next day, the hotel hosted a brunch event featuring a Q&A with Tom Russo, the executive producer of the Frasier reboot, and an episode screening of the new show, which began airing its 10-episode first season on Paramount+ October 12.
Throughout the day Saturday, festival-goers viewed screenings of the awarding-winning pilots as well as conversations with the winners on the Festival Main Stage at Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue.
“We were overwhelmed by the high quality of this year’s Independent TV Pilot and Script Competition submissions,” says Rebecca Kaplan, advisory board chair for the North Fork TV Festival. “We look forward to expanding the award categories next year.”
Mt. Mystic Rangers was the winner in the category Best Pilot: Comedy. Created by Jeremiah Dunlap and Cory Quintard, the show features the antics of the Park Rangers of the underfunded Mt. Mystic State Park, who must unravel the mystery behind the sudden, unexplained appearance of a monolithic structure, which materializes while they are busy scrambling to prepare the park for an imminent inspection by a newly appointed lieutenant.
David Allensworth’s raunchy workplace comedy Imaginary Friends was awarded Honorable Mention in the Comedy category. The show focuses on two imaginary friends, who have managed to stay relevant in the lives of their humans, even though these humans are now in their 20s and work in an office together. The imaginary friends also go to the office, which is full of other imaginary friends.
The Best Pilot: Drama winner was Paul Munger’s Awesome, which centers around a 20-year-old woman who is dealing with a pill-popping
boyfriend, a dad on parole and a recent layoff — and who is able to glimpse the future. She foresees an event that will ruin the lives of her loved ones forever, and she must act to figure out how to change things.
Honorable Mention in the Drama category went to Who’s Annie? Created by Sophia Peer, the show follows Annie, who has emerged from jail time, 12-step programs and five marriages to begin an acting career in her 50s, with help from a young director she met at a Burger King.
Unstrung, the Best Pilot Script: Drama winner, was written by Sophie Wang in three days. The show is set in 2062, when memories can be extracted and stored at an institution called the United Bank of Memories. When a cold-blooded assassin discovers that his memories have vanished, he must navigate a twisted labyrinth of deceit to figure out what happened to them and uncover the truth that could reshape the fate of humanity.
Honorable mention went to Gringos, written by Stephen Purvis. This adaptation of a Charles Portis novel begins in the Yucatan Peninsula at the Tulum Mayan ruins on Christmas Eve in 1994, when a Marine veteran and his partner fail to prevent the murder of his sister by the White Jaguar cult.
“Our 2023 selections were exceptional in that they truly encapsulated the transformative power of storytelling,” Kaplan says. “Each was so unique, yet they all shed important social commentary on the complexities of what it means to be human.”
During the festival’s closing session, Preston was presented with the 2023 Canopy Award, which honors a member of the New York television community who champions the creative ambitions of diverse storytelling through their persistence, integrity and inclusive nature.
“Carrie Preston is not only an incredibly talented actress, but she’s also a director and advocate,” says Noah Doyle, founder of the North Fork TV Festival. “We are thrilled to honor her with the 2023 Canopy Award for her achievements in storytelling. In her roles, Preston always brings forth complicated and smart characters who bring light, true human emotion and oftentimes humor. In doing so, she makes every piece of storytelling she is a part of that much richer and brighter.”