New York City’s IFC Center will be honoring the art of television with the 2019 Split Screens Festival this month.
The festival will include audience preview screenings of the buzziest projects, in-depth conversations with the stars and showrunners, and exclusive honor awards. Co-Creative Directors Matt Zoller Seitz and Melanie McFarland will bee moderating and attending all discussion panels and screenings. The festival will also be honoring Janet Mock, writer, producer and director of FX’s critically acclaimed drama “Pose,” with the Prestigious Vanguard Award.
From the press release:
Said Seitz: “At a time when the old boundaries between cinema and television have fallen and everything has become ‘content,’ yet stories of every kind of length and tone and genre are still using cinematic and literary language, a festival of this kind becomes more important than ever. Split Screens is a place where the point is to look not just at what kinds of stories are being told, but how they are told, by whom, and to what purpose.”
McFarland added: “For the third annual Split Screens, we’re celebrating the medium’s ever-widening variety of storytelling by bringing aspects of history, humanity and speculative fiction to audiences. This line-up is designed to appeal to students of the creative process and series fans alike, and it brings me great pleasure to take part in fostering rich conversations around so many incredible programs.”
The festival will open with a close behind Netflix’s “Russian Doll,” with co-creator and co-executive producer Leslye Headland and others in attendance. The long awaited ending to HBO’s series “Deadwood” will arrive as the festival holds an audience viewing party as a sendoff to the series. IFC’s third annual event will end with the exclusive audience viewing of Hulu’s third season premiere of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a critically-acclaimed television show starring Elisabeth Moss.
The Split Screens Festival takes place May 29- June 3. Tickets are now on sale.
Read the full festival lineup below.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 29
6:45 PM – Inside Russian Doll: A Guided Tour of Time, Space, Death, and Resurrection (Netflix) – CLOSE-UP
In attendance: Co-creator and co-executive producer Leslye Headland, production designer Michael Bricker, hair department head Marcel Dagenais, editor, Todd Downing, costume designer Jenn Rogien, director of photography Chris Teague and editor Laura Weinberg
From the instant that Russian Doll’s hard-partying heroine, Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), ends her 36th birthday by dying a sudden, shocking death and being instantly resurrected, you know you’ve entered an East Village Twilight Zone where the established rules of existence have been replaced by a series of question marks. A time-loop narrative in the spirit of Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, the eight-episode series unfurls a complex cosmology, governed by rules that can only be divined by living (and dying) day after day after day.
Series co-creator and co-executive producer Leslye Headland will anchor a panel of creative professionals who helped bring the world of Russian Doll to life. Every facet of this unique show will be discussed in detail, from the use of color to tell us whose timeline we’re in, to the way the history of the East Village figures in the plot, to the influence of three classic films: All That Jazz, The Shining and Defending Your Life.
8:30 PM – When They See Us (Netflix) – PREMIERE
Special guests to be announced.
Based on a true story that gripped the country, When They See Us is a sweeping drama chronicling the notorious case of the Central Park Five–Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise–five teenagers of color from Harlem who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, Netflix’s four-part limited series spans 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.
When They See Us was created by Ava DuVernay, who also co-wrote and directed all four parts of the series. The phenomenal ensemble cast includes Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Storm Reid, Dascha Polanco, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez, and Asante Blackk.
THURSDAY, MAY 30
7:45 PM – Instinct (CBS) – PREMIERE
In attendance: Actor Alan Cumming, actress Bojana Novakovic and executive producer Michael Rauch
Instinct stars Alan Cumming as Dylan Reinhart, a former CIA operative, who is currently an Abnormal Behavior professor, and author turned police consultant, who gets partnered with homicide Detective Lizzie Needham, played by Bojana Novakovic. Their approaches to criminal behavior, and instincts in solving murders, are diametrically opposed, with Dylan set on finding killers to understand why they killed, and Lizzie set on finding killers because they, well, killed.
After having been put on leave by the NYPD, Season 2 begins with Dylan reinstated to the homicide squad just in time to join Lizzie when a body is found in Central Park. With Dylan and Lizzie back together, they realize they need to learn to trust the other’s instincts in order to solve the case.
A smart and surprising take on the police procedural, Instinct also offers a quietly groundbreaking character in Cumming’s Dylan Reinhart: the first openly gay lead in a broadcast Network drama. But in Instinct Dylan’s sexuality is perhaps the fifth most interesting thing about him.
FRIDAY, MAY 31
6:30 PM – Better Things: How Pamela Adlon Makes Life Into Art (FX) – CLOSE-UP
In attendance: Executive producer, writer, director and actress Pamela Adlon
Pamela Adlon’s voice is as likely to get her recognized in public as her face. Between 1997 and 2010 she spoke for King of the Hill’s favorite son “Bobby,” while premium cable viewers loved her as the straight-shooting “Marcy Runkle” on Californication, which ran for seven seasons on Showtime.
Now, the Emmy®-award winning actress, writer, producer and director has emerged as one of television’s most distinguished auteurs via Better Things, her Peabody Award winning series on FX. Adlon frequently describes Better Things as a handmade show, owing to her practice of mining her own life’s experiences to inform the adventures of her character “Sam Fox,” Sam’s daughters “Max,” “Frankie” and “Duke,” and mother “Phil.” No moment is too intimate for Adlon, who breaks her heart wide open in every episode.
In this candid conversation, we’ll take a stroll through Adlon’s painstakingly personal approach to her cinematically-complex series, and seasons of stories enriched by conversations about power, inclusion and all the shifts a woman’s identity undergoes at various stages in her life.
7:15 PM – Deadwood: The Movie Viewing Party (HBO) – SPECIAL EVENT
*Location: SVA Theatre – 333 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011
Live video Q&A post-screening with star Ian McShane
When David Milch’s Western Deadwood debuted on HBO in 2004, it earned solid ratings and comparisons to both The Sopranos (which it followed on the network’s schedule) and Shakespeare. Its sudden cancellation in 2006, three seasons into what Milch hoped would be at least a four-season run, shocked the show’s cast and crew as well as its fans. Deadwood: The Movie reunites the story’s major players for a two-hour film set ten years after the end of the last episode. The eponymous one-time former camp, now a thriving town, celebrates South Dakota’s induction into the United States, while monumental life events happen publicly and often simultaneously, in classic Deadwood fashion.
Join hundreds of Deadwood fans at the SVA Theatre in Chelsea as we watch the movie during its broadcast on a big screen. The film will be preceded by “A Lie Agreed Upon: David Milch’s Deadwood,” a half-hour documentary about the series, written by Split Screens Co-Creative Director Matt Zoller Seitz, edited by Steven Santos, and narrated by Supernatural star Jim Beaver, who played Whitney Ellsworth on the show for three seasons. The movie will be followed by a live video discussion with star Ian McShane.
SATURDAY, JUNE 1
11:30 AM – (S)heroes: Women of Action! – TV TALK
In attendance: Presenters Jessica Aldrich, Delia Harrington, Emmy Potter, Connor Ratliff, Jamie Velez and critics Caroline Framke, Soraya McDonald and Sonia Saraiya
Women have been holding their own in the action front on TV since Annie Oakley fronted a western in the 1950s. And as battles for equality and recognition evolved over the decades, the power these characters wield and the battles they fight have come to symbolize more than just plot points. They give us patterns to follow to make sexist workplaces bearable, to navigate the pressures of family life, to process trauma and light the way through life’s darker moments.
Split Screens is delighted to present this passionate, fan-driven appreciation of television’s most inspirational, take-charge women, a group that ranges from classic heavies such as Sydney Bristow of Alias and Lana Kane of Archer to the magical Julia Wicker of The Magicians and Anya, the unsung demon doll of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Roll up your sleeves and strap in for this high-spirited celebration of sheroes.
2:00 PM – Skip Credits: Critics on Storytelling In the Age of Streaming – TV TALK
In attendance: Critics Caroline Framke (Variety), Soraya McDonald (The Undefeated), James Poniewozik (The New York Times) and Sonia Saraiya (Vanity Fair)
In the era of streaming TV platforms, shows are increasingly designed so that every season functions as a self-contained unit, using storytelling hooks to fuse every hour (or half-hour) into a single, self-contained chunk that drops all at once and gets binge-watched in days or less. This is the opposite of how the medium used to tell stories: they called TV “episodic” for a reason, and until fairly recently, shows that dared to fuse more than three episodes together to make an ongoing linear narrative were just asking to be abandoned by viewers. Some critically acclaimed but low-rated serialized shows, including the original Twin Peaks, Crime Story, and The Wire, found that out the hard way.
How has streaming technology changed TV storytelling at the level of narrative and character? What has been lost, and what has been gained? A panel of veteran critics, moderated by Split Screens Co-Creative Directors Melanie McFarland and Matt Zoller Seitz, will ponder the question in a self-contained, hour-long program that will wrap things up neatly, without closing credits, though we reserve the right to end with a cool song.
3:30 PM – That’s Some Catch: Christopher Abbott in Catch-22 (Hulu) – CLOSE-UP
In attendance: Actor Christopher Abbott
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” Joseph Heller’s 1961 classic anti-war novel has been reimagined as an epic black comedy miniseries for Hulu. Christopher Abbott (Girls, James White) stars as John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian, a WWII bombardier who has a sense of the absurd and his own role in it, but would rather escape combat and live to a ripe old age than savor the war zone’s ironies. He’s trapped by the conundrum of the title, which holds that anyone requesting mental evaluation in order to be declared insane and relieved of combat duty can’t actually be crazy, because only a rational person would make such a request.
This Catch-22 reaffirms the timelessness of Heller’s vision and is anchored by an alternately sardonic and touching performance by Abbott as an extraordinary ordinary man who’s fighting as hard as he can against bureaucratic forces that can twist even the nimblest mind into pretzels. The six-part limited series is executive produced by Oscar-winning actor-filmmaker George Clooney (who costars as Scheisskopf, a dunderhead who keeps failing upward), Oscar-winning filmmaker Grant Heslov, series writers Luke Davies and David Michôd, and Ellen Kuras, who, along with Clooney and Heslov, also directed.
5:30 PM – VANGUARD AWARD: JANET MOCK – SPECIAL EVENT
With a special screening of Love Is the Message from season 1 of FX’s Pose
In attendance: Writer, producer, director and advocate Janet Mock
Split Screens is proud to honor pioneering writer, producer, director and advocate Janet Mock with the 2019 Vanguard Award.
A New York Times bestselling author, Mock’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, and Marie Claire, where she’s a contributing editor. Time named her one of its 100 Most Influential people in the world, she was featured on Ebony’s Power 100 list, and the PEN Center USA honored her with an Award of Honor during their 2017 Literary Awards. She made history as the first trans woman of color to write and direct an episode of television with the landmark script for Love Is the Message, which Split Screens will share as part of this event.
Festival Co-Creative Director Matt Zoller Seitz, who serves as this conversation’s moderator, heralded Mock’s effort as “the best episode of a magnificent series with no bad chapters, and a tear-producing machine with musical numbers, made all the more affecting by its determination to present each moment, no matter how piercing, as simply as possible.” He also named it number one on his list of 2018’s Best Episodes of Television in Vulture.
Season two of Pose will premiere June 11th.
8:00 PM – Is it Safe? Sam Esmail on Mr. Robot, Homecoming and the Paranoid Thriller – CLOSE-UP
In attendance: Sam Esmail – Event includes a screening of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut
No movie genre better expresses the creeping dread of modern life than the paranoid thriller, a mode where the heroes are marginalized, truth is elusive, and justice is deferred or denied. The genre arose in the chaos of the 1960s and ’70s, and thrived for a period of about fifteen years, producing such classics as Blow-Up, Klute, The Parallax View, The Conversation, Marathon Man, Three Days of the Condor, All the President’s Men, and Blow-Out.
One of its most devoted disciples is Sam Esmail, a writer-director who has produced two TV series in a similar vein, USA’s Golden Globe® award winning hacker drama Mr. Robot and Amazon’s military conspiracy thriller Homecoming (adapted from the hit podcast). In “Is it Safe?”—named after the mysterious phrase repeated by the villain of Marathon Man—Esmail takes the Split Screens audience on a tour of the genre, from the distant past through the present day, and its influence on his own work. The event will end with a 35mm screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 masterwork, the ultra-paranoid Eyes Wide Shut.
SUNDAY, JUNE 2
12:30 PM – Queen Sugar (OWN) – PREMIERE
In attendance: Actors Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe, and Rutina Wesley, showrunner and episode writer Anthony Sparks, and producing director and episode director Cheryl Dunye
Created by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay and focusing on a multi-generational, African-American family, Queen Sugar follows the Bordelon siblings as they fight to preserve their father’s legacy and deal with the everyday drama and joys of life. As season four picks up, Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) continues to battle the Landry family while also trying to ensure Micah’s (Nicholas Ashe) safety and future. Nova (Rutina Wesley) publishes her memoir and is unnerved to encounter significant people from her past while on book tour. Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) adjusts to co-parenting with his ex-fiancé Darla (Bianca Lawson) after learning he is not the biological father of his son, Blue (Ethan Hutchison), and is encouraged by an old friend to create opportunities for formerly incarcerated men.
Executive produced by Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, Paul Garnes and Anthony Sparks, who also serves as showrunner, the series is helmed by an entirely female directorial team, led this season by producing director Cheryl Dunye. Split Screens is proud to screen the premiere episode of season four of Queen Sugar, followed by a discussion with key cast-members, creators, and filmmakers.
2:30 PM – The Good Place: A Conversation with William Jackson Harper (NBC) – CLOSE-UP
In attendance: Actor William Jackson Harper
In what universe does a comedy centered upon questions of ethics and philosophy make it onto a major broadcast network, let alone last for four seasons? This one, luckily for us. But The Good Place leans much deeper into queries of what it means to be good and the nature of grace than it trades in liberal arts nerdiness. Well, there’s that, and its protagonists’ leaps across realities as inter-dimensional fugitives pursued by an assortment of demons and Maya Rudolph’s all-powerful cosmic judge.
Even more unlikely is the budding romance between Kristen Bell’s Eleanor Shellstrop, once a selfish, proudly ignorant slob, and William Jackson Harper’s professor of moral philosophy Chidi Anagonye, whose inflexibility and indecisiveness tortured everyone around him.
Harper joins Split Screens to walk us through season 3’s game-changing finale and discuss the creative challenges of a performance which, at this point in the series, asks him to rebuild his character from square 1. And maybe he’ll even provide us some insight to the thesis of Chidi’s greatest work, “What We Owe to Each Other.”
6:00 PM – Warrior (Cinemax) – PREMIERE
In attendance: Executive producer Shannon Lee, and creator and executive producer Jonathan Tropper
Nearly 50 years after Bruce Lee first wrote a concept for a TV series, Lee’s daughter Shannon, with the help of creator and executive producer Jonathan Tropper (Banshee), has brought the martial arts legend’s vision to life in the form of Cinemax’s Warrior, a gritty, action-packed crime drama set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the second half of the 19th century.
Following an exclusive sneak preview screening of the Season 1 finale, Tropper and Lee will join us live to walk the audience through their process of bringing Bruce Lee’s story to life. They’ll reveal the careful efforts they made to honor his iconic vision, from correctly interpreting the strained politics of the era to rendering the intricate, highly athletic martial arts choreography believably – and brutally.
8:15 PM – Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Premiere (AMC) – SPECIAL EVENT
In attendance: Scott M. Gimple, Executive Producer of Fear the Walking Dead and Chief Content Officer of the Walking Dead Universe, and cast TBA
As AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead enters Season 5, with a powerful ensemble including Lennie James, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Colman Domingo, Danay Garcia, Garret Dillahunt, Maggie Grace, Jenna Elfman, Alexa Nisenson, Austin Amelio, Ruben Blades and Karen David, its core characters’ mission is clear: locate survivors and help make what’s left of the world a slightly better place. With dogged determination, Morgan Jones (James) leads the group with a philosophy rooted in benevolence, community and hope. Each character believes that helping others will allow them to make up for the wrongs of their pasts. But their mission of helping others will be put to the ultimate test when the group finds themselves in uncharted territory, one which will force them to face their fears and perhaps discover an entirely new way to live.
MONDAY, JUNE 3
7:00 PM – The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) – PREMIERE
A world decimated by endless conflict, environmental disaster and declining birth rates. A government that has more control over what a woman can do with her body than she does. Some say the fictional world Gilead has a little too much in common with America in 2019, even though author Margaret Atwood introduced it in 1985.
If that is so, perhaps Bruce Miller’s latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale offers a ray of hope.
In Season 3 Elisabeth Moss’ heroic June – or Offred, as she’s known to her totalitarian captors – steps up her efforts to resist in a world bent on breaking her will. And as rebellion begins to take shape around her, June’s determination is buoyed by a new twist on a familiar prayer: “Blessed be the fight.”