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North Fork TV Festival founders Noah and Lauren Doyle of Greenport open the world premiere of Distemper and Canopy Award presentation at the 2019 festival. (Credit: Elizabeth Wagner)

The North Fork TV Festival will look a little different this year. Instead of a multi-day event with several pilot viewings, the festival has transitioned to a drive-in format. Hosted at the Castello di Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue, the evening will feature two pilot episodes that won the 2020 competition for independent pilots. Following that, a Q&A with the filmmakers will be moderated by News 12’s Elisa DiStefano. 

“We saw that there was a real opportunity and a need for this because there were a lot of independent creators who had no way to bring attention to what they were making,” co-founder Jonathan Shafter said. “And then we saw Greenport, a beautiful area that had this tourism and hospitality industry. It just seemed like the perfect place to do it.”

“The reason you know we have held the festival on the North Fork is because we want to build a community for the weekend,” co-founder Noah Doyle added. “And that is something very hard to do if you hold these festivals in New York City or Los Angeles.”

Although the format of this year’s festival is different than it has been in year’s past, it was important to Doyle and Shafter to foster that sense of togetherness. “It’s not what we originally intended, but we’re still going to be able to bring the community together for an evening,” Doyle said.

“The easiest thing would have been to go virtual,” Shafter added. “But we felt somewhat of an obligation to give people something fun to do to get out there in a safe manner, during these times when people are stuck at home.”

The first pilot that will be screened, a web series called Freeze, centers around a woman’s fairytale romance failure just before her 35th birthday. “It’s the most honest film I’ve ever made, and I made it for all the other women out there who can relate,” said Maya Albanese, who wrote, produced and directed the pilot. “It’s a sort of collective female sigh-laugh-cry all at once about our experiences in a system that is set up for us to fail.”

The second pilot being shown, Slayed by Divya, is a dramedy about a mobile hairstylist looking to expand her business. “I believe Divya’s pursuit of success is something that people from all walks of life can appreciate,” writer Ni Belete said. “She is chasing the American dream as her own boss and forging her own path.”

The festival will also be awarding Jeremy Sisto — a star of Law & Order, Six Feet Under and the current CBS drama FBI — with the Canopy Award, which is honors a member of the New York television community. He’ll be on hand for the drive-in event.

Tickets can be purchased on the event page website and cost $20 per car.

If you can’t make it out to attend the festival, News 12+ will also be airing some of the pilots on Optimum channel 61 and Fios channel 530 on Saturday, November 7, starting at 7:00 pm.