The North Fork TV Festival will host a special gala event at Claudio’s Saturday, Oct. 22 honoring actress J. Smith-Cameron with the Canopy Award, as well as formally introducing its first-ever executive director, Monica Halpert.
A television industry veteran, Halpert most recently worked in a leadership role at the Sundance Institute. As a 23-year resident of New Suffolk, she is excited to be involved with the Festival based on the North Fork. Founded in 2015 by Noah and Lauren Doyle and Jonathan Shafter, the North Fork TV Festival was created to find and showcase the work of independent artists in the television industry. Halpert’s vision is to elevate that goal to the next level.
Getting a television show produced is a gargantuan feat, as creators and artists usually have to get through to the various networks to even pitch an idea, much less get a pilot produced. Halpert wants to use the festival as a stepping stone and bring more awareness to these creators, and hopefully lower the barrier to entry.
“The whole notion of what TV is — it’s the medium of the moment,” said Halpert. “So thinking about the festival’s original mission of curating and discovering these often-underrepresented artists who don’t have the resources or the connections or platforms or access to get their work seen…now it’s not enough to get their work seen. It’s about how we can help them get this work made and produced and financed and sold.”
Halpert looks at the current television landscape as one that is in a place to feature both blockbusters, like “Game of Thrones” spin-off “House of Dragons,” and deeply personal, intimate stories like “I May Destroy You,” about a woman whose life is forever altered by rape.
“[‘I May Destroy You’] is a small, personal story that’s as epic as the dragons,” said Halpert. “But because of this abundance [of different series], I think these small, personal stories are the ones that are really landing and hitting home with people, especially after what we’ve just been through [during the pandemic].”
It’s perhaps no surprise, in this abundant television landscape, that J. Smith-Cameron is being honored with this year’s Canopy Award, which honors a member of the New York television community for their commitment to the arts through “the twin spirits of independence and collaboration.” Smith-Cameron currently stars in HBO’s “Succession,” a critically acclaimed, darkly comic drama that pulls no punches when it comes to biting, sharp storytelling.
“I’m delighted and incredibly flattered,” said Smith-Cameron. “I’m incredibly excited about this festival and organization. TV is really bursting into bloom more and more, and for an organization to foster new voices and performers, we’ll see less and less formulaic things we used to associate with TV shows.”
Smith-Cameron, who has had a long and successful career in theater, film and television, has become most-known for her role as Gerri Kellman on “Succession.”
“I used to have a bias about TV being formulaic and not being able to see where I fit in,” said Smith-Cameron. “My agents were always trying to get me on a sitcom and I was allergic to the general shape of it. But now, there’s so many different kinds of shows and people responding to them. Even the big, touted shows are kind of wild!”
For Smith-Cameron, the most important aspect of a television series is the writing. She appreciates when a show challenges her, pointing to shows like “The Good Fight” and “Reservation Dogs,” as well as “Succession.”
“My character might seem like a type — a ball-buster, barracuda lady — but she’s completely a unique character. They all are.”
Both Halpert and Smith-Cameron agree that TV is experiencing a golden age — or, as Smith-Cameron calls it — “a “platinum age.”
The North Fork TV Festival’s special waterfront evening at Claudio’s in Greenport will be held on Oct. 22. For tickets, visit northfork.tv.