ATX TV Festival Launches The Syndication Project Foundation

The new foundation will focus on advocacy through storytelling, with its own programming component.
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Tanya Saracho, the showrunner of Starz' 'Vida,' is one of the fest's newly added panelists

ATX Television Festival is launching The Syndication Project, a foundation focused on advocacy through storytelling, which will have a programming component as well. Upcoming panels under its aegis include Breaking Down the Binary; Her Body, Her Choice: TVs Abortion Dilemma; On Duty; Why Does TV Matter?; Power(ful) TV; and Stories Without Walls.

The Austin-based fest, which runs from June 7 to 10, has also announced new panelists joining the event. Among the new additions: Tanya Saracho, Rina Mimoun, Anna Fricke, Sarah Aubrey, Mauricio Mota, Lauren Whitney, Paul Sciarrotta, Bob Daily, Mikko Alane, Tyler Grey and Eric Bourquin.

In addition, Bradley Bredeweg (The Fosters), Amanda Lasher (The Bold Type), I. Marlene King (Famous in Love), Eric Wald (Siren), and Karey Burke (executive vp programming and development at Freeform) will join the previously announced panel, Freeform's Evolution of Millennials Programming.

“As the festival has grown, so has our passion and belief that great storytelling has the ability to make an impact on television audiences throughout the world. With that in mind, we are launching The Syndication Project, a foundation that focuses on advocacy through storytelling, with a programming track at this summer’s festival,” said Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson, co-founders and executive directors of ATX.

"We believe through combining a story, an issue, and a cause, we can start an honest dialogue and a call to action for audiences and the TV industry alike,” the pair continued. “These panels focus on areas where we feel TV can help effect real change, and many are in partnership with organizations that are committed to making a difference in the world, such as the Television Academy Honors, Hollywood Health & Society, Student Veterans of America, and the ACLU.  We’re thrilled to present a panel with The Hollywood Reporter for the first time this year as well, discussing why TV matters."

See below for a full description of each of The Syndication Project panels:

Why Does TV Matter?, Presented with the Hollywood Reporter
Moderated by: Lesley Goldberg, West Coast TV Editor

We often ask ourselves, would "Friends" or "Seinfeld" be made in 2018, as stories that followed 4-6 white, heterosexual characters. Every year executives strive to expand representation behind and in front of the camera to include a wider range of races, religions, sexual orientations, and cultures. These key decision makers discuss why such changes are essential, what strides their companies are making to be more inclusive of all types of people, and how (if at all) they believe this evolving television landscape is impacting society.   

Panelists: Sarah Aubrey (TNT), Carolyn Newman (eOne), Lauren Whitney (Miramax), Karey Burke (Freeform)

Breaking Down the Binary
Hosted by: Cameron Esposito 

For LGBTQIA viewers, TV has long been a medium of binaries -- gay or straight; male or female; cisgender or transgender -- but the past few years have seen a swell of characters who aren’t so easily defined. From teen soaps to cable dramedies, the spectrum of visibility has grown to include bisexual+ and non-binary characters who are more in tune with the viewers they represent, and less the product of tropes and stereotypes. Hear from the creators & creatives behind these series as they discuss what this visibility means for LGBTQIA audiences, and why breaking down the binary is an essential part of moving representation forward.

Panelists: Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher ("Take My Wife"), Nico Tortorella ("Younger"), Bradley Bredeweg ("The Fosters")

On Duty, Presented with Student Veterans of America
Moderated by: Jared Lyon, President of SVA

This past and current season of TV has seen multiple series capture what life is like while serving in the military. The creators/showrunners of these series work closely with military consultants, including hiring veterans on their crews and writing staffs, to ensure accuracy. These writers and consultants discuss their working partnerships, their objectives in trying to portray active military life and military culture, and the challenges they face when recreating service and reintegration storylines for mainstream audiences.

Panelists: Mikko Alanne ("The Long Road Home"), Tyler Grey ("SEAL Team"), Graham Yost ("The Pacific," "Band of Brothers"), Eric Bourquin (Consultant, "The Long Road Home"), Anna Fricke ("Valor"), David Broyles ("SIX")  

Her Body, Her Choice: TVs Abortion Dilemma, Presented with Hollywood, Health & Society
Moderated by: Kate Langrall Folb, Program Director, Hollywood, Health & Society

In the 45 years since Norman Lear faced off with standards & practices over Maude's “dilemma” (a first for the small screen), creatives have been fighting to de-stigmatize the female body, and by extension, the right to choose by including birth control and abortion in more than just a "special episode." Primetime and cable have seen major characters faced with decisions about sex and pregnancy, unplanned motherhood, and even onscreen abortions. While the topic remains a cultural, social and political pressure point, women are slowly seeing their experiences reflected back with urgency and empathy. Join creatives behind these stories as they discuss the challenges of tackling women’s reproductive health onscreen, the challenges and successes they experience, and why realistic depictions of choice and the aftermath are still so hard to come by.

Panelists: Mauricio Mota ("East Los High"), Rina Mimoun ("Mistresses"), Paul Sciarrotta ("Jane the Virgin")

Stories Without Walls, Presented by the ACLU
Moderated by: Lorella Praeli, ACLU Immigration Advocacy Leader

In recent months, immigration storylines have become central plots for a number of TV shows. These writers and producers, along with a representative from the ACLU, discuss the importance and power of story, how they work together to ensure authentic representations of current issues, the impact it has on viewer’s opinions on DACA, refugees, and deportation, as well as the actions they hope audiences are inspired to take by these characters and storylines.

Panelists: Mauricio Mota ("East Los High"), Gloria Calderon Kellett ("One Day at a Time"), Paul Sciarotta ("Jane the Virgin"), Bob Daily ("Superior Donuts"), Tanya Saracho ("Vida")

Power(ful) TV, Presented with the Television Academy Honors
Moderated by: Lindsay Scola, Sr. Director, Talent and Public Relations, Television Academy

As society has changed, so has the role of storytelling on TV. In the current political climate, what is the obligation of series creators and writers to showcase divisive social issues, diverse cultures and ethnicities, and varying opinions on an array of "hot topics?" These creators have already excelled at including storylines that have expanded awareness of these issues, and will discuss what they feel the responsibility of TV is, in not only entertaining, but pushing the norm, challenging beliefs, and ultimately moving the social needle by presenting audiences with different points of view.

Panelists: Gloria Calderon Kellett (“One Day at a Time”), Tanya Saracho (“Vida”), and TBA additional panelists

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