SXSW: Morgan Spurlock, Richard Linklater and Timothy Levitch join with Hulu for 'the new Golden Age of TV'
AUSTIN, Texas - Monday afternoon in the Austin Convention Center’s 18abc meeting room, Hulu content Senior Vice President Andy Forssell moderated a panel entitled “Changing the Channel: The New Golden Age of TV.” Enlisting filmmakers Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused”) and Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) and actor Timothy “Speed” Levitch (“The Cruise”) for a discussion about the migration of television content to online outlets such as Hulu, Forssell engaged them in a chat about the medium’s present, and future, before opening up the floor to questions from an eager, attentive audience.
Describing his job duties, Forssell explained, “My team and I get to figure out what kind of content people love, and how do we give it to them.” He then screened a sizzle reel of content that’s available for viewing on Hulu, including TV mainstays like “The Simpsons,” movies such as “Swingers” and Spurlock’s documentary series “A Day in the Life,” which is set to broadcast episodes from its second season within the next several weeks. Although Forssell acknowledged that Levitch is only sometimes a known quantity among audiences, he asked him, Spurlock and Linklater to join him on stage, where each of them discussed their individual projects and revealed what excited them about their upcoming partnerships with Hulu.
Levitch’s oddball enthusiasm immediately entertained the crowd, especially when he offered hilariously succinct explanations and answers why he was there. “This is like an anniversary,” he said in his distinctively nasal voice. “It was like three years ago, almost to the day, that we started talking about the show.” He then showed a clip from his new show, in which he visits different cities across the country and finds unique points of personal interest, such as a gold fire hydrant in San Francisco.
Spurlock offered a clip of his own and briefly discussed Season Two of “A Day in the Life,” which will feature segments with comedian and actor Joel McHale, The Roots’ drummer Questlove and others. Observing that “the internet isn’t the bastard stepchild any more,” Spurlock talked about how online platforms have enabled him and other creative persons to launch television series and other ventures that couldn’t find broadcast via traditional methods. While his description of the more than 10-year history of the idea for the show revealed his commitment to its idea, he glossed over the existence of reality TV prior to 2000, despite the fact that it was really MTV’s “The Real World” that first launched the craze before others picked up the baton and built it into the entire subcategory of programming that it’s become.
Linklater was the relative novice to the platform, and he had less to say than the others. But Forssell discussed with all of them the way that sites like Hulu were helping shape online content, and expanding its availability outside the United States. Spurlock offered an example of this when he announced that he recently engaged in a partnership with Fremantle to sell the rights to Spurlock’s show internationally – and not merely to foreign websites, but to actual television networks.
At the same time, Spurlock acknowledged that there was still progress yet to be made online in terms of supporting content with the kinds of money and resources that are devoted to more traditional programming. “I’m waiting for somebody who’s gotten behind a web series throwing an advertising campaign that matches the effort for something like ‘Game of Thrones’,” he said.
With just a few minutes remaining in the panel, audience members took to the microphone to ask questions to Forssell and his guests. When asked what unique landmarks he would recommend people try to visit in Austin, Levitch paused before suggesting Barton Springs –- “with a couple of ladies,” he added. As Forssell offered his final thoughts and thanked Levitch, Spurlock and Linklater for participating, he also solicited ideas from the crowd, giving attendees his email address so they could send him ideas or pitches for shows or programming that might be well-suited to Hulu.
“What’s not getting made that should?” he asked.
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