TV Interlopers Invade Sundance

Lifetime last week screened its original movie Lila and Eve for several thousand industry influencers. The star-studded movie features Golden Globe nominees Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez and chronicles the relationship between two grief-stricken mothers both suffering the loss of a child. When one of the women doesn’t get justice for the death of her son, the two mothers go on to exact their own revenge on the killers.

The movie will make a great addition to Lifetime’s library of original films driven by strong female characters. But it may take a while for it to show up on the network’s schedule.

The film had its first run at the famed Sundance Film Festival last week. Lifetime is one of several cable networks showcasing their original projects during the nearly two week-long festival in Utah once known as an exclusive haven for independent art-house films.

Networks like CNN, Showtime and HBO are exhibiting original movies, documentaries and even series that will eventually reach cable subscribers looking for smart and unique programming to watch on the small screen.

While Lifetime will look for theatrical distribution of Lila and Eve before it airs on the network, other cable networks are using Sundance to drive buzz and awareness for their projects prior to the shows’ cable debuts.

Not surprisingly, Sundance Festival purists are groaning over the fact that made-for-TV movies are invading the sanctity of what has always been a showcase for true “fine art” independent cinema. But with more and more independent filmmakers bringing their creative ideas to the small screen (see the Duplass brothers and Lena Dunham) it was inevitable that Sundance itself would become an outlet for the exhibition of TV projects along with independent films.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.