Sunday 28th May 2017,
Televisual

NYTVF Dispatch: ‘The Burg’ Co-Creator Goes Apocalyptic

So it’s my first NYTVF (New York Television Festival)! I’ll be attending a few screenings and writing about it sporadically.

For many of us, especially those of us living in New York, The Burg was among the first web shows we’d ever seen or loved. Thom Woodley, who created The Burg with Kathleen Grace, has stayed busy in the years since that series premiered, writing and directing several shows including Greg & Donny, The All for Nots, and All’s Faire. But so far, Woodley has created mostly comedies.

Last night Woodley and frequent collaborator Johnny North debuted a drama — and a pretty good one at that. Powerless, which North and Woodley wrote and directed, takes place along the Appalachian trail. A woman (Burg-alum and Chase-star Kelli Giddish), her brother and their childhood friend lose their way while on a hike, only to realize the power is out — seemingly everywhere.

“We’ve done a number of comedies. We’ve done the festival before with a comedy,” Woodley said in Q&A after the screening. “We thought it was time to stretch, and that was the whole idea here, to do some thing outside of our comfort zone.”

I have a soft spot for subtly told apocalyptic stories, and Powerless reminded me a lot of The Walking Dead. Both stories leave viewers as clueless as the protagonists and allow the mystery to develop organically. We learn of the tragedy in bits and pieces, which is exactly what would happen if you went into the woods for a week and arrived in a sleepy Mid-Atlantic town. Completed in one month from conception to completion, the series would follow the three characters as they search for their parents several states away.

Screening before Powerless was Finding Hope a thriller about Esmee (Molly Quinn), a 16-year-old girl who runs away from her polygamous, abusive husband to New York City. The pilot, only half of which was screened, looked ready for television, with a number of familiar faces including Chris Mulkey, Richard Riehle and James Morrison (a personal favorite). Director Diane Namm credits personal friendships and her casting director, Ivy Isenberg, for her stellar cast. UPDATE: Finding Hope won best drama pilot.

Finding Hope grew out of a short, Sacrifice, and Namm decided to develop it for television after audiences started to ask what happened to the girl in the story.

Based on what I saw, the series looks promising — it packed a lot of serious issues and a few thrills in a short amount of time.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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