Sundance Channel is following in AMC’s footsteps and moving into scripted programming. In Wednesday’s issue of CableFAX Daily Sarah Barnett, evp, gm, Sundance Channel spoke about the net’s scripted programming strategy and its new series “Push Girls” (premiering June 4), which features beautiful, empowered women in wheelchairs. Here she talks more about the series and the channel’s nonfiction slate.
 
You’re launching your first scripted series “Rectify” next year along with a 7-part series “Top of the Lake.” What makes these shows right for Sundance Channel?

“Rectify” is a very singular voice from an extraordinarily talented showrunner and writer called Ray McKinnon. It’s a very distinctive tale. It’s very character heavy. It’s utterly compelling and unlike anything else on the TV landscape. “Top of the Lake” is directed by Jane Campion and it stars Holly Hunter, Elizabeth Moss—a much-loved AMC Networks talent—and a bunch of others…Peter Mullen, Lucy Lawless. It’s a beautiful, mysterious, non-formulaic piece of television by a legendary filmmaker. So we have these 2 really big, really defining scripted projects, most of which are created by extraordinary talent that comes from the film world and is moving into television. And whilst that isn’t a kind of a prerequisite for us, that it has to be someone who grew up in film, it sort of makes good sense where it can, to have that flow of extraordinary brilliant talent from film moving into television.
 
So you’re actively looking for more scripted projects? Oh yeah, absolutely. We have a healthy amount of projects that we’re putting into development and that we’re announcing soon.
 
To promote “Push Girls,” have you partnered with any nonprofit organizations for people with disabilities?
 
There’s a few announcements you’ll be hearing. [Editor’s note: Post-interview, Sundance Channel announced a partnership with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.] From a broader perspective, we’ve absolutely engaged with the disability community around the show, who are so eager to see more episodes of “Push Girls” and have embraced such a genuine and moving spirit representations of themselves. And I think that there’s a great appetite in the disability community for sort of positive different representations of people in wheelchairs.

Did that lack of representation on TV make promoting the series a challenge?
 
It’s interesting, it’s resonating so strongly with all of our constituencies, whether it’s the able-bodied community, the disabled community… so far we’ve had a very gratifying response from press. These women may not be celebrities—and we all know there’s a lot of noise out there, and it’s tough to cut through. But I will say that so far… we’ve had a really amazing response to the show and I think it is because these women are so dynamic.
 
You have an animated, nonfiction show in development, called “The Trouble With Love and Sex.” Does this mean you’ll be animating other shows?

Not really. For us we can go into any world, so long as we do it with our distinct point of view. We can use any form. So this certainly isn’t an indication that we’re particularly looking at animation. We’re just always looking at novel ways to tell a story, whether it’s scripted or unscripted. It’s an interesting way of doing nonfiction I think, to take real life therapy sessions and animate it. Because you think of animation obviously as such a device of fiction.
 
Or an easier way to watch the intimate secrets of couples’ lives without direct voyeurism.

I think that’s exactly right. It also frankly creates a real visual interest in a show that otherwise could be somewhat visually static.
 

The Daily

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