Split Screens Festival: A Television Lover’s Paradise

If you missed the first Split Screens Festival, Ryan made it to panels on Better Call Saul and Hannibal, and he’s back with his thoughts on the festival.

The first inaugural Split Screens Festival conducted its successful run from June 2nd-8th. It took place at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village, which turned out to be the perfect location. It’s a moderately sized theater with no bad seat in the house. I had personally never been there before, even though I’ve wanted to view many of its midnight movies.

I was only able to attend two of the panels, unfortunately. Even from just seeing those two, I am still very impressed and genuinely happy that this festival exists. It had a wide variety of events and guests. Better Call Saul, The Get Down, Sneaky Pete, The Man in the High Castle, Orphan Black, and Mr. Robot were all featured during the festival. That’s a fairly impressive first run of high-quality television programming. The first panel I was able to attend was the June 4th Better Call Saul event. I was not disappointed.

Matt Zoller Seitz was the moderator for most of the panels during the week, and he did a fantastic job. Matt is the current Editor-In-Chief of RogerEbert.com and television critic for Vulture. He positioned his questions as a fan of the programs himself – especially during the Hannibal panel that I attended. Matt has an everyman quality about him that makes him very approachable. You can tell he loved every minute of moderating these panels – at least that’s how he came off to me. If you’re reading this, you were fantastic, Matt!

Better Call Saul event at Split Screens Festival

Before the Better Call Saul conversation began, the audience was treated to an advance screening of the latest episode. I never knew how much I wanted to watch this show on the big screen. It was great watching an episode with a large audience, especially for the comedic shadiness of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). After the episode was over, actor Michael McKean and producer Peter Gould joined Matt Zoller Seitz on the stage. They discussed the origins of Better Call Saul and the overall audience reaction towards McKean’s character of Chuck McGill. It was a great conversation about moral compasses and the overall writing process for the character. Peter Gould discussed how they wanted Jimmy to have a sick brother who he needed to take care of. The rest of the character came from the writers’ room.

Matt Zoller Seitz, Michael McKean, and Peter Gould at the Split Screens Festival Better Call Saul event

McKean was funny and cracked wise at Matt’s quirky choice of shoes (a noticeable conversation topic throughout the festival). McKean gave an insightful look at the psychology of Chuck McGill and why he resents his brother Jimmy. Once the panel was over, McKean was out in the lobby talking with fans and festival staff. It was great to see him mingle for a bit. I shook his hand before he left and thanked him for his work on the show.

On June 8th, I attended the Hannibal event. Once again, there was an episode screening. This time, it was the series finale, which was a great moment to experience again with fans. The energy in the room was palpable during the last five minutes. If you’ve seen the series finale, you know why. The room was filled with people wearing flower crowns – a Tumblr fad that became a staple for Fannibals, a portmanteau Hannibal fans. Even Matt Zoller Seitz was given one to wear. After the episode was over, the panel was brought out: Leila Taylor, Creative Director at the Brooklyn Public Library; novelist Rob Hart; composer Matt Marks of Alarm Will Sound; author Janice Poon, food stylist for Hannibal and author of Feeding HannibalDr. Lori Morimoto, an independent scholar of fan studies; and Raul Esparza, better known as Dr. Chilton from Hannibal.  Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller was also present via Skype for the entirety of the panel.

Bryan Fuller and the Hannibal panel at the Split Screens Festival

Each guest told stories about how Hannibal has influenced their work. Leila Taylor described her desire to start a teapot project with Hannibal-inspired art. Rob Hart discussed a male character in his new novel having a sensual relationship with another man, inspired by Hannibal and Will Graham’s relationship in the show. Bryan Fuller’s audio was a little choppy at points, but he remained engaged and it was great to have him there to chime in. He seems grateful for the fan response to the show and is still doling out hope for a season 4. The Q&A section of the panel was filled with questions about serial killers and the importance of empathy towards the mentally ill. It was a rather meaningful and passionate discussion.

Raul Esparza (center) and members of the Hannibal panel at the Split Screens Festival

The end of the panel had a raffle for lots of cool Hannibal prizes, including a painting from the set of Hannibal Lecter’s office. Overall, Split Screens Festival seems poised to be a worthy addition to the festival circuit in New York City. The setting isn’t as huge as another festival, and that makes for more intimate screenings and panels of discussion. I’m looking forward to next year’s Split Screens Festival already, and will definitely hit up more screenings and panels next time.