Omni Cultural TV Fest networking event remotely connects indie producers with Hollywood execs amid COVID crisis
When the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic rolled across the U.S. last spring, the founders of a unique multicultural networking event catering to entertainment industry hopefuls knew they had to get creative if they wanted to keep it going.
Launched a year ago at the historic Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, the Omni Cultural TV Fest was meant to give independent producers a chance to showcase their ideas for TV, film and over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms to studios and content buyers.
But with the coronavirus crisis threatening to cancel this year’s Omni expo, co-founders Kiki Melendez and Cindy Cowan decided to go ahead with the event by presenting it remotely — but with a twist.
“We had to postpone our live event this past June, so we wanted to find a way to give the filmmakers the exposure they deserved. So many of them were counting on it and we didn’t want to let them down,” said Melendez, an upper Manhattan native best-known for producing and starring in the sketch comedy series “Hot Tamales Live!” and hosting the bilingual show “Kiki Desde Hollywood.”
“We had received hundreds of submissions and the selections were truly impressive.”
This year’s festival on Dec. 8 will allow participants to watch screenings, attend virtual panels by industry experts and an awards show from the safety of their homes. But they can now also network in real time with Hollywood execs through personal avatars created at omniculturaltvfest.com — meaning festivalgoers can ask questions at the panels, set up private meetings with interested parties and even “dance” with actual celebrities at the VIP afterparty.
The all-day screenings include dozens of drama and comedy feature films, shorts, and documentaries, TV pilots, web series and animated fare.
Panel topics range from how to get a project greenlighted, music licensing, maneuvering legal contracts, perfecting a sales pitch — and how to produce a project in the age of COVID.
“The challenge in doing the festival remotely was how to explain the S.T.R.E.A.M. platform to our audience and then encouraging the guests to embrace this cutting edge technology,” Melendez said. “Once they experience it, they are amazed ― and hooked. And after seeing the excitement of those that have participated, we would do it again.”