The Welcome Return of AMC Networks' Annual Programming Summit

By AMC Networks InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: The Welcome Return of AMC Networks' Annual Programming Summit

It's been three years since AMC Networks organized a special half-day summit just for press in the New York metropolitan area. Given AMC's reputation for pulling off deluxe Upfront events at unique New York venues in the past, I had an inkling Wednesday morning's affair would be memorable. Sure enough, Summit 2022 didn't disappoint.

Instead of devoting panels to individual series with lots of promotional repartee among talent on both sides of the camera, AMC arranged a quartet of panels by theme. One panel focused on the portrayal of relationships among African-Americans on TV, while another focused on the horror content genre -- the focus of sister channel Shudder -- as a safe space to deal with issues from racism to class warfare and being gay, lesbian or transgender.

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All this originated from the third-floor rooftop of 74 Wythe, a multi-floor presentation space in the heart of Brooklyn's Greenpoint district. Mother Nature made a positive contribution to the atmosphere by offering up a wide, bright view of the Manhattan skyline across the East River behind the stage at all times. Attendees could grab coffee, tea or milk on the left side of the room, or check out a breakfast menu on the right side that included vegan banana nut and orange chocolate chip muffins, and pretzel croissants filled with egg, cheese and a strip of bacon. On the way out, attendees could pick up a boxed lunch of their choice and chat with participants in a red-carpet area.

From the start, AMC Networks Entertainment President Dan McDermott framed the event as the launchpad for a new programming era at his organization. "We're in the early days of a creative renaissance," he declared. "There's something in the water here, something fueling a move into elevated scripted TV. We focus on creative and quality, not clutter."

One centerpiece of this renaissance will be multiple series based on the Anne Rice supernatural chronicles, beginning with Interview with a Vampire (scheduled to premiere October 2). As proof of faith in AMC building a major Anne Rice franchise over the rest of the decade, McDermott announced the greenlighting of Interview's second season, before bringing on executive producer Mark Johnson for the opening panel, and co-stars Sam Reid and Jacob Anderson for the closing panel. (Reid and Anderson are pictured at top.)

"I don't want to tell dark stories," Johnson said during his panel, explaining why he's on board for this venture. "I want to tell positive stories and want to walk away feeling that there is hope. Rice's books deal with family values and faith in the future."

(Pictured above, left to right: Sam Reid, Jacob Anderson, Emma McDonald, Zahn McClarnon, Okieriete Onaodowan, Carrie Gillogly and Harry Hamlin)

Johnson also will oversee an effort to develop a new AMC series out of Seconds, the controversial 1960s movie directed by John Frankenheimer about a middle-aged man who through a clandestine medical procedure becomes a youthful man played by Rock Hudson. "Which one of us wouldn't want to escape into another body and live an alternate life?" Johnson asked. "This concept is less fantastical and more appropriate to look at today."

Another Rice franchise, Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches, is scheduled to arrive on AMC and/or megacontent sister service AMC+ early 2023. "I hope we get picked up for a second season," said Harry Hamlin, the former L.A. Law star who has a key role in the show.  "I get to play this character who's a Southern gentleman … and kind of insane. Love the role."

Several times on the second panel dealing with African-American TV portrayals, participants urged more content creators of color to get into TV, then be accountable for generating a diversity of series that showcase contemporary relationships, issues and resolutions. "I'm inspired to create what I don't see," explained David Shanks, creator of 61st Street, the gritty drama series starring Courtney Vance that will be back for a second season on AMC. "We need to tell our stories from a place of truth and a place of complexity we deal with -- in its entirety," he added.

In a separate fireside chat, McDermott disclosed that going forward, there will be more experimentation with how series debut, then play, over AMC's service portfolio. Example: some original scripted series on ALLBLK are getting a simulcast, or second window, on WE tv. "We'll co-premiere some shows on AMC and AMC+, while some series will be exclusive to AMC+," he said. "We're forward-leaning."

Close ties with creators will be the key to generating AMC's next assortment of series with a chance to be as iconic as The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, stated Scripted TV Vice President Carrie Gillogly, a late addition to the closing panel. "We care as much as the creators do," she asserted. "We want to support them every step of the way. We need to get on the same page with the artists. It's not just about standing out. It's about being remembered."

Photo credit (group image above): Craig Barritt/Getty Images for AMC Networks

Photo credit (image at top): Evan Agostini/Invision for AMC Networks/AP Images

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