Connecticut Post (Sunday)

Greenwich native pitches TV series at festival

- By Andrea Valluzzo

Afreelance screenwrit­er based in New York City, Greenwich native Jon Saks is hoping his TV comedy about online dating, “Swipe,” will hit the small screen.

“Swipe” is a show about two recently single New Yorkers who meet through an online dating site, and it proves more complicate­d than anticipate­d. Three episodes have been produced so far. Saks has written scripts of all kinds and genres but said he loves writing comedy the best. He jokingly admitted that “Swipe” shamelessl­y pays homage to Seinfeld.

“I felt like a lot of the stuff I had been seeing at the time was very meta — a lot of winking at the camera,” he said. “I wanted to do something that was a little bit more of a throwback to the classic comedy shows where you delivered a joke and then you gave it a beat. There was a kind of a rhythm to comedy shows.”

He was recently invited to present his pilot episode at the Catalyst Content Festival in Duluth, Minn., during which he screened the first episode on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. The annual festival offers writers, actors, directors and producers a venue to get their work in front of industry executives.

Saks did not walk away from a weekend with a production deal, but he said he was satisfied with how the weekend went.

“I definitely made good connection­s ... and they have panels where producers and agents come on to discuss how you can try to navigate getting it into the right hands,” he said. “I think the next step really is to keep networking. At the end of the day you have to find someone who can get you into the right room and try to pitch it, which can be tough if you don’t have a name brand associated with it.”

Saks said he submitted “Swipe’s” first episode a while back and was notified about seven weeks before the festival that his work was chosen. He was impressed by how helpful the festival attendees were — and by the Midwestern charm.

“It was a fun experience. I really didn’t know what to expect but it was a very purposeful­ly collaborat­ive environmen­t,” he said. “I have been to some festivals and film markets where it is very competitiv­e … but this is very intentiona­lly designed to get people who want to make TV together so they can collaborat­e and network.”

In between screening his film twice at the festival, he met colleagues in this industry and said he made sure to watch as many comedy projects as he could.

“Comedy is the most fun to make … for the most part, hopefully, you are laughing all day.” Besides Seinfeld, he counts “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelph­ia” and “The Larry Sanders Show” as inspiratio­ns.

While online dating is the narrative thread of “Swipe” that brings the characters together and is meant to be a relatable hook for audiences to latch onto, the show is about more than dating.

Actress Cynthia Aspra, who plays Kyra in “Swipe,” said she found relatable aspects to her character’s personalit­y.

“Kyra’s character is desperate and a bit fatalistic when it comes to her love life. The way she vocalizes it was totally unrelatabl­e, but what she was feeling are the normal feels most of us go through after a breakup, especially when getting dumped,” she said.

Aspra praised Saks’ comedy writing and said she had fun on this project, especially doing a scene in which her heartbroke­n character strums a guitar and belts out a made-up tune to convey her emotions. “Shooting was hilarious. Jon, the writer, is insanely funny and lets everyone kind of do their thing like the singing part. He just lets you add so much to the character,” she said.

For Saks, The collaborat­ive atmosphere at the festival was inspiring.

“It’s always good to be around other people who care much as you do. Sometimes you can get lost if you are working on your own stuff for a while because you are inevitably going to get frustrated. If you are in an environmen­t with a lot of other people who are just as passionate about their projects as you are, it forces you to raise your game and try harder,” he said.

 ?? Courtesy of John Saks ?? "Swipe" is an original comedy series written by Jon Saks.
Courtesy of John Saks "Swipe" is an original comedy series written by Jon Saks.

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