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SeriesFest: Season 5 | Award Winners

June 26, 2019


Honors Awarded in Categories for ‘Digital Short Series,’ ‘Independent Dramatic Pilot,’
‘Independent Comedic Pilot’ and ‘Late Night’ 

Recipients of ‘Storytellers Initiative’ in Partnership with Elysium Bandini Studios, ‘Jan Marino Scholarship’ in Partnership with Stephens College M.F.A. and ‘Women Directing Mentorship’ in Partnership with Shondaland and ‘International Innovator’ in Partnership with Liberty Global Revealed! 

Randi  Kleiner (CEO, SeriesFest) and Kaily Smith Westbrook (CCO, SeriesFest)

SeriesFest, the award-winning international television festival and non-profit organization dedicated
to showcasing the best and boldest emerging voices in television, revealed the winners of this year’s independent pilot competition at a closing reception of the six-day festival at The Cable Center in
Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, June 25th. Esteemed jurors screened 53 pilots from around the globe at the Sie FilmCenter, the year-round cinematic home of Denver Film, and selected 15 winners in various
categories including “Best Independent Pilot,” “Best Digital Short,” “Audience Award” and a
“Fullscreen Select Award.” Full list below.

This year’s pilots showcased an unprecedented level of storytelling,” commented Randi Kleiner and
Kaily Smith Westbrook, founders, SeriesFest. “We are in awe and inspired by all of the work.
Thank you to the jurors for their time and commitment to supporting independent series and we’re excited to see what’s next for these creators and actors.”

A leader in independent development, SeriesFest has been the launching pad for over a dozen independent projects that later secured mainstream distribution. Most recently, the winner of four awards at SeriesFest: Season 3, Up North, received a greenlight for eight episodes from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios. Creator, Emil Pinnock, also signed a blind script deal with Blumhouse Television and has been tapped to pen an untitled Daymond John project.

Over the six-day festival, the recipients of three annual initiatives, “Storytellers,”
“Jan Marino Scholarship”
and “Women Directing Mentorship,” as well as an inaugural
International Innovator” award were also revealed. 

Just ahead of the “Shondaland 2.0” panel over the weekend with Akua Murphy, Anna Deavere Smith, Katie Lowes and Alison Eakle, director Rachel Myers (Wendy’s Shabbat) was announced as the recipient of the “Women Directing Mentorship.” Rachel will shadow a director for an episode of a Shondaland original series and a $5,000 stipend to use during the duration of their mentorship. 

SeriesFest announced Mary Robbins as the recipient of the Jan Marino Scholarship, designed to support women over 55 who are students in the Stephens College M.F.A. in Television and Screenwriting program. Named to honor author Jan Marino, the mother of M.F.A. student and SeriesFest Board Co-Chair Betsy Marino Leighton, the scholarship nurtures the power of strong, independent female storytelling in television and film; and Liberty Global and SeriesFest presented the inaugural ‘International Innovator’ award to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, creator of ‘Fundamental,’ alongside Global Fund for Women. A lively discussion with Global Fund for Women and the Biennial of Americas followed a screening of Obaid-Chinoy’s film series, focused on “Women’s Rights.
No Exception.” 

At the closing ceremony, SeriesFest, in partnership with Elysium Bandini Studios,  announced that the Storytellers Initiative, a program created to discover original episodic writers, was awarded to Amanda Dreschler & Michael Livingston from the pilot project, Forgive Us Father. This season’s
Storytellers Initiative focused on the opportunity to explore short form series
(running less than 15 minutes in length) with a strong point of view and bold characters. Amanda and Michael received an  exclusive first look development deal with Elysium Bandini Studios, a professionally produced pilot presentation valued at $60,000 and were flown to Denver for Season 5 of SeriesFest (June 21-26) to participate in a Storytellers Initiative live read on closing night.

SeriesFest: Season 5 is presented with generous support from sponsors including Denver Film Society, Liberty Global, Once Upon a Time Productions, Xfinity, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Fries Foundation, Coca-Cola, i-Heart Media and JEEP. 


Jury: Peter Mensah (Actor), Chaka Pilgrim (President, Roc Nation Record) and Jack Turner
(SVP of Scripted and Documentary Content, Matador)


Best Pilot: Currency

Creators: Scott Gabriel & Sofi Marshall 

Producers: Caroline Olkowski, Scott Gabriel 

Director: Scott Gabriel 

Writers: Scott Gabriel & Sofi Marshall 

Cast: Jay Santiago, Angelic Zambrana, Danny Gavigan, Matthew Weitz 

Seventeen days ago, bank accounts across America froze. CURRENCY takes place in a small town after all banking, credit, and electronic monetary records disappear in a cascading malfunction dubbed the “Green Out.” Paychecks haven’t gone out, credit cards have been offline, and supply chains have stalled. People only have the food in their homes, the cash in their pockets, and the fading faith that their money will ever come back. The world is holding its breath. 

Cuban immigrant family runs the town’s gas station and realizes that they have the two things everyone needs as the country is plunged into crisis: food and gasoline. When cash runs out and electric utilities, telecom, and factories begin to go offline, they find themselves torn about what to do with their newfound “wealth” in a world where the concept of currency is rapidly fading. 

CURRENCY tracks the intersection of a blue collar immigrant’s rise to power as a self-appointed
small town dictator, and his partner, a now-penniless business executive, has to choose between saving himself or his town. 

Conceived of in collaboration with a world class economist, CURRENCY is a reminder that most of what we put our faith in - money, governments, and laws - only has power if we believe in it. And when that faith gets shaken, the American way of life trembles. This project is co-written by award-winning director/editor team Scott Gabriel and Sofi Marshall.


Jury Statement: What was most impressive to the jury in Currency, was the ability to effectively demonstrate strength of story as well as the intimacy and depth of character that is indicative of all great television, all with very little resources.

Best Director: Julien Lasseur, Palomino  & Swissy

Best Writer: Brian Groh, Palomino & Swissy

Best Actress: Naomi Ko, Nice

Best Actor: Jay Santiago, Currency


Jury: Nina Dobrev (Actress/Producer), Sean Walsh (Manager, Strategy, ABC Entertainment) and David Rubin (Agent, Gersh)


Best Pilot: Brooklyn Moving Company 

Creators: Ryan Harrington, Isaac Himmelman

Producers: Krysia Plonka, Tracey Baird, Gene Hess, Nick Collins, Jessie Ruane, Molly Ryan 

Director: Krysia Plonka 

Writers: Ryan Harrington, Isaac Himmelman, Brendan Ryan 

Cast: Ryan Harrington, Isaac Himmelman, Jessie Ruane, Brendan Ryan, Wayne Mackins, Rob Ventre, Kym Zlogar, Mac Edgerly, Molly Ryan, Scott Swayze, Oona Dolven, Ben Maters,
Arielle Haller-Silverstone

Brooklyn Moving Company is an original musical comedy…about furniture movers. Only these movers don’t just whistle while they work – they burst out into song and dance. All the time. Like, every episode. This upbeat crew take it upon themselves to transform the turbulent lives of their unsuspecting clientele…through the power of song, naturally. Join the unconventional, arguably invasive (but always delightful) Brooklyn Moving Company as they shepherd your family’s memories to a new home..


Jury Statement: This year's SeriesFest pilots offered us the opportunity to spend a half hour in a spectacular array of worlds filled with a rich and diverse set of characters and stories. As a jury, we considered creating a special consideration award for inclusivity in storytelling, but given the organic diversity in virtually every pilot in this comedy block both in front of and behind the camera, we were thrilled that choosing a recipient of an award would be impossible. We believe that all the pilots in this category and their creators have an exciting future beyond SeriesFest, and we are thrilled to announce our winners.

Jury Statement about Best Pilot: A great pilot offers a concept and set of characters that we as viewers hope to follow over many episodes and seasons. On a shoestring budget, Brooklyn Moving Company offered us a warm, exciting, campy, musical world that we wanted to live in far beyond the pilot. With top-notch musical performances and songs, a clear series arc, and a balance of humor and high stakes, we as an audience want to continue to visit this world episode after episode, from the holiday special to the Very Special Episode. We look forward to seeing how this zany set of characters interact not only with the families in the homes they enter, but also with each other.

Best Director: Laura Moss, Neurotica

Best Writer: Jake Delaney, Cara Fano, Paige Hoffman, The Filth

Best Actress: Lauren Aboulafia, Broker

Best Actor: Omar Maskati, Revenge Tour


Jury:  Nina Dobrev (Actress/Producer), Sean Walsh (Manager, Strategy, ABC Entertainment) and David Rubin (Agent, Gersh)


Multi-Hyphenate Award: Ruthie Marantz, Actor-Writer-Director, Rainbow Ruthie

Meet Ruthie. She’s 35. She’s a former teen star of Manhattan Public Access TV. She’s grieving the death of her father. And she’s a hot mess. After a bad night out, Ruthie re-watches her public access show, “Rainbow Ruthie,” that she has kept locked away (physically and emotionally) for the past twenty years. With the help of her roommates, Ayumi and Parker, she discovers her ex-nemesis, Mira, is now an extremely popular (and extremely nauseating) social media star. When Ruthie posts a reaction video in an attempt to kick Mira out of the spotlight, the video goes viral. And suddenly, after a two-decade hiatus, Rainbow Ruthie is back where she belongs. Equal parts biting and nostalgic, Rainbow Ruthie is a comedy about re-finding your truth in the age of social media.


Jury Statement: In a time before Instagram, social media, or even DVDs "Rainbow" Ruthie Marantz was writing, directing, and starring in her own brand of content. She was making stories before "stories" existed...on VHS. Years later, her continued mastery of writing and directing combined with onscreen performance continues to resonate and impress. A natural multi-hyphenate from a very young age, Ruthie shows us the courage, vulnerability, and strength that it takes to willingly give yourself over to a captive audience, and we continue to be impressed and captivated. This is why we wanted to create a new category honoring creators who wear multiple hats. Ruthie was a natural selection for this role, having fearless creative control over nearly every element of her productions from a young age up to today. We can't wait to see more from her, and we are excited to give her this special recognition.


Audience Award: Currency

Creators: Scott Gabriel & Sofi Marshall 

Producers: Caroline Olkowski, Scott Gabriel 

Director: Scott Gabriel 

Writers: Scott Gabriel & Sofi Marshall 

Cast: Jay Santiago, Angelic Zambrana, Danny Gavigan, Matthew Weitz 

Seventeen days ago, bank accounts across America froze. CURRENCY takes place in a small town after all banking, credit, and electronic monetary records disappear in a cascading malfunction dubbed the “Green Out.” Paychecks haven’t gone out, credit cards have been offline, and supply chains have stalled. People only have the food in their homes, the cash in their pockets, and the fading faith that their money will ever come back. The world is holding its breath. 



Jury: Nina Dobrev (Actress/Producer), Sean Walsh (Manager, Strategy, ABC Entertainment) and David Rubin (Agent, Gersh)


Best Digital Short Series & Independent Pilot/Unscripted: Her Turf

Creators: Shantel Hansen and Dean Blandino  

Producers: T.S. Botkin, Ann Cross  

Director: Shantel Hansen

Writer: Toni McLellan

Cast: Annice Canady, Mary Podesta, Tangela Mitchell 

Her Turf is a fast paced, binge worthy docu-series that follows women who dare to step into male dominated roles in the sports arena. Each episode explores women who have broken through gender role stereotypes to engage their passions and prove that they have what it takes to collaborate and contribute in some of the most male dominated realms in sports. The Her Turf pilot is the story of three women's football officials amongst 3,000 male officials in collegiate football, which launches viewers into perspectives that will leave them cheering as women share their journey from their own fears, through the grueling climb to gain the respect of their peers. In a style reminiscent of ESPN’s 30 for 30, the pilot and following episodes deliver a vigorous apologetic of women across sports, on the field, on the sidelines, as announcers and as organizational executives. Our goal is to engage audiences to bring them to a view of the gains of women in the sports industry, and throughout society, as a win-win.


Jury Statement: In the post-Time's Up world, we have begun to grapple with gender inequality across industries, from entertainment to finance. Her Turf offers a finely-crafted view into the underpayment, underutilization, and scarcity of opportunity for women in the sports world. As timely as it is brilliantly-executed, we are excited to hear more stories in this series, and to see its impact on the world of sports and beyond, and hopefully break through a long-standing glass ceiling for women in athletics. 


Jury: Mahzad Babayan (Director of Talent, Fullscreen), Jason Sondhi (Co-Founder, Short of the Week), and Jose Acevedo (Director of Development & Original Programming, Comedy Central). 


Best Digital Short: Human Interest

Creators: Matthew-Lee Erlbach & Mallory Portnoy 

Producers: Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Mallory Portnoy, Anne Troup, Hannes Otto, Gabe Long 

Director: Matthew-Lee Erlbach 

Writers: Matthew-Lee Erlbach & Mallory Portnoy 

Cast: Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Mallory Portnoy, Ryan Spahn, Michael Cyril Creighton, Deb Lapidus and the residents of Andrus on Hudson

Are you a human? Good. Then this is for you. Off-beat comedians Matthew-Lee Erlbach and Mallory Portnoy write and star in HUMAN INTEREST, a character-based dry comedy mock doc series inspired by real people, which lovingly turns the camera on the eccentric and overlooked outliers in NYC. The short-form series introduces us everyone from competitive whistlers and professional cuddlers to neo-luddites and sex robot romantics. Witness the private joys, awkward silences, and uncomfortable truths of our fellow humans as you enter an anthropology of the absurd.


Jury Statement: We have chosen to honor a project that impressed us enormously for its coherence of vision, and the consistency of its point of view, despite encompassing an enormous emotional range. Excelling in writing, performance, and direction, this was a show we found joyfully entertaining, while deeply affecting. Its humorous absurdity garners laughs, but is nonetheless grounded in love for its characters and the simple observation that humans are the most fascinating creatures of all. For creating a compelling experience that we can't wait to share with everyone we know. 

Best Performance in a Digital Short: Ali Liebegott, Girls Weekend

Best Direction in a Digital Short: Patrick Wimp, Brothers From the Suburbs


Jury: James Belfer (Co-Founder and CEO, Cartuna), Laura Schwartz (Director of Development, New Form Entertainment)  and Andre Hyland (Actor/Filmmaker). 


Best Series: Kwaczala

Creators: Joe Kwaczala, Daniel J. Clark, Liz Maupin & Caroline Clark

Producers: Liz Maupin, Caroline Clark 

Director: Daniel J. Clark 

Writer: Joe Kwaczala 

Cast: Joe Kwaczala, Turner Barrowman, Ethan Edenburg, Shelby Fero, Colleen Green, Drew Janda, Collin Klug, Maurice LaMarche, Alec James Milewski, Jon Millstein, Danielle Puterbaugh, Greg Santos, JoAnn Schinderle, Whitmer Thomas 

A sketch comedy show from the brain of up-and-coming comedian Joe Kwaczala (Comedy Central, IFC, ClickHole.) The essence of the show is his satirical-yet-silly sensibility as a writer, paired with his knack for character acting. Expect sketches featuring parodies, absurdism, dumb jokes, and an overall sense of goofiness. 


Jury Statement: For its commitment to the content, cohesiveness across the sketches, production value and crushing those dance moves. Like really crushing. 

Honorable Mention: 2020 


Fullscreen Select Winner: The Gary Gold Story

Creator/Director/Writer: Greg Ash

Producers: Greg Ash & Steve Ash

Cast: Greg Ash, Eric Chavarria, Claudia Camarena, Joel Dauten, Sasha Feldman, Chris Candy 

THE GARY GOLD STORY is a 7 part digital comedy series following the attempts of a washed up, once great English footballer, Gary Gold, to resurrect his career in Los Angeles. Shot as a fictional documentary following Gary's story, the show combines scripted plots with moments of unscripted reality featuring members of the public and cameos from LAFC players and staff. 



Jury: David Person (Manager, Original Programming , IFC TV), Jessika Borsiczky (Writer/Director/EP, Refugee Productions), and Mike Esola (CEO, Ficto)



Creator: Barrett Schuler

'Bands' is an ensemble grounded comedy that follows a local indie band through the highs and lows of a music scene that could care less about them. They have no fame, no glory and about 10 people in the crowd.

Jury Statement: Barrett did a great job articulating interesting characters in a dynamic world; a series that we would want to see on TV. BANDS has great potential to develop into a unique show that looks into the lives of unsung heroes.

SeriesFest and The Oklahoma Film + Music Office are proud to present our third annual PITCH-A-THON! Independent Content Creators will have the opportunity to participate in an exclusive live pitch session with top television, new media and digital execs in hopes of moving their projects – and careers – forward. 8 projects will present according to genre (drama or comedy). Each Creator will have five minutes to pitch. An industry panel of experts seated on stage will then have 7 minutes to give their feedback to each group. The winning pitch will receive a $1,000 cash prize! 


SeriesFest (www.seriesfest.com) is a non-profit organization dedicated to championing artists at the forefront of episodic storytelling. With year-round educational programs, initiatives supporting underserved voices, and professional development opportunities, SeriesFest inspires, educates, and connects a worldwide community of creators. Each June, SeriesFest culminates in a highly-curated and celebrated Denver-based festival and marketplace. Dedicated to showcasing innovative episodic content, the annual festival also includes a musical performance and network screening at the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in-competition independent pilot screenings, panels, workshops, live reads, parties and network television premieres.

Follow @seriesfest on Twitter  

For full descriptions of all participants and projects, please visit www.seriesfest.com