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SeriesFest: Season 6 / Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Last night, we revealed the winners of the Season 6 independent pilot competition at a virtual closing ceremony of the six-day celebration. Esteemed jurors screened 60 pilots from creative voices around the globe at this year’s virtual celebration of episodic storytelling and selected 35 winners in various categories including Best Independent Pilot, “Best Digital Short Series” “Late Night,” and “Pitch-A-Thon.”  

In addition to the pilots and creatives who were selected by the jurors in each category as revealed below, three series have been awarded a one-time financial donation from the Caz Matthews Fund. Matthews, a Colorado-based supporter of SeriesFest and of the independent creators of television content, seeks to identify filmmakers who have meaningful, important stories to tell as well as the desire to both create work and find distribution opportunities that further promote tolerance, acceptance and understanding of all cultures and persons. Matthews is of the belief that these creators, screenwriters, producers, directors, cinematographers, actors, etc. are frequently underfunded and encounter more barriers to securing financing to get their work made and distributed. Matthews’ commitment is to support creators in providing a voice for marginalized communities, through episodic storytelling on film.  

“We are so impressed with the storytelling that came out of these competitions,” comments Randi Kleiner and Kaily Smith Westbrook, co-Founders, SeriesFest. “This community of passionate creators showcased authentic and innovative stories and  characters that brought us all together in a unique way that we’ll never forget.” 

WINNERS - INDEPENDENT PILOT - DRAMA

Jury: Riva Marker (President, Nine Stories), Susan Lewis (Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Starz), Ben Travers (Deputy Editor & TV Critic, IndieWire), Miriam Mintz (VP of TV, Likely Story), Beau Swayze (Manager, Management 360), Michael Callas (Creative Executive, Fuqua Films)  Isabel San Vargas (President of Production & Operations, Propagate Content), and Katie Cates (TV Literary Agent, ICM Partners

Best Pilot: Story of You

Creator: Raleigh Cain

Producers: Raleigh Cain, Anthony DiMieri

Directors: Caleb Wall, Raleigh Cain

Writer: Raleigh Cain

Cast: Raleigh Cain, Pete Gardner, Holly Gagnier, Allie Jennings, Joseph Stromberg, Peter Murphy, Sara Silva, Laurie Cummings, Michelle Roselle, Blaine Kirk

When Jayne, a pregnant kindergarten teacher in the middle of her own affair discovers the man who raised her isn't her father, the story of her life begins to quickly unravel.

TRAILER

Jury Statement: The jury was impressed by the clarity of storytelling in Story of You; along with its relatable cast of characters, and plot. The pilot served its purpose, introducing us to this world, and to our main character’s central dilemma, and then threw in some extra, unexpected, twists.  This was all executed at a high level, on limited resources. We’re excited to see what Raleigh Cain comes up with next!

Best Director: Jeremy Merrifield, Super

-Honorable Mention: Rob Margolies, Immortal

Best Writer: Max Pitagno & Elias Plagianos, Distemper

Best Actress: Raleigh Cain, Story of You

-Honorable Mention: Alison Jaye, Chosen

Best Actor: Chiké Okonkwo, Distemper

-Honorable Mention: Jonah Beres, Super & Josh Bywater, Inferno 

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE WINNERS DRAMA- ‘2020 VISIONARY AWARD’ & ‘VOICE TO WATCH AWARD’ 

Jury: Riva Marker (President, Nine Stories), Susan Lewis (Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Starz), Ben Travers (Deputy Editor & TV Critic, IndieWire), Miriam Mintz (VP of TV, Likely Story), Beau Swayze (Manager, Management 360), Michael Callas (Creative Executive, Fuqua Films)  Isabel San Vargas (President of Production & Operations, Propagate Content), and Katie Cates (TV Literary Agent, ICM Partners 

Special Jury Prize, 2020 Visionary Award: Supplements 

Creator: Sarah Phillips

Producers: Laetitia Leon, Sarah Phillips, Nick Batchelder, Elizabeth Izzo

Director: Sarah Phillips

Writer: Sarah Phillips

Cast: Laetitia Leon, Murtaza Ali, La'Netia D. Taylor, Terrie Dreyfus, Terence Pennywell

The year is 2289 and all that’s left on Planet Earth is the domed city Old Centauri roaming sun flares that scorch the land and the nomadic tribes that mitigate the two. Kiirke, a nomad, must travel to the city to make money to save her family.

TRAILER

Jury Statement: This year's SeriesFest takes place during an unprecedented time for the world and for filmmaking. We are awarding Supplements the 2020 Visionary Award for recognizing the importance of an inclusive diverse ensemble to tell their story while also successfully using science fiction to articulate and force us to reflect on issues that we’re experiencing today.

Special Jury Prize, VOICE TO WATCH: Lauren McCann (Girl Boxer, Creator, Producer, Writer, Star) 

Creator:  Lauren McCann

Producers:  Lauren McCann, Phil Newsom, Richard Adofo

Director: Lauren McCann

Writer: Lauren McCann

Cast: Lauren McCann, Jack Mulcahy, David Sitler

A hard-up-single-mother and former boxer, is lured by the Irish mob into an underground boxing match where questions of right and wrong are challenged when the love of family is concerned. 

TRAILER

Jury Statement: With an abundance of quality pilots and performances at SeriesFest this year, the jury felt it was important to recognize a certain filmmaker with a Special Jury Prize called the “Voice to Watch.” This recipient showed a strong creative vision and execution uncommon in a first time filmmaker. It’s a pleasure to present this year’s Voice to Watch award to Lauren McCann for her pilot Girl Boxer. Congratulations.

WINNERS - INDEPENDENT PILOT - COMEDY

Jury: Katie Lowes (actress), Adam Shapiro (actor), Evan Shapiro (President, National Lampoon), Garret Martin (Senior Editor, Paste Magazine), Allison Wasserman (Manager in Original Programming, HBO), Jackie Sosa (VP of Development, Chelsea Handler Productions), Dade Hayes (New York Business Editor, Deadline), and Tamir Muhammad (CEO, Populace Productions)

Best Pilot: Everyone Together                                                                                    

Creators: Jessica Kaye, Steven Klein, Kelsey Ledgin

Producers: Katelyn Howes, Jessica Kaye, Steven Klein, Eric Ledgin

Director: Lauren Ludwig

Writer: Kelsey Ledgin

Cast: Jessica Kaye, Steven Klein, Emily James, Reza Sixo Safai, Iman Nazemzadeh

Everyone Together, a comedy series, follows two dysfunctional families from different cultural backgrounds as they clash and bond over a new major family milestone each season.

Jury Statement: Everyone Together delivers an honest, hilarious, and poignant look at a family at what should be a time of great joy,  but in reality is a time of deep crisis. The creators, director, and cast expertly bring to life a compelling pilot story for the family unit that hooks the audience going into the series, while also introducing individual threads that hint at what’s to come for each member of this dynamic ensemble. We immediately brought these flawed and funny characters into our hearts and would be so excited to laugh and cry with them for many, many seasons.

Best Director: Hannah Welever, Good Genes

Best Writer: Kelsey Ledgin, Everyone Together

Best Actress: Jacqueline Pereda, Generation Por qué?

Best Supporting Actress: Sasha Rose, Embarrassing Parents Anonymous

Best Actor: Ben Wood, Embarrassing Parents Anonymous

Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Lennon, Slice

WINNER - UNSCRIPTED  

Jury: Ryan Harrington (VP of Documentary Films, National Geographic), Andy Singer (EVP TV & Digital Content, Alkemy X), Lynn Sadofsky (SVP, Programming and Development, Food Network), Travis Tammero (Agent, Media Finance, Creative Artists Agency), and Katie Neff (SVP of Development, High Noon Entertainment)

Best Unscripted: Racist Trees

Creator: Sara Newens

Producer: Joanna Sokolowski

Directors: Sara Newens, Mina T. Son

Racist Trees follows the complex story behind a row of Tamarisk trees that have been the center of a long-standing battle between Black residents and the Palm Springs City Council. With conflicting reports surrounding their origin, ignored maintenance, and suppression of property values, a media firestorm propels this community into the national landscape, inciting unprecedented behavior from both sides.

Jury Statement: Racist Trees is not just an arresting title, but a timely, well-crafted story illustrating how a row of trees divides Palm Springs along racial lines.  Through interesting, well-shot interviews and visuals, the film deftly displays how this playground for the rich and famous marginalizes people of color by maintaining a literal, verdant barrier between communities.  As our nation struggles to identify and combat institutional and systemic racism, Racist Trees uses a unique POV to highlight how property values have long term implications on communities of color.  It is for these reasons, Racist Trees is the winner for Best of Unscripted.

Special Jury Prize, ORGANIZATION TO WATCH:  One Vote At A Time 

Creators: Sarah Ullman, Mara Tasker

Producers: Saba Zerehi, Mara Tasker, Sarah Ullman

Director: Yoko Okumura

Writers: Yoko Okumura, Sarah Ullman

Cast: Jennifer Carroll Foy, Josh Crandell, Sarah Ullman, Mara Tasker, Jessica Pantoja, Olesia Saveleva, Kara Johnson, Kelsey Norton

On a mission to end gun violence a team of filmmakers called One Vote at a Time travels the nation to make campaign ads for underfunded and overlooked candidates. Through this lens, we gain access to the reshaping of American leadership standing up to say: Enough.

Jury Statement: This pilot uniquely highlights a group of fearless female filmmakers dedicated to eradicating gun violence by creating free campaign videos for political candidates across the USA, in this most pivotal election year. The organization, One Vote at a Time, takes on the most important issues facing our country and introduces us to inspiring young candidates that will change the course of our future. The jury is proud to honor One Vote at a Time with an “Organization to Watch” Special Jury Prize.

Best Director: Sara Newens, Mina T. Son, Racist Trees 

-Honorable Mention: Kaleb Kohart,  For The Love of Craft 

WINNERS - DIGITAL SHORTS

Sponsored by Fullscreen

Jury: Brian Newman (Founder, Sub-Genre), Daryn Carp (Host, PeopleTVs Reality Check), Rob Yang (actor), Kuye Youngblood (Head of Development and Production, BRIC TV), Krystal Hauserman (VP, Marketing & Communications, Fullscreen) and Liz Shannon Miller (Senior TV Editor, Collider)

“Best Of” Digital Short: Freeze

Creator: Maya Albanese

Producers: Brock Williams, Valerie Steinberg, Maya Albanese

Director: Maya Albanese

Writer: Maya Albanese

Cast: Adrian Grenier, Nora Zehetner, Chris Parnell, Mindy Sterling, Rick Overton, Kel Mitchell, John Ennis, Jazzmun Crayton, C.C. Sheffield

When Joy’s fairytale romance abruptly ends on her 35th birthday, the TICK-TOCK of her biological clock becomes deafening. It coaxes her into romantic misadventures and provokes hallucinations. From dating services to fertility treatments, Freeze explores the conflicts between Joy and her own biology in an era of unparalleled female choice.

TRAILER

Jury Statement: One of the hallmarks of great films is their ability to subtly world build in ways that allow for suspension of belief as we nestle into the story before us - something that's even harder to do in the digital shorts space. Freeze does this beautifully finding efficient and clever ways of melding the inner anxieties and fears of its main character with the outer reality she inhabits. Imaginative writing and mindful directing mirror the non-linear and illogical times that can come with heightened emotion as executed so beautifully in Ms. Zehetner's performance and matched with the rhythm and pacing that only great editing can yield. It's also a unique and refreshing take on the age old challenge for the modern working woman begging the question - can one really have it all? - with just enough magical realism to keep the mood fluid and buoyant. Bravo!

Special Jury Prize, INNOVATION AWARD: SWIPE 

Creator: Martijn Winkler

Producer: Mandy Lim

Director: Martijn Winkler

Writer: Martijn Winkler

Cast: Roy Kaneza, Mitch Wolterink, Marloes IJpelaar, Pim van Hövell, Valéry van Gorp, Anouk van Egmond

SWIPE is a seven-part drama series about the influence and unforeseen consequences of smartphones on the lives of several twentysomethings, told from the perspective of their phones.

TRAILER

Jury Statement: Swipe immediately took us on a seamless engaging ride into the head of a young man witnessing a hit and run, telling friends, posting it, and unfolding into an extremely well executed and constructed thrilling story. All of this, through the world of a mobile phone screen, but done in a way that filled in the world beyond the screen. We got a real sense of relationships and the conflicted feelings of wanting to do the right thing, and the desire to be seen in social media. Swipe was very innovative in pulling all elements together to make us feel like it was really happening.

Best Comedy Digital Short: AlleyWay

Best Drama Digital Short: M 

Best Director in a Digital Short: Bridget Moloney, Blocks

-Honorable Mention: Javier Devitt, M

Best Writer in a Digital Short: Adjani Salmon, Dreaming Whilst Black

-Honorable Mention: Casey Skinner, Berkowitz

Best Actor in a Digital Short: Adjani Salmon, Dreaming Whilst Black

Best Actress in a Digital Short: Nora Zehetner, Freeze

-Honorable Mentions: Claire Coffee, Blocks & Fearn Deacon, Heart To Heart

WINNER - DIGITAL SHORTS- FULLSCREEN SELECT AWARD 

Fullscreen Select Winner: Dreaming Whilst Black

Creator/Director/Writer: Adjani Salmon

Producers: Adjani Salmon, Laura Seixas, Max Evans, Natasha Jatania

Cast: Adjani Salmon, Dani Moseley, Vanessa Vanderpuye

Dreaming Whilst Black is a 9-part comedy web series that follows a young, passionate, but naive 

filmmaker, Kwabena, who struggles to navigate between his dreams and reality.

TRAILER

Jury Statement: The SeriesFest Fullscreen Select Award honors a digital short or series that elevates next generation talent, drives culture or social change, and brings fresh perspective to digital storytelling.  Dreaming Whilst Black hits all these marks.  The series is a poignant exploration of what it means to be a young Black man in a white world just trying to pursue his dream.  We follow Kwabena as he makes his way through the menial (and sometimes demeaning) tasks of pursuing a career in film, faces racism, and begins to learn the tricks of the trade that he will need to make it all more bearable.  Through creative storytelling and the use of fantasy sequences, we get a glimpse into Kwabena’s vision for himself, from achieving career success to having the unrestricted freedom to tell someone to F off without repercussion.  Incredibly heartfelt, funny, and relatable, the series is a beautiful reminder that the struggle to find one’s way in the world - and dreaming of something bigger - is a universal condition. 

WINNER - LATE NIGHT

Jury: Anna Roberts (SVP Distributions & Acquisitions, Nacelle Company), Sam Zimmerman (Director of Programming, Shudder), Laura Prudom (Editorial Manager, IGN), and Danielle Kreinik (Director of Television Development, Ubisoft), Rachel Heine (Vice President, Brand Strategy, Nerdist) 

Best Series: #BlueBoar 

Creator: Alice Victoria Winslow

Producers: Leland Montgomery, Maya Taylor, Andrew Keutmann, Christine Haggerty, Par Parekh

Director: Alice Victoria Winslow

Writer: Alice Victoria Winslow

Cast: Alice Victoria Winslow

It’s the year of the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Except, the internet exists, and Puritan Style Guru Sarah Winsley's online channel has made her a New World celebrity. When a panic of evil bedevils the community, Sarah can't be sure what’s ailing her—is she bewitched or is she a witch?

TRAILER 

Jury Statement: For Best of Late Night -  In just 5 minutes, #BlueBoar is layered, sharp, funny and freaky. We were so thrilled to be introduced to the Sarah Winsley channel, and creator Alice Victoria Winslow’s immense talent as writer, director and star. This is the start to an inventive journey we all want to follow. 

  • Honorable Mention: Aliens  

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER presented by Xfinity

 - INDEPENDENT PILOT (COMEDY, DRAMA, UNSCRIPTED) 

Audience Award: Shepherds

Creators: Erica Bardin, Susan Graham

Producer: Erica Bardin

Director: Lauren Fash

Writers: Erica Bardin, Susan Graham

Cast: Erica Bardin, Brittany Ishibashi, Susan Graham, Chris Mulkey, Joan Severance, Ben Wickham

Shepherds is a dramedy following Madison Shepherds, an ambitious researcher grappling with an identity crisis after losing her job. Her transition from legal opioid researcher to illegal psychedelic drug dealer is set against the backdrop of political conflict between big pharma, the psychedelic research community and her own family.

TRAILER

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER presented by Xfinity - DIGITAL SHORT SERIES 

Audience Award: Early To Rise 

Creators: GEIL Comedy (Alec Cohen, Mike Cabellon, Adrien Pellerin, Katie Sicking)

Producers: Alec Cohen, Mike Cabellon, Adrien Pellerin, Katie Sicking

Director: Alec Cohen

Writers: Alec Cohen, Mike Cabellon, Adrien Pellerin, Katie Sicking

Cast: Mike Cabellon, Katie Sicking, Adrien Pellerin, Brian McElhaney, Iman Richardson, Taylor Ortega, Jerah Milligan, RJ O'Brien

On the way to a distant planet, three less-than-qualified astronauts are awoken 118 years too

early and trapped inside their hibernation pods.Alone in the endless void, they can't kill

themselves, they can't kill each other, so they'll just have to kill time.

TRAILER

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER presented by Xfinity - LATE NIGHT

Audience Award: #BlueBoar

Creator: Alice Victoria Winslow

Producers: Leland Montgomery, Maya Taylor, Andrew Keutmann, Christine Haggerty, Par Parekh

Director: Alice Victoria Winslow

Writer: Alice Victoria Winslow

Cast: Alice Victoria Winslow

It’s the year of the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Except, the internet exists, and Puritan Style Guru Sarah Winsley's online channel has made her a New World celebrity. When a panic of evil bedevils the community, Sarah can't be sure what’s ailing her—is she bewitched or is she a witch?

TRAILER 

WINNER - PITCH-A-THON 

Presented by Oklahoma Film+ Music Office

Panel of Experts: David Rambo (Co-Executive Producer, Empire, CSI & Revolution), Valerie Stadler (Co-Founder, Big Swing Productions), Christine Davila (Creative Executive, Stage 13), Eric Jewett (CU Denver College of Arts & Media), Ian Robertson (Unleashing Giants Studios), J.J. Green (Unleashing Giants Studios) 

Presented in partnership with Oklahoma Film + Music and Working Artists group, each series  had five minutes to pitch followed by 7 minutes of feedback from a panel of  industry panel of experts. The winner receives $500 from Oklahoma Film + Music.

Pitch-A-Thon Winner: Fighting Time  

Creator: Margaret Byrne

Producers: Margaret Byrne, Rachel Pikelny

Director: Margaret Byrne

Writers: Margaret Byrne, Rachel Pikelny

Cast: Esther Hernandez, Juan Hernandez, Bill Dorsch, Johnny Flores, Demetrius Johnson

Retired detective Reynaldo Guevara stands in firm silence, accused of framing 59 people with murder. Pointing the finger, along with Guevara’s many victims, is a fellow former cop who betrays the blue code of silence, not only implicating Guevara but uncovering systemic corruption in the highest ranks of Chicago law and order.

Jury Statement: “It was an honor to partner with SeriesFest for the second consecutive year to sponsor their annual Pitch-A-Thon Contest and witness a diverse line up of pitch participants, said Tava Maloy Sofsky, “Director of the Oklahoma Film + Music Office. “Our office, alongside the well-rounded panel of judges, named Margaret Byrne and Rachel Pikelny 1st place winners after they delivered a fervent pitch for Fighting Time which portrays relevant issues in one city’s law enforcement system.”

Storytellers Initiative: Collegiate Writing Competition - Winner

Presented in partnership with Once Upon a Time Productions & the Anna & John J. Sie Foundation

Peach Pit

Created by Sidney Nordstrom

A comedy series about Mel, a 24-year old burnout whose morals are as lacking as her income, is presented with an opportunity to fix her financial woes, but only if she can commit one, tiny little murder…

Caz Matthews Fund 2020 Selections

Presented by the Caz Matthews Fund

Generation Por qué?

Creator: Jacqueline Pereda

Producers: Dana Zolli, Jacqueline Pereda

Director: Jacqueline Pereda

Writer: Jacqueline Pereda

Cast: Andréa Burns, Jacqueline Pereda, Sandor Juan, Amel Khalil, Melvin Lima, Guyviad Joseph, Manny Ureña, Jared Johnston 

A coming of age comedy that follows Jackie Perez, a first-generation woman pursuing her acting dreams in New York City while being the child of Cuban immigrants...who voted for Trump and live in New Jersey. She can chase her dreams...but she can't outrun her family.

One Vote At A Time 

Creators: Sarah Ullman, Mara Tasker

Producers: Saba Zerehi, Mara Tasker, Sarah Ullman

Director: Yoko Okumura

Writers: Yoko Okumura, Sarah Ullman

Cast: Jennifer Carroll Foy, Josh Crandell, Sarah Ullman, Mara Tasker, Jessica Pantoja, Olesia Saveleva, Kara Johnson, Kelsey Norton

On a mission to end gun violence a team of filmmakers called One Vote at a Time travels the nation to make campaign ads for underfunded and overlooked candidates. Through this lens, we gain access to the reshaping of American leadership standing up to say: Enough.

Racist Trees

Creator: Sara Newens

Producer: Joanna Sokolowski

Directors: Sara Newens, Mina T. Son

Racist Trees follows the complex story behind a row of Tamarisk trees that have been the center of a long-standing battle between Black residents and the Palm Springs City Council. With conflicting reports surrounding their origin, ignored maintenance, and suppression of property values, a media firestorm propels this community into the national landscape, inciting unprecedented behavior from both sides. 

SeriesFest: Season 7, will return to Denver in June 2021 with an even more ambitious, creative and exciting program.