And the Winner Is…
SeriesFest: Season 9 has officially come to a close, and what a successful edition it was! Between a historic performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre by the first female Headliner Chelsea Handler and our first party presented by Def Jam Records for the Official Grown Screening Afterparty, to hosting the festival in the midst of a climate where writers and all creators are fighting for the respect and benefits they deserve, this edition of SeriesFest will undoubtedly go down in history. And in the midst of all the success and turbulence, at the center of this festival is a celebration of brilliant episodic storytellers at every step of the journey, coming together to share their latest works with one another.
“The independent pilot competitions are at the heart of our mission. It is why we founded SeriesFest. It was to be a discovery platform for independent artists and give them the opportunity to get their voices heard, their projects seen by an audience and executives, and make new connections.”Randi Kleiner, CEO and Co-Founder of SeriesFest
In 2023, we were lucky enough to bring together 16 jurors to screen 55 pilots from creative voices from around the globe. We proudly announce the Jury and Audience Winners from SeriesFest: Season 9. Congratulations to all who continue to create in the face of uncertainty and instability, and we will continue to work to be a beacon for all creators, as we need your stories now more than ever. Thank you once again to Hyde Park Jewelers for sponsoring our Independent Competition Awards.
Supported by Royal Bank of Canada, Dilettante Productions, and Working Artists Group
“We were drawn to Brittany’s project through an emotional access point that allows the audience to connect in addition to a distinct POV. The Death Doula is not only an original, personal, and contemporary idea with a clear reason as to why it’s being told, but it’s deeply human and its themes are universal in a way that has the potential to resonate with a global audience.”Jury Statement
When Shay, a seasoned Labor and Delivery Nurse, fails to prevent the traumatic loss of a Black birthmother, she strikes out on her own to forge a new path as a Death Doula.
Thank you to our Panel of Experts Luisa Law (Executive Producer, Dilettante Productions), Sarah Minnie (Head of Artist Development + Production, OPEN TELEVISION), and Zola Glassman (Vice President of Development and Production, Mighty Engine)!
Supported by Royal Bank of Canada and Level Forward
What does it truly take to invent something that changes the world? When cryogenics expert Kitty Liao discovers that half of the world’s vaccines get spoiled during their last mile of delivery, she decides to dedicate her life to creating a solution. Liao embarks on her own arduous journey as she attempts to get her life-saving invention into the hands of the people who need it most.
Supported by Caz Matthews
A struggling single father and former Boxer reluctantly takes a fight on short notice. The previous fighter was shot while dealing. Seeing this as an opportunity to get back on his feet, he is blindsided by the motives of a trusted friend.
Thank you to our Digital Short Series Competition Jury Members Jason Hiro Kim (VP, Good Karma Productions), Bruce Robertson (Chief Storyteller, 11:11 Media), Matt Bolish (Managing Director, New York Film Festival, Film at Lincoln Center), and Julie DeJoie (President, Shoe Money Productions). Read more about them here.
“Sharp, witty dialogue- both spoken and physically. Where’s the second episode? Madeline and Peter created a fully realized world that invited you in and you wanted to stay. Insightful and satirical with good banter- we all want to see more.”
Two sociopathic wellness experts create a social media addiction rehab program which causes some participants to physically vanish.
“The first 30 seconds were some of the best clowning. We knew everything we needed to know in those first 30 seconds. Meg Kelly performs with physicallity, likeability, and vulnerability.”
A mockumentary comedy following toxic party-girl Jennifer in a DIY reality show co-starring her sweet best friend, Chicken.
“A clever take on gentrification and the challenges it has in communities, F.D.B. provides an interesting commentary on today’s New York with one of the clearest points of view.”
“Self-assured with fluorishes of comedy, Washington Kirk is able to walk the razor’s edge between drama and comedy. There’s a subtely that is so strong.”
“An honest love story to New York, Washington Kirk develops Harlem as a character that is fully embraced. The jury was blown away by Kirk’s strong and honest point of view.”
Malcolm Jamal Turner, a struggling writer living in Harlem fed up with the neighborhood’s changing demographics, concocts a ludicrous scheme to de-gentrify it. A Black comedy.
“Black Creek” created by The East Brothers (Michael Goitanich, Connor Pannell)
“The cinematography of Black Creek accelerates our understanding of what this beautifully constructed world is.”
When Lucy Haywood is recruited by an underground organization known as Black Creek to transport a mysterious package across warring state lines, she is thrown into a pulse-pounding mission that may be the key to finding her father — a disgraced virologist who disappeared under mysterious circumstances nearly a decade ago.
But as opposing forces vie to intercept the package, Lucy will be forced to navigate a violent, lawless world, where finding her father may only come at the cost of getting her own hands bloody.
“An innovative use of a new platform with outstanding production design, Krystal Klairvoyant has admirable ambition. It’s not afraid to take risks, and more often than not, those risks are rewarded.”
Krystal Klairvoyant is a 22 episode supernatural comedy about an online tarot card reader who discovers she’s a witch when she starts accidentally casting spells on her customers.
Thank you Tony Tackaberry (CEO, Station 6 Productions), FredAnthony Smith (VP, Non-Scripted, SMAC Productions), and Anne Chaisson (Executive Director, Hamptons International Film Festival) for sitting on the Jury for our Unscripted Competition.
“The jury wants to congratulate the big idea for its dynamic filmmaking, premium execution, and deep meaningful storytelling. This project opens the door for viewers into the world of science that is not often seen yet incredibly important.”
To Nigel Smith (Senior Movies News Editor, PEOPLE), Yasmine Pearl (Talent Agent, United Talent Agency), and Adam Ray (comedian): all of our thanks for sitting on the Independent Pilot Competition: Comedy Jury for Season 9.
And the Winner Is… “Chanshi” created by Aleeza Chanowitz
“Strong story, acting is top notch. Started with a laugh- which is important in a comedy. Visually appealing to look at. Deeply flawed protagonist told with vulnerability. The vision was executed flawlessly.”
“Chanshi experienced the most character wise from start to finish. Fearless. We were invested in Aleeza’s performance from the start. The role was written for her.”
Chanshi flees Brooklyn for Israel in order to fulfill her forbidden fantasies with IDF soldiers, but past traumas threaten to ruin her big plans.
“Thoughtful character developement for a coming of age story. The characters are layered in a very natural and vulnerable way and the actors did the dialogue justice. An interesting exploration of masculitnity.”
Having recently lost his father, Rogelio, 14, is an impressionable youth who thinks he’s ‘grown.’ After devising a way to sneak into a strip club with his friends Larry and Chaz, Ro will have to deal with the pressure of hiding this plan from the women who raised him while coping with recurring visions of his late father. With the help of his older sister Chelly, Ro finds himself at a crossroads when he realizes the disconnect between the man he thought his father was, and the man his sister remembers.
“Distinctive storytelling with an eye for visuals- “Who’s Annie” is something we haven’t seen before. Sophia Peer made us fall in love with Annie and we all want to see more.”
Who’s Annie? is a comedy series about and starring Annie Pisapia, a New Yorker in her 50s who is out of prison now and ready to become a famous actor. Annie gets cast in background roles on big shows, but never gets a line until she meets Sophia, a young, down-on-her-luck, director, at a Burger King. Sophia creates a series about Annie, that includes scenes where they reenact the creation of the series. They fight the odds, and each other, in their frenzied attempts to navigate the film industry. There’s theft, money laundering, injuries, betrayals, and misunderstandings as they try to make a TV show, but along the way this unlikely relationship brings Annie and Sophia closer to their dreams than ever before.
“Free-wheeling storytelling with great chemistry among the whole cast. We really believed them as a family. This is the kind of diversity we want to see more of in a sitcom landscape.”
Hilarity ensues when family therapist Sitara and her husband, Sunny, lose all their money in a “bad investment,” forcing them to move in with his big crazy loud traditional Punjabi family in the suburbs. Sitara rethinks the concept of family and learns to embrace the old Punjabi ways that she denied for so long without losing her identity as a modern, independent woman in the process.
Thank you to our Drama Jury members Ashley Holland (SVP Scripted Programming & Development, Onyx Collective), Anastasia Puglisi (SVP/Supervising Producer, Wolf Entertainment), Mark Linsey (President, Scripted, BBC Studios), and Angie Han (TV Critic, The Hollywood Reporter).
“Humanized grabbed our attention right away with its bloody opening tableau and topical artificial-intelligence premise. But it kept us hooked by grounding its thoughtful exploration of themes like technology, self-identity, parenthood in a vivid cast of characters — and in doing so, delivering an intriguing mix of excitement, dread and tenderness.”
“Key Taw’s natural, charismatic performance as the prickly but empathetic Max brings disarming warmth to a series otherwise characterized by (purposefully) chilly, sometimes literally robotic performances.”
Posing as a typical teenager, a humanoid robot must navigate the uncertainty of adolescence in order to conceal a haunting secret.
“The Empty Chair” written by John Semander
“The Empty Chair captured our atttention with its compelling first act and overall narrative structure. We were struck by the creators ability to weave the high stakes plot line of the serial killers tactics and motivations with the emotional rawness of one family’s suffering and one mother’s determination.”
A mother learns the truth about her daughter’s murder when a serial killer is finally caught.
“Garland Scott’s performance in Puncher’s Chance just beat a number of great portrayals in a very competitive category. He was completely convincing as the ex boxer and single parent struggling to make ends meet and provide for his son. A power and compelling performance delivered with strength and sensitivity which is not only authentic to the role, but incredibly engaging and leaving us all wanting to know what next for the character.”
“Hit Man: Secrets of Lies was a beautifully directed pilot. Elias Plagianos crafted a complicated piece with layered and sophisticated performances from the entire cast, well composed shots that increased the feeling of the walls caving in on our characters, and he presented a world that explored the very gray areas of morality. Very rich ground for a series – we look forward to seeing more!”
A lonely hitman from New York City travels to small towns around the country trying to find meaning in his inconsequential life as he fulfills his contracts and eliminates his targets.
Hats off to our wacky Late Night Jury: Erich Smith (Sr. Talent Agent, TCA MGMT), Arthur Meyer (Writer/Comedian), Valerie Steinberg (Producer, Valerie Steinberg Productions), and Saloni Gajjar (TV writer, The A.V. Club).
“This series won us over with its nuanced, fearless portrayal of the queer experience, led by the magnetic relationship between two undeniably fresh voices. With an impressive range of comedic material, One Million Girls invites us into its world which feels both deeply rooted and just taking off. We can’t wait to see what this team does next.“
A sketch comedy series poking fun at various aspects of queer NYC life. Featuring sketches at places like Branded Saloon (a western-themed Brooklyn gay bar), historic lesbian bar Gingers, and Queer Shark Tank- One Million Girls memorializes what it is to be gay and living in New York City right now. A series about finding shared connection and community among different types of people in the LGBTQ+ NYC scene.
When two women crash their cars into each other in a school parking lot, they are forced to spend time in a psych ward together.
A woman wakes up in her apartment to find something wasn’t how she left it. The search for an answer changes her life when it really doesn’t need to.
Forced into residential school, Aline Spears and her siblings are plunged into a fight for survival that shapes the Spears family for generations.