SeriesFest Reveals Winners of Independent Pilot Competition | IGN

The international television festival SeriesFest has revealed the winners and awards recipients of the Season 6 independent pilot competition, which celebrates innovative episodic content from creators around the world.

Jurors from across the industry screened 60 pilots, selecting 35 winners that were announced at the six-day fest’s virtual closing ceremony on June 23. “We are so impressed with the storytelling that came out of these competitions,” said Randi Kleiner and Kaily Smith Westbrook, co-founders of SeriesFest.

As a non-profit organization, SeriesFest says it “champions and empowers artists at the forefront of episodic storytelling by providing year-round opportunities for creators and industry professionals to connect, collaborate, and share stories, which inspire and impact global audiences.”

In addition to the winning pilots and creatives listed below, SeriesFest also announced that three series have been given a one-time financial donation from the Caz Matthews Fund, which supports diversity and the dispelling of stereotypes in storytelling.

Kleiner and Westbrook added, “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.”

Here are all the winners of the SeriesFest Season 6 independent pilot competition:

WINNERS – INDEPENDENT PILOT – DRAMA

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.

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!”

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 Director: Jeremy Merrifield, Super
  • Honorable Mention: Rob Margolies, Immortal
  • Best Writer: Max Pitagno, 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’

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.

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.

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, 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.

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

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

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)

WINNER – UNSCRIPTED

Best Unscripted: Racist Trees

  • Creator: Sara Newens
  • Producer: Joanna Sokolowski
  • Directors: Sara Newens, Mina T. Son

Racist_Trees_-SF-BEST-OF-UNSCRIPTED-WINNERpng-720x405 SeriesFest Reveals Winners of Independent Pilot Competition | IGN

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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

BlueBoar__SF-BEST-OF-LATE-NIGHT-720x405 SeriesFest Reveals Winners of Independent Pilot Competition | IGN

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?

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)

Independent Pilot 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.

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER presented by Xfinity – DIGITAL SHORT SERIES

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.

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER presented by Xfinity – LATE NIGHT

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?

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

Generation-Por-Que-SF-Caz-Matthews-Fund-2020-Selections-720x512 SeriesFest Reveals Winners of Independent Pilot Competition | IGN

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 will return for Season 7 in June 2021.
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