SeriesFest Winners List for 2024’s Independent Pilot Competition | Exclusive

“Potluck Ladies,” “Broken Toilets” and more took top honors at the Denver festival

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SeriesFest

International television festival and non-profit organization SeriesFest revealed the winners of its Season 10 Independent Pilot Competition at an awards presentation on Sunday in Denver, capping off the 2024 event. Jurors screened 45 pilots from creative voices around the globe at this year’s milestone celebration and selected winners in categories including “Independent Pilot,” which receives $25K in-kind post production support from Company 3, “Digital Short Series,” “Late Night” and “Pitch-A-Thon.”

The winners of this year’s SeriesFest Independent Pilot Competition include:

Independent Pilot – Drama: Potluck Ladies

Independent Pilot – Comedy: Broken Toilets

Independent Pilot – Unscripted: Breakthrough

Digital Shorts: PROBLEMATIC

Late Night: Miracle Wood

Pitch-A-Thon: The Haunting of Trisha Lozada

“Our Independent Pilot Competition embodies the very essence of SeriesFest and aligns with our core mission – to champion independent artists,” Randi Kleiner, CEO and Co-Founder of SeriesFest, said in a statement. “With ten seasons under our belt, we’ve been able to establish a platform for showcasing up-and-coming creators, providing them with an outlet to amplify their voices and share their projects with industry executives, established on-screen talent and below-the-line creatives. This year’s winners represent the future of television and we could not be more excited to celebrate their success.”

At the awards ceremony, SeriesFest also announced the final selections for three festival initiatives including the Level Forward Impact Award and the Caz Matthews Fund. Now in its fourth year, the Level Forward Impact Award began as an invitation for creators to consider how commercial episodic storytelling can both change norms and be good for business.

By valuing authenticity, equity, and care, “Breakthrough” is the recipient of this year’s award and will receive a $5,000 cash prize and development deal with Level Forward. Per SeriesFest, “this brave new series reveals the pain and healing within some of the most incredible athletes in the world.”

Caz Matthews, a Colorado-based supporter of SeriesFest and of the independent creators of television content, awarded four official selections from the Independent Pilot competitions including “This Boy’s Vida (Made in America),” “Hard to Swallow,” “THE DOUG HEIR STORY” and “Breakthrough” with a one-time financial donation from the Caz Matthews Fund. Per the festival, “these recipients represent the independent filmmakers who have important stories to tell and have the desire to both create work as well as find distribution opportunities that further promote tolerance, acceptance and understanding of all cultures and persons in the general population.”

New this year, SeriesFest presents the Outstanding Series Format Deck Award presented by Canva and the Inclusive Creator Fund. The Outstanding Series Format Deck Award was awarded to Late Night Competition Pilot, “Bits,” which will received a $5,000 cash prize for their best submission deck created in Canva.

The Inclusive Creator Fund, supported by the Anna & John J. Sie Foundation and Global Down Syndrome Foundation, is intended to support television projects submitted to SeriesFest: Season 10 that include talent with intellectual disabilities in front of and behind the camera. This year’s grant funds were awarded to “Brewability,” an unscripted series that follows the staff of Brewability and its pioneering owner Tiffany, as they navigate life’s challenges both at work and at home, and together show the world what’s possible when we start inviting each other to the table.

See the complete list of winners, runners up and jury statements below.

WINNERS – INDEPENDENT PILOT – DRAMA

Jury: Ronald D. Moore (Executive Producer, Writer, Showrunner, Tall Ship Productions, “For All Mankind”), Chiké Okonkwo (Co-Founder, Mansa), Jocelyn Sabo (SVP, TV Development, Lionsgate), Jacqueline Sacerio (Producer)

Best Drama Pilot: Potluck Ladies

Director: Shazia Javed

Executive Producer: Shazia Javed

Writer: Shazia Javed

Producer:  Shazia Javed

Cast: Natasha Krishnan, Elisa Moolecherry, Kavita Musty                       

Sumaira, Azra, and Ruby live in “The Wives Condos” in the suburbs of Toronto with their children, while their husbands work in other countries. They initially meet at potluck lunches, a weekly guilt-free escape from the loneliness of immigrant life. At first glance, they seem to be living perfect lives, but when their carefully crafted facades crumble, they must learn to be vulnerable and seek each other’s support.

Jury Statement: For its fascinating look into a unique world of sisterhood and female friendship and the cultural pressures that are imposed upon us, Best Drama goes to a show whose characters touched us and made us want to see the next chapters of their lives – Potluck Ladies.

Best Director: Saša Hajduković, Skin

Jury Statement:  For its confident and dynamic direction and sure handed balance of tension and mystery while engaging us in the emotional story of a man just getting out of prison, the award for best direction goes to Sasha Hajduković from Skin.

Best Writer: Joseph Castillo-Midyett, The Boy’s Vida (Made in America)

Jury Statement: For the detailed and empathetic portrait of a boy in a world seldom depicted on television, the script that touched our hearts and made us want to see the next chapter in this boy’s life, the writing prize goes to Joseph Castillo-Midyett.

Best Performance, Ensemble: Neo-Dome 

Jury Statement:  Instead of acknowledging an individual performance this year, we felt one ensemble performance stood out above the rest. Set mostly in a car, these actors were by turns, funny, scary, surprising and always engaging. We are awarding a Best Performance by an Ensemble to “Neo Dome.”

Best Performance, Honorable Mention: Travis W Buyer, Heebuck

Jury Statement:  For his authentic, heartfelt and funny portrayal of a small town deputy sheriff grappling with a changing world, we want to make a special mention to Travis W. Bruyer for his role as Heebuck.

WINNERS – INDEPENDENT PILOT – COMEDY

Jury: Michael Falbo (Partner, Pacific Electric Picture Co.), Malcolm Venable (Senior Writer, Shondaland.com), Amanda Krentzman (Principal & Founder, Show Pony Entertainment)

Best Comedy Pilot: Broken Toilets

Director: Jesse Toledano

Executive Producers: Thomas Mahoney, David Benyisha, Zakary Levin, and Jesse Toledano

Writer: Jesse Toledano

Producer: Justin Ambrosino 

Cast: Luzer Twersky, Dede Lovelace

BROKEN TOILETS tells the story of Yossi Klein, a young Hassidic man, tasked to take care of his

father-in-law’s buildings in a low-income, mostly black outer borough of NYC. But Yossi has a secret – he loves hip hop.  During the everyday mundane, often absurd tasks that come along with property management, he meets two tenants – young aspiring hip hop artists, DiAndra “Dee” Jones and Kevin Randolph. Together they form the most unlikely of musical trios and set off to make a demo record, all the while Yossi navigates what it means to be a Hassidic Jew in the modern world.

Jury Statement: This is a pilot that will create a larger, unifying conversation. With a high production value, unique characters, and consistent pacing throughout, the jury believes this to be the pilot most appealing and ready for distribution.

Best Director: Nick Bartlett, The Boy Who Was Afraid of Everything 

Jury Statement:  The directing stands out for its use of sharp comedic beats to create many laugh out loud moments.

Best Director, Honorable Mention: David Sonnenborn, Larry in the Sky with Diamonds

Jury Statement: The jury would like to recognize David Sonnenborn for his imaginative world building, taking much creativity and artistic skill.

Best Writer: Jasia Ka and Amamah Sardar, Girls Aren’t Funny

Jury Statement:  This is an example of a very successful pilot set up to be made into a TV series. The story is strong with multiple points of conflict and tension that weave together to create a longing for more episodes.

Best Performance: Haris Mirza, The Boy Who Was Afraid of Everything

Jury Statement:  In the hands of another actor, this part would not make sense. Haris Mirza gave a very quirky and specific performance. Enjoyable and funny, with tons of humanity.

Best Performance, Honorable Mention: Sam Song Li, Marvin Is Sorry

Jury Statement: Sam Song Li took a character that is immediately unlikeable as an influencer and really made you empathize and root for him. You see a real and applaudable range, with the character starting in comedy and ending in despair.

WINNER – INDEPENDENT PILOT – UNSCRIPTED 

Jury: Michael Rucker (Showrunner / Director, Blue Raincoat), Andrea Ambam (Programming Manager & Host, Level Forward), Diana Williams (Co-founder / CEO, Kinetic Energy Entertainment)

Best Unscripted Pilot: Breakthrough

Director: JaMar Jones

Executive Producer: Jared A. Johnston 

Writers: Jared A. Johnston, JaMar Jones, LaTonya Joyce

Producers: LaTonya Joyce, Jenahye Johnson, Alexis Chinery

Cast: D’joun Smith

Breakthrough is a documentary series that explores how athletes face identity crises and

depression after a life-altering event that results in their removal from the sport on a professional level. Utilizing football as the hook for the first season, this series presents the importance of seeking community and professional assistance to help bring closure to their former identities in the NFL through group therapy.

Jury Statement: This series sheds light on a subject matter that has gone unspoken for far too long. By presenting a cultural taboo with specificity which becomes universal and beautiful shots leaving us eager for what comes next – from both a buyer and audience standpoint – this is a pilot screaming to be a series.

Best Direction: Hard To Swallow

Jury Statement:  The choice for best direction encapsulates a fresh and necessary voice in the unscripted landscape. While presenting a subject matter that was literally hard to swallow, the sharp and witty direction took on us an evocative and emotional rollercoaster –– making it clear this is a story that needs to be told by a team that is audacious enough to embrace the complexity.

WINNERS – DIGITAL SHORTS

Jury: Kasey Newton (Director, Content Acquisitions & Partnerships, Tubi), Saloni Gajjar (Staff Writer, TV, The A.V. Club), Brian Tee (Actor, “Expats”)

Best of Digital Short Series: PROBLEMATIC

Director: Sushma Khadepaun

Executive Producers: Kecia Élan Cole, Kuye Youngblood, Devyn Inez Fusaro, Aditi Natasha Kini,

Pranav Behari, Grace Sin

Writers: Pranav Behari & Aditi Natasha Kini

Producer: Grace Sin (Paradoxic)

Cast: Deepti Menon, Austin Ku, Usama Siddiquee, Devyn Inez Fusaro, Leah Pressman, Pranav

Behari, Philip Galinsky, Rajesh Bose, Michael McBride

An unknown writer becomes an overnight media sensation when her public tirade against a finance douche goes viral. Now the voice of #WokeBrooklyn, the dynamics shift with her obnoxious boss, a deranged work rival, and her carefree BFF as the clock ticks on her 15 minutes of fame.

Jury Statement:  Problematic grips you instantly because of its confident voice. It’s a funny, fresh take on a workplace situational comedy, with well-written characters and a poignant matter. It’s a storyline that translates perfectly into a TV series because it leaves you wanting more at the end of each episode.

Best Director: Katie Locke O’Brien, Dick Bunny

Jury Statement: The inventive ways to get into a mother’s psyche were stimulating and creative.

The direction made Dick Bunny’s themes of loneliness, magical realism, and paranoia feel accessible and hilarious.

Best Writer: Dmitry Milkin, Good Guy with a Pun

Jury Statement: The writing is rooted in reality while dealing with complex situations. With so much at stake for the characters, it’s still easy to remain invested in each scenario. The script captures specific nuances well, ranging from cringe internet lingo to an emotional father-daughter reunion.

Best Individual Performance: Kim Griffin, Dick Bunny 

Jury Statement: Kim’s acting is grounded and genuine. She pulls you into her character’s world and makes it easy to root for her. It’s a subtle yet evocative performance, successfully eliciting both empathy and laughs.

Best Ensemble Performance: Shit on your Lip

Jury Statement:  All the actors had a layered chemistry that felt true to the story. They handle their characters’ evolving dynamic with the right amount of absurdity and compliment each other well.

All Around Excellence: Ramadan America

Jury Statement: The digital short is filmed and written wonderfully, presenting a universally relatable theme and a message that resonates across generations. The actors’ genuineness transcends the screen. It’s wholesome and champions diversity with authenticity.

WINNER – LATE NIGHT

Jury: Missy Laney (Director of Development, Adult Swim), Jen Yamato (Journalist and Critic), Landon Zakheim (Festival Co-Director, The Overlook Film Festival)

Best Late Night Pilot: Miracle Wood

Director: Johnny Rey Diaz

Executive Producers: Johnny Rey Diaz

Writer: Johnny Rey Diaz

Producers: Johnny Rey Diaz, Ash T

Cast: Alejandro Patiño, Matt McCoy

Miracle Wood is the first short film of a digital series called “Two Brown Crayons.” The concept of the series is five short, dark comedies or sketches. Each film takes place in one location, featuring a different theme or topic while set in a different decade. Miracle Wood takes place in 1992 and focuses on televangelists who use religion as a way of exploiting people when they are at their lowest point. The remaining episodes will focus on themes of mental health, familial constructs, immigration and politics all grounded in reality but told through a comedic or satirical lens.

Jury Statement:  For its incisive social critique of real life horrors fueled by a suspenseful, darkly comic vision and a haunting performance by Alejandro Patiño, the Best of Late Nite Jury Prize goes to Johnny Rey Diaz’s “Miracle Wood”.

Someone to Watch Award : Lucy Porter, Bits

Jury Statement:  The 2024 Late Nite Jury was impressed with this year’s daring curation, and would like to give a special mention to “Bits” creator Lucy Porter as someone to watch for her boldness of voice and cheeky blend of comedy and pathos.

WINNER – PITCH-A-THON

Panel of Experts: Sarah Minnie (Head of Artist Development + Production, OTV – Open Television), Kyle Castellanet (VP, Development and Production, Echo Lake Entertainment), Christine Davila (TV Development Executive and Producer, Chicana from Chicago)

Pitch-A-Thon Winner: The Haunting of Trisha Lozada

Creator: Robyn Matuto

Producer: Malachi Ellis

THE HAUNTING OF TRISHA LOZADA is a half-hour supernatural comedy series that follows 16-year-old Trisha Lozada as she enters the winter semester of junior year. Anxious, angry, and apathetic all at once, Trisha is hellbent on a sense of normalcy and raising her social status returning to school… it’s too bad the ghost of her overbearing Filipino-immigrant mother, Marian Lozada, is haunting her every step. Now, Trisha must deal with Marian’s unwanted opinions on everything, from her plummeting grades to her social status and an unexpected crush on the new girl, Casey. They may butt heads at every turn, but together, Trisha and Marian must help each other move on – both spiritually and emotionally.

Jury Statement: Thank you to all of the 2024 pitchers! Each pitch exhibited passion, bravery and intention for their stories, which made this decision extremely difficult. This year the jury selected, “The Haunting of Trisha Lozada” as the 2024 Pitch-A-Thon’s winner.  The jury connected to the stories nance examining family lineages and dynamics, authentic rich cultural landscape, and they appreciated the organic playful banter within the team’s confident and well informed pitch.

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNERS – INDEPENDENT PILOT (COMEDY, LATE NIGHT, DRAMA, DIGITAL SHORTS, INTERNATIONAL)

Independent Pilot Competition Drama: Neo-Dome

Independent Pilot Competition Comedy: The Boy Who Was Afraid of Everything

Independent Pilot Competition Unscripted: THE DOUG HEIR STORY

Digital Short Series: Barden and Sarah Start a Pandemic

Late Night: Miracle Wood

Best International: C*A*U*G*H*T (Australia)

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