The Sie FilmCenter was flooded with hundreds of television industry types and fans last weekend as SeriesFest: Season One, an ambitious new television and storytelling event, made its debut here in Denver. Programming included the latest offerings from some big networks, and audiences not only got a first peek at 26 independently produced pilots, but could vote one as the best in show.
Taking the top prize, and a plum slot on Comcast On Demand, was Witnesses. Here's how the festival describes it: "Two brothers pose as religious missionaries in order to gain access onto other people’s property — and then rob them when nobody’s home. But as the thieves develop their scam, younger brother Abe secretly begins to find meaning in the religions they research. Things start to really go wrong when they knock on a door in the middle of nowhere, and discover a shocking crime that has vast repercussions for the local police chief, a county judge, and the small Wisconsin town where the crimes are being committed. This gothic 'Midwestern' with award-winning cinematography by Jaron Berman is not to be missed."
“We are thrilled to name Witnesses the Best Pilot of SeriesFest: Season One,” says Randi Kleiner, CEO of SeriesFest. “Congratulations to all of our winners. We are extremely proud of all the pilots that screened in the inaugural competition and cannot wait to see what the future holds for each.”
In addition to the people's choice award, a jury of pros — including Oscar-winner Dan Jinks, producers Carter Covington and Ophira Dagan, and Sharon Allen, a veteran of premium cable and network television — gave other awards. Here's the complete lis of SeriesFest honors.
Best Pilot: WitnessesSeriesFest also presented pre-premiere screenings of ABC’s Quantico and Blood and Oil; HBO’s Sex On//; the series premiere of AMC’s Humans; the North American premiere of BBC Four’s Detectorists; a sneak preview of FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll; the world premiere of Condé Nast Entertainment’s Our Story, a Glamour original series; the STARZ Original series Survivor's Remorse; a sneak preview of USA Network’s Mr. Robot and the series premiere of Fusion’s Outpost.
Jury Statement: “This was such a tough decision. There were so many sensational pilots to choose from. Witnesses had such an intriguing premise and it made us eager to see the next episode. We found ourselves thoroughly engaged by the actors, writing and director. Congratulations to everyone involved with Witnesses.”
Best Actor: Robert Olsen, Dispatch
Jury Statement: “Robert Olsen captured our attention from the first frame of Dispatch. His genuine likeability and subtle comedic timing made us want to watch more.”
Best Actress: Lisa King Hawkes, Zero Point
Jury Statement: “Lisa King Hawkes brings a simmering sadness and strength to the role of Dr. Alex Embry in Zero Point. Much of the pilot is spent focused on her face and she carries the story like a season pro.”
Best Director: Alex Calleros, Michael Tucker, Anamnesis
Jury Statement: “The screen is a canvas for directors. Alex and Michael took us on a journey in the pilot Anamnesis. From sweeping vistas to small details, their visual storytelling masterfully created a compelling world.”
Best Writer: Guy Shalem, Family Style
Jury Statement: “A smart and original comedy that explores what happens when a family decides to open up a pop-up restaurant in their home to make ends meet – the clever and witty pilot promises many seasons of fresh characters and funny situations.”
Witnesses will be available soon on Comcast On Demand, for premiere dates on this show and others screened at the festival, check seriesfest.com.