After a two-year in-person hiatus, SeriesFest finally made its way back to the SIE Film Center for its much anticipated Season 8. The six-day festival, which took place from May 5 to 11, featured everything from exclusive screenings to panel discussions with some of the biggest names in entertainment. In case you weren’t able to make it down to Colfax this past week, here’s what you missed at SeriesFest: Season 8.
Eight years ago, SeriesFest co-founders Randi Kleiner and Kaily Smith Westbrook were working in the film industry, constantly connecting with writers and creators trying to break their way into a closed-door industry.
“We started to meet with network executives. The question we always asked is ‘How do you find new content and creators, how do you find new voices?’ Most didn’t have an answer. A lot of big networks and cable stations didn’t have a pipeline to bring in new content,” said Kleiner.
She discovered that most filmmakers were making fully produced independent pilots, simply praying they’d somehow be seen by network executives and be brought to life.
“I realized there was a hunger for new and diverse content, but there was no place to find it,” explained Kleiner. “Coming from the film world, when you want to see the next great filmmaker or find the next great film, you go to Sundance, you go to Cannes, South by Southwest. I thought, ‘Why can’t that exist in the television space?’ If we could bring together executives and creators and be a discovery platform, there could be something exciting there.”
This simple idea snowballed, launching what would become a first-of-its-kind television festival, based right here in the Mile High City.
“We visited Colorado in January 2015, announced [SeriesFest] in February, and launched four months later in June having no idea what to expect, and it worked. We brought creators in, we brought executives in. The community really came out and supported us. And it’s grown exponentially over time,” she said.
Grown it has. What started as a weekend-long event has expanded into a year-round, non-profit organization — the festival itself taking place at the SIE Film Center over an impressive six and a half days. Jam-packed with exclusive screenings, panel discussions, innovation talks and even a Red Rocks benefit concert, SeriesFest is backed by star power. Their team has collaborated with some of the industry’s biggest names over the last eight years — from a Q&A with actress Olivia Munn to an innovation talk with Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos.
Season 8 was no exception, this year’s schedule proving to be nothing short of impressive. The first night kicked off with a “Music in TV” panel followed by an exclusive premiere of STARZ Becoming Elizabeth. Creator and executive producer Anya Reiss and stars Alicia von Rittberg and Jamie Blackley led a riveting Q&A discussing the making of the show, a fitting start for the events of the week to come.
Each day has something for everyone — from creators searching for insight into the entertainment industry to simple television lovers. Friday night’s innovation talk saw two of the industries top executives — Lionsgate’s Jon Feltheimer and Liberty Global’s Mike Fries — for a discussion about the ever-evolving TV marketplace and the future of entertainment as a whole. Saturday’s Navigating Binge Times panel and book signing featured the authors of Binge Times for an in-depth look at the future of streaming services and their effect on Hollywood.
In addition to insightful panels and discussions, the festival also offered exclusive screenings of what will be 2022’s hottest new shows.
“What’s really unique at SeriesFest is we get to screen television on a big screen with top production quality,” said Kleiner.
From Hulu’s Candy to truTV’s 101 Places to Party Before You Die to an inside look at the making of Showtimes Yellow Jacket’s, watching these show’s in a theater creates an experience unlike any other. Attendee’s gain a true appreciation for the art and magic that goes into creating the next great television series, a revelation too often lost from the comfort of our couches.
Sunday Night at Red Rocks was the SeriesFest Center Piece, where attendee’s got to watch an episode of Peacock’s The Amber Ruffin Show followed by a performance by the incredibly talented band Lake Street Dive.
While SeriesFest: Season 8 featured some undeniable star-power, it was truly the independent creators and filmmakers that made this year’s festival a success. The organization put’s its main focus on showcasing up-and-coming creators — offering competitions and incredible networking opportunities for filmmakers trying to get their foot in the door. Through their inclusivity initiatives, SeriesFest is committed to “leveling the playing field,” in entertainment, providing waved submission fee’s and searching for content from under-represented communities, both behind and in front of the camera.
“We really want to support under-represented voices and emerging voices. They are really going out and looking for filmmakers and creators that have a unique story to tell and bringing those to light,” said Kleiner.
This year’s group of winners proves SeriesFest continues to draw in the next generation of great filmmakers. Jury’s selected winners amongst a number of categories, including “Best Comedy” won by Greg Ash for American Dreamers: The Other Hemsworth, “Best of Late Night” won by Will Jacobs for Olympus: A Retrospective and “Best Performance” won by Emily Pendergast for We’re Doing Good.
Each year, Randi Klein and her team are continually amazed by the support and community they find here in Denver. The Mile High isn’t know for its entertainment industry per say, but we have an undeniable love for the arts and the people who make them. Immersing attendees in Colorado culture is important to the organization, hosting events everywhere from SIE Film Center to Red Rocks to Gates Planetarium.
“I’m from Colorado, I moved back here when I got the opportunity to work with SeriesFest,” explained Director of Programming Claire Taylor. “I’ve seen this arts community grow and rise to every occasion and jump right in with us. The arts community is here, it’s just about bringing us all together in a place to work.”
As SeriesFest: Season 8 winds to a close, it is remarkable to reflect on the sheer amount of talent that took over SIE Film Center this past week, and that this festival isn’t on the to-do for every local in the city. Looking forward to Season 9, Kleiner and her team hope to see more Denver-rites join the SeriesFest festivities next year.
“We are here! We are here in Denver, we are bringing so much talent and all of these creatives out, and there is truly something for everyone,” Kleiner said. “Whether you are just a television lover, you want to know more about the entertainment industry, if there’s a show you love and want to see behind the scenes, you want to meet your favorite writers, actors, directors, producers. This exists right here in Denver, and we hope everyone comes out.”
Learn more at seriesfest.com.