Astronauts Wanted, the digital studio that’s a joint venture between Judy McGrath and Sony Music Entertainment, announced a new slate of eight original projects in development with top digital influencers and creators.
The company has signed development deals for content from YouTube creators Kian Lawley and JC Caylen, Timothy DeLaGhetto (pictured above, center), Kingsley, Alexa Losey and Hannah Witton, as well as writer-director Katherine O’Brien and music-video director Hannah Lux Davis. The development slate expands Astronauts Wanted into new genres including food, fashion and sketch comedy.
“When we started this company, we had aspirations to collaborate with this really interesting new generation of creators and top talent,” said Astronauts Wanted president Judy McGrath, former chair and CEO of MTV Networks. The creators in AW’s new development slate “reflect the spirit and creativity of their fans, which is right where we want to be.”
New York-based Astronauts Wanted uses social media and channels like Snapchat, Twitter, YouNow and Vine to test new talent and formats, incorporating audience feedback into programming strategy. Examples of the company’s social-storytelling experiments include “Snap Romance,” “Pug Confessions,” “The Rules of Spring Break,” “The Matchmaker” and “Astros@.”
The new development slate includes:
- “H8TERS”: A scripted “meta comedy” in which Kian Lawley and JC Caylen play uber-famous You Tube stars — as well as their biggest haters, Frank and Zweeb, two video-game store employees who continuously plot new ways to bring down the self-important, pretty-boy social heartthrobs. A la “Portlandia,” Kian and JC play a variety of eccentric characters.
- “Underbelly”: Timothy DeLaGhetto hosts a late-night, booze-soaked, trash-talking tour of the best spots for hangover eats across the country, picked by his fans, in a show that blends travel, comedy and cuisine.
- “Smeared”: An anything-goes news and comedy-sketch show with host Kingsley and his squad of friends and special guests, skewering mock-worthy news and events from the week.
- “For the Win”: Series showcasing obscure pastimes like ostrich racing, swamp soccer, equestrian skijoring and wind dancing in a vertical wind tunnel. Fans will vote on their favorites and the winning crew will be flown to L.A. for an epic exhibition match in a custom-built arena.
- “Fleek Peek”: A “transformation tutorial” from music-video director Hannah Lux Davis, who has directed videos for Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande. The show’s style host experiences first-hand what it takes – and how it feels – to go through the personal training regimen required to be a world-class pop star.
- “The Music Stopped But We Kept Dancing”: Scripted dramedy starring Alexa Losey is billed as a Gen Z version of “The Breakfast Club” meets “One Flew of the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The story explores the bonding and breaking among six teens at a beachside treatment facility for kids from high-profile families, through the eyes of a liberal politician’s 17-year-old daughter who is sent away to keep her out of the public eye after she’s caught cutting herself.
- “Runaway”: Scripted series by Katherine O’Brien (film “Automatic Hate” and the DeLeon Tequila concert series) revolves around Instagram darling Zoe. After she has a public meltdown at a fan convention, she leaves her social-media empire behind — hitting the road with her high-school friends in search of freedom and headed for trouble.
- “Girl on Girl”: Talk show hosted by YouTuber and sex-positive educator Hannah Witton tackles subjects ranging from breast implants to dating apps with opinionated female guests.
Previous projects from Astronauts Wanted, launched in 2013, include feature-length film “A Trip to Unicorn Island” documenting the world tour of Lilly Singh (aka YouTube’s “Superwoman”), which debuted on the YouTube Red subscription service in February.
The studio also produced the cult-hit talk show “Tawk” with Awkwafina and extreme sports series “Hey USAx” with Marcus and Cody Johns for Verizon’s Go 90; travel series “Hey USA” with Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart for Conde Nast’s The Scene; and social-media reality series “@Summerbreak” sponsored by AT&T and distributed across YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, Periscope, Facebook and We Heart It in real time. Most recently, Astronauts Wanted partnered with Canvas Media Studios to create “Socio,” a scripted transmedia psychological thriller.
Watch a trailer of “Underbelly” with Timothy DeLaGhetto: