Digital studio Portal A has inked deals with young digital influencers Jay Versace and Miles McKenna to develop half-hour shows.
The pilots with teen Jay Versace (above left), who has 3 million social followers, and Miles McKenna (above right), who has 1.5 million followers, anchor Portal A’s development slate of some 40 shows, which the company is looking to license to digital. Portal A is best known for producing the annual YouTube Rewind video, working with more than 200 top creators for the 2016 installment.
Comedian Jay Versace, 19, will star in “My Wizard and Me,” a trip deep inside his imagination as he and his magical ancestor sample some of L.A.’s most elusive hot spots (along with other characters played by Jay).
Miles McKenna, the transgender YouTube star formerly known as Amanda McKenna, hosts “We Out Here” in which he travels the country to connect with newly out people of all ages and plans a celebration to welcome them to the LGBTQ community.
“We think both Miles and Jay Versace represent the new school of creators,” said George Woolley, Portal A’s head of originals. “They are huge community leaders in their own right, and they’ve become the type of people pushing the envelope making content that will resonate with their audiences.”
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Jay Versace is represented by Stephanie Piza, and McKenna is repped by Fullscreen.
Portal A is creating both projects as half-hour (22-minute) formats, aimed at digital-premium buyers as well as linear TV networks. While there’s a way to refashion the shows for “a shorter-form experience” depending on a partner’s requirements, “we really want to explore giving creators an ability to express themselves in a larger format,” according to Woolley.
Asked to describe Portal A’s philosophy for original series, Woolley said, “Internally, we say we are ‘driven by dopeness’ — finding new formats that can be a island of inspiration in a sea of mediocrity and the choked tropes we’ve seen over and over,” said Woolley, who joined Portal A last year from Disney’s Maker Studios. The company’s originals business is represented by WME.
Portal A’s original series to date have included “Song Voyage,” a musical comedy created with the Gregory Brothers for Maker Studios that has garnered more than 30 million viewers since it launched in late 2016. Portal A and the Gregory Brothers are currently developing a second season of the show, angling to shop it to TV networks.
Earlier this month Portal A released a pilot for “The Adventures of Nunchuck Larry,” which it developed and financed, on the Gregory Brothers’ YouTube channel. The spoof of 1970s kung-fu movies stars Flula Borg, Shameless Maya, and Michelle Waterson.
Other shows in development include previously announced food show/comedy series “Whine and Dine” being produced with Popsugar Studios. The show, in a 22-minute format, pairs an adult comedian with a hangry child for a meal that neither will forget.
Portal A also recently signed a co-production deal with 3 Ball Entertainment, the company behind reality shows including “Bar Rescue” and “Beauty and the Geek,” to produce unscripted series “America AF.” In the show, snarky millennial comedian hosts set out on a series of adventures to see how they stack up against their bad-ass forebears.
Other pilots on the Portal A slate include:
- “Bomb LA”: Drama from writer-director Marvin Lemus that follows Xabi, an insular Mexican-American comic-book nerd from East L.A., who finds his tribe when he falls into a local graffiti crew — but becomes in danger of slipping into a life of gang violence.
- “Beholder”: Docu-series covering traditionally marginalized and taboo subjects of the beauty world, ranging from female bodybuilders to “beauty boys.”
- “Nice Tan”: From writer-comedian Carla Lee comes a multicultural, female-led sketch comedy series set in the San Francisco Bay area that takes on identity, political correctness and life in a world that is not as woke as it wants to be.
Portal A has 40 employees based in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The company has sold original series to partners including YouTube, Hearst and Disney, and has produced branded content for clients including Amazon, Clorox, Lenovo, and Procter & Gamble.