Vice Dives Into Digital Scripted Content With Productions From Luc Besson, Bryan Singer, Zoe Cassavetes (EXCLUSIVE)

Inks exclusive distribution pact with startup studio Blackpills

Junior - Zoe Cassavetes - Blackpills
Courtesy of Blackpills

Vice Media, which has built its brand for more than two decades largely around news, documentaries and other nonfiction fare, is spreading its wings into scripted entertainment for the first time on the digital side.

The Brooklyn-based media company has secured a pact with Blackpills, a French digital media studio startup, for a slate of original short-form scripted content that will be exclusively distributed on Vice’s video-focused digital hub, video.vice.com. The lineup includes productions from filmmakers Luc Besson, Bryan Singer and Zoe Cassavetes.

In addition, Pulse Films — the London production company in which Vice acquired a majority stake last year — will produce original content that will premiere exclusively on the Vice channel. The first two series are “Pillowtalk” from executive producer Sharon Horgan and “Twiz and Tuck Bucket List.”

Vice is initially launching the scripted programming on its U.S. website but will eventually take it worldwide. The company has produced scripted entertainment for the Viceland cable channel as well as some films, but the new Vice.com programming initiative is its first concerted online push into the category.

“From the first time we saw the content from Blackpills, we knew that we wanted to give the Blackpills channel its home on Vice,” said Hosi Simon, Vice’s global general manager. “The content, creators and people at Blackpills and Pulse have an ambition and vision that we value at Vice, so we couldn’t be more excited to partner with them.”

The Blackpills content on Vice will include Zoe Cassavetes’ drama series “Junior” (pictured above), about a teenage girl ensnared in an unexpected love triangle with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend; and “Playground,” created by Luc Besson, about a teenage girl who joins a school for assassins and uncovers the mystery of her parents’ death. (No details are available at this point for Singer’s project with Blackpills.)

Vice’s deal with Blackpills was brokered by Pulse Films CEO Thomas Benski, who boasted that the partnership “has allowed us create compelling content that can rival top-tier episodic TV.”

Paris-based Blackpills was formed by Deezer cofounder Daniel Marhely and Patrick Holzman, an ex-Canal Plus exec and co-founder of Allociné. Over the past 12 months, Blackpills says, it has greenlit over 50 short scripted series with writers, actors, directors and production companies targeted at young audiences.

Blackpills projects announced to date include an untitled series starring social-media influencer Logan Paul; thriller series “Tycoon” from director Louis Leterrier; a digital series adaptation of “Spring Breakers” from the film’s producers, Chris Hanley and Fernando Sulichin; the third season of James Franco’s “Making a Scene”; and the pickup of Adaptive Studios’ “Pineapple,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

“We are completely changing the format of how series are watched on mobile, and are elated to have Vice and Pulse on board to give a voice to the young creatives making powerful statements about the state of the world today,” Holzman said in a statement.

At launch, the new Vice channel will feature Besson’s “Playground” and other original content from Blackpills including:

  • “All Wrong,” starring Chris Marquette and Brittany Furlan: Carlos finds himself unemployed, broke and in debt. When he finally manages to bring home a woman for a one-night stand, everything gets even worse.
  • “Maniac,” created by Kjetil Indregard: A man named Espen lives a happy-go-lucky existence — but it’s soon revealed that he’s a patient in a psych ward, raising the question of whether living in a fantasy world is easier than real life.
  • “Skinford,” starring Joshua Brennan: In an attempt to save his father from death, Jimmy Skinford ends up risking his own life. His only chance of survival is to be touched by an immortal woman who is buried underground.

Additional content to premiere on Vice shortly after launch includes: “Junior,” directed and created by Zoe Cassavetes, starring Lucia Ribisi, Kristin Froseth, Eric Johnson, and Amy Seimetz; “Twiz and Tuck Bucket List,” in which the two best friends (one transgender, one gender-fluid) set off across America to do 25 things they wanted to do before they close the door on their wilder days; and “Pillowtalk,” created by Mike Piscitelli and Rachael Taylor (“Jessica Jones”), executive produced by Sharon Horgan (“Catastrophe,” “Divorce”) and starring Patrick J. Adams (“Suits”) as a tortured bachelor trying to stay “in the light” in a world where casual sex is at his beck and call.

Pictured above: Zoe Cassavetes’ “Junior”