PAMPLONA, Spain — This year’s Conecta Fiction, Spain’s upstart international TV co-pro and networking event now in its third year, hosted a Pitch Digiseries session, an hour-long event which saw five ambitious short-form projects pitch to industry professionals gathered in the northern city of Pamplona.
While drama may be the name of the game among high-end broadcast TV projects pitched at Conecta Fiction, for digital short form series it was all about the laughs. Five series pitched on Tuesday, each one featuring a dark humor popular among young audiences more likely to watch an 8-12 minute episode on their phone than sit down for 50 minutes of heavy drama.
Gabi Ochoa and Héctor Beltrán’s “From the Dead,” was the session’s big winner, taking home the Acorde prize, which includes the scoring of an original soundtrack for the series’ first season.
“From the Dead,” pokes respectful fun at YouTuber culture, particularly those influencers who farm their hits by chasing the supernatural. In the series, a down and out streamer called YonaxGo! is asked out on a cemetery date with Ellydark, herself a burgeoning content creator.
Elly has other ideas for the outing however and uses the opportunity to play a series of terrifying pranks on Yonax. Things get out of hand when her exploitative actions unintentionally summon of a genuine-from-hell demon. Handheld cameras and “Blair Witch”-esque night vision graphics will give the series a familiar feel while being set in the ultra-contemporary world of homemade digital content creation.
Argentina’s “Dead Line” is another YouTuber-themed horror-comedy, this time from screenwriter Sofía Szelske. The series has the look and feel of a popular YouTube channel, only with a bit higher production value. It features Julian, a wannabe influencer whose lucky to get a handful of likes and one sarcastic comment on his YouTube videos.
The content creator finally catches a break when he finds a mobile phone while passing by a cemetery. This phone is special however, and allows Julien to video-record the dead. Now able to invite famous guests from afterlife to feature on his channel, “Dead Line” becomes an smash hit.
The third dead-themed series pitched was Alessandro Albanese, Carlo Loforti and Sergio Misuraca’s “The Director of Funerals.” Set in Sicily, Franco, a former TV director currently out of work, is pitched a grim new business venture, video-journaling funerals for grieving families.
The work gets real when during a rehearsal shoot one of their actors dies, giving the video an authenticity the crew hadn’t expected. Dark humor will run throughout the series’ episodes which are proposed to take place among several unique and often-crazy funerals.
“The P.A.” comes from Spain’s David R.L. and Rubén Ávila and is produced by Pecado Films, responsible for feature standouts “Journey to a Mother’s Room” and “Gernika.” Turning on Marta, a forward-thinking, often vulgar and once-caught hacker who is forced to take a corporate job, the series is an office comedy for the modern world.
Originally repulsed by the job and people who work with her, over time Marta begins to morph from a sexually liberated bohemian to a conservative, hetero-normative drone, a change not at all appreciated by her girlfriend Leire.
Most people remember from their childhood an authority figure telling them that if they keep making faces “It’s gonna stay that way.” “Syndrome” proposes a world in which a selfie-addicted but otherwise normal guy is affected by a new disease which applies a Snapchat filter to his real life face.
In the series, written by Peru’s Sofía Szelske who shared a trailer which had the pitching audience cracking up, Nicolás must learn to cope with his unenviable situation in the workplace, his relationship and with his friends.
The series all played well with the audience; a group of professionals thirsty for ways to connect with younger audiences. The jury is still out on standalone short-form platforms, but the success of similar series on existing services, namely YouTube, paired with the statistic from a Kantor Media study in the U.K. that only 3 of the average 54 minutes a day young people spend watching content on their tablets and smart-phones is from traditional broadcast TV, should be eye-catching to producers and broadcasters alike.