By Brittani Trujillo
SeriesFest, an international television and contest festival kicks-off season 3 Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at Red Rocks for a 90’s throwback celebration. Musical artists include Grammy Award Winner Lauryn Hill, Common, and En Vogue along with a special screening of “Isn’t it Ironic?” an episode from an upcoming CNN Original Series, The Nineties.
What has now become a six-day event began two years ago when co-founders and longtime friends who met at camp, Randi Kleiner (CEO) and Kaily Smith Westbrook (COO) decided to create the festival based on their passion for film and independent writing. Kleiner has a long history in event production, which includes events for the film Society of Lincoln Center and the New York Film Festival. Smith Westbrook, a Denver native, has worked in production, producing plays and episodic content, as well as acting professionally in hit shows such as NBC’s The Office, CW’s Gilmore Girls and Universal’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
SeriesFest launched in June 2015, with a tremendous amount of support from the Denver community, including Governor Hickenlooper. The list of sponsors has grown and is quite impressive for season 3, with sponsorship from Comcast (for all three seasons) as well as other partners. Obtaining initial sponsorship was difficult as not many people knew or understood what a television festival was. However, two years later Kleiner and Smith Westbrook have managed to partner with the French Embassy who is flying out French writers and producers and directors to participate in SeriesFest this year.
This year’s attendees can expect an even greater event from last year. In between Opening Night and Closing night, festival goers can expect to see an independent pilot competition, which is the core of the entire festival. This competition showcases independently financed and produced series looking for a home, showing 27 series, which include dramas, comedies, documentaries, and animated series. The Series also includes panel discussions with industry leaders and an expanded international spotlight section with seven series from around the world without current U.S. distribution. Closing Night promises to be just as big as the first four nights with NBC’s premiere of The Brave. Case members, including Anne Heche, Mike Vogel, Sofia Pernas, Tate Elligton, Natacha Karam, Demetrius Grosse, Noah Mills, and Hai Tabbal, will join the festivities for a moderated conversation following the screening.
Kleiner and Smith Westbrook employ approximately 18 people now, which has grown from a much smaller number two years ago. This time of year, it's “all hands on deck” to ensure the festival is a success. This includes a number of volunteers, many of whom are family and friends. Even with all the work involved, both Kleiner and Smith Westbrook relish in the fact that SeriesFest is about a community they are creating and everyone being brought together. There is a “buzz” about the festival and the ability for anyone to meet anyone at any moment. The festival is supportive and encouraging. Kleiner reminisced that during the first festival Smith Westbrook said to Kleiner, “Look at what we created.”
Tickets are still available and volunteers are still appreciated. For additional information on either or more details about the schedule, visit www.seriesfest.com. Kleiner and Smith Westbrook promise something for everyone, including an entire day on digital short series, late competition with adult swim. “Whether you’re 15 or 80 you’ll find something at our festival you’re going to love.”