For many filmmakers, making a web series is a calling card for getting work in the industry. For others, the series is a “proof of concept” for a broadcast television series. And yet, other storytellers prefer the web series format, and the business of creation through distribution is their primary focus.
In Web Series, From Creation to Distribution, Martha Williams (Creator, Run for Your Life), leads a discussion that explores the evolving landscape of web series. Guest speakers Nick Borenstein (Filmmaker/Head of Scripted Content, Topic.com), Samantha Schlaifer (Director of Development, R29 Scripted Originals & Comedy) and Laura Turner Garrison (Executive Producer of Original Programming & Development, truTV) join Williams to explore strategies for creating a successful series, building a wide viewership, monetizing content, choosing the appropriate distribution channel, as well as the future of this form of storytelling.
Nick Borenstein is a filmmaker and Head of Scripted Content for Topic.com, the new entertainment & storytelling platform from First Look Media. Prior to this role, Borenstein served as the Director of Content & Programming for Topic Studios tasked with the creation, development and production of scripted television and digital content. Projects included the Webby Award-winning podcast Missing Richard Simmons, Emmy-nominated digital series AKA Wyatt Cenac with Wyatt Cenac (Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas) and series with Dan Powell (Inside Amy Schumer), Jim Cummings (Thunder Road), Cirocco Dunlap (Man Seeking Woman) and Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead). Prior to Topic, Borenstein was Vice President of Development for Hudsun Media where he developed, sold and produced numerous non-fiction and digital series for ABC, E!, Lifetime and Investigation Discovery. He also held roles at Pivot, Comedy Central, NBC, ABC and HBO. As a filmmaker, he wrote, directed, and starred in the comedic digital series Trip, a selection of IFP’s Screen Forward Lab, and The Buddy System, a short film that was developed into a digital series for Elite Daily. He will be releasing several short films in 2019. Two films, Sweater and 99, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Additionally, his most recent series was a finalist for Sundance Institute’s YouTube New Voices Lab. Borenstein also staged a live dance performance entitled 5INCO during his 2019 Artist Residency at Casa Lü in Mexico City.
Sam Schlaifer (Director of Development, R29 Scripted Originals & Comedy) joined Refinery29 five years ago. In her current role, she oversees Refinery29’s scripted and comedy slate. She manages a robust slate from development through ideation, scripting, packaging, pitch, production & distribution – across digital and television. Schlaifer is passionate about working with female creators and identifying new talent both in front of, and behind the camera. She was responsible for finding and shepherding R29’s scripted series Strangers, which premiered in Sundance 2017’s episodic program and is currently setup at Facebook Watch. Strangers was written, directed and created by Mia Lidofsky with a cast featuring Jemima Kirke, Zoe Chao, Meredith Hagner and Shiri Appleby. Nylon called Strangers “One of the most exciting premieres to hit Sundance.” Most recently, Schlaifer has worked on the anthology series Fabled, executive produced by Zosia Mamet and Evan Jonigkeit. Under R29’s comedy brand Riot, Schlaifer has worked on over 11 series and has played a key role in breaking new voices in comedy.
Laura Turner Garrison is a development executive and creative producer, currently working as Executive Producer of Original Programming & Development at truTV. She recently produced two short films for Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology series, The Godmother and Are You Still Singing, featured in the London Film Festival and the Palm Springs Shorts Festival. Prior to this, she worked in production and development at Vimeo, where she oversaw the development of original content for the Vimeo on Demand platform, including the limited series 555 from John Early and Kate Berlant, critically-acclaimed dramedy series The Outs, Darby Forever with Aidy Bryant, and a couple stand-up specials among many other projects. She was also a key stakeholder in the inception of Vimeo’s Share the Screen initiative in 2016, which sought to empower and amplify female filmmakers in the community. She has predominantly worked in the digital space, from creating content for platforms to producing interactive books for tablets to digital-specific branded content. She’s worked with such brands as Nikon, Huffington Post, Meredith Corporation, YouTube, Nickelodeon, and Above Average. She has previously served as a mentor for the Sundance Creative Producing Summit and is a co-founder of the collective The Belly, which supports female-identifying independent creators.
Martha Williams (pictured at top right) has roots in anthropology, sustainability activism, personal development, multimedia and site-specific choreography (The Flea, The Joyce Soho, Chelsea Art Museum, to name a few). Regardless of the medium, Williams is most interested in creating positive culture change. She made the official switch to film in 2009, attending CalArts for a masters degree in Film Directing. Since returning to New York in 2013, Williams has worked as a Creative Director at the NeuroLeadership Institute and was the founder of the storytelling show The BugHouse SPIN, which was the precursor to BugHouse Media. Williams is an award-winning writer, director, and works as a brand and strategy consultant for visionaries and artists. She is an idea shepherd for culture shifting media projects and movements. Williams is currently involved in co-developing a budding social enterprise helping to raise Eleanor Roosevelt’s profound contributions as a female leader. She is also working with a well-known artist on an animated short-form show about modern love. Her comedy web series Run for Your Life about internet dating recently hit 6 million views on YouTube and she is actively looking for partnership on the series.
Produced by Martha Williams
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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.