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SERIESFEST 2018 - DENVER, CO. (6.22-25.2018)

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SeriesFest, the annual television festival that hosts premieres of powerful new series, came back to Denver for Season Four in June this year. The five day festival showcased the creativity and hard work of hundreds of actors, writers, producers, directors, photographers, musicians, stage craftsmen and support staff at five different venues across the city. Each night featured the premiere of a new television series, with a red carpet entrance and a discussion panel with the creatives of each show following the viewings. Each event went off seamlessly and elegantly displayed the talents and products of numerous episodic stories on a variety of different viewing platforms. SeriesFest also premiered new show pilots and digital shorts, as well as hosted workshops and panel discussions during the day that drew industry professionals, film students and fans from around the country. As if this was not action-packed enough, SeriesFest punctuated the entire affair with the premiere of Paramount Network’s, Yellowstone, and a once in a lifetime performance by award winning recording artist Lady Antebellum. Here are the highlights from SeriesFest 2018.

Starting off the annual television festival on June 22nd was a rollicking evening at the Denver Art Museum where the exciting new medical drama from NBC, New Amsterdam, was presented onscreen in front of an anxious and jovial audience. This was the first time that the actors had viewed their hard work on this new show in its entirety. In fact, Ryan Eggold, the star of New Amsterdam, was so overcome with emotion that he respectfully declined to watch the premiere with the rest of the cast, crew and audience. As a true artist, the work was too close to home, but he joined the panel after the viewing and gladly participated in the lively discussion that followed (moderated by Krista Smith (Executive West Coast Editor, Vanity Fair). It was a real pleasure to witness these artists expressing the nuance of their craft as it related to this particular project. Each discussion, lead by a moderator, made the entire experience feel personal. The story hits home like a good drama should. New Amsterdam is inspired by the oldest public hospital in the United States, Bellevue, where the new medical director, Dr. Max Goodwin (played by Ryan Eggold), begins a mission to tear apart the cold-hearted, capitalist, status quo practices of the institution with a message of “how can we help?”. New Amsterdam premieres in its entirety on NBC, September 25th of this year.

Night three was held at the Sie Film Center, Denver’s nexus in the film and television industry. Yellow brick walls and camera flashes engulfed the stars of the new series from Blumhouse and Facebook Watch, Sacred Lies, a retelling of a classic Grimm Brothers’ tale, A Handless Maiden, and Stephanie Oakes’ novel, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, with a unique twist. Suspense and intrigue from the first moment of this premiere captivated the audience and led to a lively panel discussion (led by Mina Lefevre, Head of Development at Facebook) following the viewing. The lead actor Elena Kampouris, who plays Minnow Bly, was electric and passionate. Although the story is rooted in fanciful storytelling, the accuracy and attention to detail in this series made the experience believable and relatable, thanks in particular to the vision of writers/directors Raelle Tucker and Scott Winant. The first episode introduced us to a young Willow Bly, complex and capable, shrouded in mystery as we find her in police custody, her severed hands in her jacket pockets. There was a fire in the National Forest that exposed a secretive cult, the murder of their leader and this cast of curious characters that reveal just how we arrived here. Sacred Lies is the first television series to premiere on Facebook Watch, a brand new video-on-demand service that is changing the way we experience television. The evening was monumental, and appropriately held in the city where cable television was born, heralding a changing future for the television industry.

The pinnacle of SeriesFest 2018 was held on June 25th at the most iconic performance venue in the United States, Red Rocks Amphitheater. The night began with a stream of stars walking the red carpet, including Wes Bentley and Gil Birmingham from Yellowstone, Paramount Network’s new drama. Also there were Charles Kelly, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott, members of Lady Antebellum, the chart-topping musical group from Nashville, Tennessee, here for their first performance of 2018. The night began, a hazy moonrise on the eastern horizon, with the world premiere of Yellowstone. A heart-wrenching tale of the Dutton family, owners of the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, Yellowstone follows their struggle to maintain their family values, their private property and their grace in the face of conflicts with land developers, Native American tribes and the U.S. Government’s effort to create the first National Park. Beautifully filmed and well-written, Yellowstone encapsulates the complexity of the American spirit. SeriesFest orchestrated a perfectly harmonious connection between this premiere and the first ever Lady Antebellum performance at Red Rocks. The band’s story is the American story and their debut here was powerful. It was Lady Antebellum’s first show of 2018, as their uncompromisingly talented lead singer, Hillary Scott, gave birth to twins earlier this year and was now back to work pursuing her craft. The band played fan favorites to a screaming crowd, but what really made their performance special was their obvious love and gratitude for this opportunity. That emotion poured out in Lady A’s covers of “Landslide” (by Fleetwood Mac) and “You’re Still The One” (Shania Twain) where their perfect harmonies reverberated between the red sandstone cliffs. Even deeper than that, they performed a family song never before played onstage, that sent the crowd and performers reeling.

SeriesFest put on a wonderful festival, executing every detail with precision and showcasing Colorado as an important partner in the television industry. Be sure to follow up on these series and follow Lady Antebellum as these creatives grow, change and influence the artistic community. Finally, mark your calendar for SeriesFest 2019. It is going to be a blast. 

Article by:  Trevor Toms  Photos by:  Susie Wolcott

Susan Wolcott

Assistant Editor - Denver

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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