Dramas are notoriously rare online, but as production and post-production equipment and services get cheaper, more and more creators are producing interesting and daring thriller, epic and sci-fi/fantasy series. NYTVF had two drama blocks; I went to the second.
This block of series presented viewers with three dramas, all quite different but each targeted to niche audiences, groups typically seen as too specific for the dark, ambitious storytelling we see on cable these days. Nonetheless, each of these shows could very well be on television, and one — Al Thompson’s Odessa, which we’ve heard from before — won a development deal with SyFy Digital Studio. Thompson also won best actor for his role.
Odessa follows the story of a father and his daughter who escape from a nefarious institution whose experiments on the family gave them super powers. The eight-minute pilot screened at the festival teased audiences with snazzy special effects and the mystery of how and why its protagonists got their powers. The series had been picked up by BET.
Another series, David Nett‘s innovative Night of the Zombie King, is well-known to web series fans, having been released last year as an extension of his popular GOLD series. Gamer shows have been shunned by many TV networks, and the consensus is they are best released online – The Guild, as usual, being the classic example. But with the growth of gamer-focused scripted shows online, SyFy, Spike and G4 would do well to pick some up.
Coyotes, created by Katrina Mathewson, was the longest pilot in the screening, and, while not the most focused, definitely won me over. The series focuses on Carlos Castillo, a high school senior who gets good grades, starts on the basketball team, but is encumbered by the family business: running illegal immigrants across the US-Mexican border. The series sets up a number of great tensions: between Carlos and his family, Carlos and his classmates, the police and the family, and the immigrants and the family. With a little sharpening, Coyotes could easily become a Latino Sopranos (if The Sopranos starred Chris and not Tony) and would fit right in with Justified and Sons of Anarchy on FX.