Richard Branson’s Virgin Produced has partnered with upstart media and technology company Eko to create original serialized interactive content with the help of three filmmakers, each of whom will receive a $20,000 production grant to produce a series that utilizes Eko’s interactive storytelling medium where viewers can help shape the story as it unfolds.
Selected for their creativity and exceptional interactive storytelling, the three grant winners are:
The Fam-Bam by Shea Mirzai and Evan Mirzai: A comedy series centered on a dysfunctional family who fall victim to a curse that leads to a musical-chairs style body swap where everyone becomes someone else and back again. The curse can only be broken once the family learns to put aside their differences and understand each other.
Side Piece by Michelle Markowitz: A mystery-comedy where a young woman tries to solve an abduction with an unorthodox twist, as the interrogation takes to Tinder.
A Week in the Life of Milly by David Marmor: Milly is fully aware that her humdrum life is playing out as an interactive web series, so she enlists our help to try to navigate her way out of the rut she’s in through a series of ironic and darkly comic encounters.
The idea is that these pilots will serve as proof of concept for film and television adaptations, and even as traditional pilots for fully-financed digital series.
Eko and Virgin Produced also acknowledged three runners up — Subjects by Christopher Alender; Funemployed by Greg Ash; and Forever Jerk by Alison Rich.
This year’s grant initiative received over 200 series submissions, each of which included a detailed outline for the overall idea, main characters, seasonal arc, and interactive structure. Submissions were open to fiction, unscripted, live-action or animated content. Each submission had to be “inherently interactive,” which is to say that the interactive concept had to drive the narrative of the series.
While there was only supposed to be one $60,000 winner, there were so many strong submissions that this year’s judges decided to select three winners.
“We received an overwhelming number of submissions from inventive creators looking to break the mold of traditional storytelling. It was impossible to pick just one winner, so Eko and Virgin Produced are providing grants for three submissions. The real magic is yet to come; when we help bring their stories to life,” said Jennifer Cron, a development executive at Virgin Produced who will oversee the initiative along with Tobin Armbrust.
“The quality of the submissions were exceptional and made our selection process incredibly difficult… and fun,” added Alex Vlack, Eko’s VP Creative. “At Eko, we are excited to recognize and celebrate creativity, innovation and those pushing the boundaries of this new form of storytelling.”
Eko will provide the winners with creative support and additional guidance regarding interactive storytelling techniques. Eko will also enable the creation of these interactive projects via Eko Studio, a proprietary software which allows for advanced coding that can enhance content and make for a more complex, game-like experience. Virgin Produced will provide production support on the actual series, which will initially be distributed and promoted on Eko and Virgin Produced’s platforms.
The Mirzai brothers run the production company Wonder Twins Entertainment and The Fam-Bam will serve as their directorial debut. The Mirzais’ work has been voted to the Black List four times, including the 2015 entry Our Week With Waller and Doppelgangers, a Logan Paul vehicle they’re also executive producing with Yeardley Smith and Ben Cornwell of PaperClip. Additionally, the siblings serve as executive producers on National Geographic’s event series Origins: The Journey of Mankind.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief