SeriesFest, the non-profit organization dedicated to championing artists at the forefront of episodic storytelling, in partnership with Elysium Bandini Studios today announced the three finalists of this year’s Storytellers Initiative, a program created to discover original episodic writers. This season’s Storytellers Initiative is focused on the opportunity to explore short form series (running less than 15 minutes in length) with a strong point of view and bold characters.

Industry creatives including Liz Keyishian (Sesame Workshop and Apple Productions), Laura Brennan (Pitching Perfectly), Jon Vandergriff (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Home Improvement), Paige VanTassell (Storytellers Season 4 Winner), Anne Toole (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) and Ben York Jones (Everything Sucks), led the finalists in a two-day workshop last week in Los Angeles, which included pitch practice, a mock writers room, and one-on-one mentoring.

Writers of the winning project, which will be announced in late May 2019, will receive an exclusive first look development deal with Elysium Bandini Studios, a professionally produced pilot presentation valued at $60,000 and will be flown to Denver for Season 5 of SeriesFest (June 21-26) to participate in a Storytellers Initiative live read event. Season 4 winner, Paige VanTassel’s Volunteer, is currently in pre-production and will shoot in Los Angeles.

The finalists include:

Pilot: TALES FROM THE POD; Written by Niko Sotolongo and Megan Hawkins

One hundred and twenty four million people listen to at least one podcast every, single day. This built-in audience of avid content consumers is always primed for the next fun and engaging story. Enter Tales From The Pod.

Megan Hawkins is so excited to be working with her best friend and writing partner, Niko Sotolongo, on a project they are both so passionate about. Megan is originally from Spokane, WA. She moved to New York City to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy and is now living in Denver working, acting, and writing.

Níko Sotolongo is a writer and award-winning director who moved to Colorado with his wife and dog to go to film school. He writes scripts with his wildly-talented and best gay friend Megan Hawkins.

Pilot: CONTRACTED; Written by Kathryn Gould

A psychologist who works for a mob boss finds herself counseling contract killers whose marks are... each other.

Kathryn Gould is a writer, actor and filmmaker who has called Colorado home since 1999. She majored in English and Psychology at Stanford, then obtained her masters in Family and Child Studies at Northern Illinois University. After working as an actor on stage and in local indie films for some time, in 2005 she was inspired by her agent's Write to Act class to begin writing for both stage and screen, and soon found her second love: screenwriting. After studying with numerous writing coaches both online and in person, producing her own short films, and winning several awards for her work, in 2013 she joined the screenwriting cooperative “Rumblepack” and began to write low budget horror. With over a dozen screenplays, several options, and the theatrically-released feature film, “Apartment 212” under her belt, she is now represented by Heitmann Entertainment in LA and has a number of projects in development. Kathryn was also excited to serve as founding president of Women in Film and Media Colorado, where she is currently Vice President.

Pilot: FORGIVE US FATHER; Written by Amanda Dreschler & Michael Livingston

Father lives with his two daughters, Amity and Esther, in a small desert town where they worship a mysterious black hole in their backyard.

Amanda Dreschler received her BFA from Notre Dame de Namur University in San Francisco. While at school she was involved with the Acting Conservatory Theater and traveled around the bay with The Pocket Opera Company. After graduation, Amanda moved to Los Angeles where she studied acting at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting for three years. While continuing her studies she starred in numerous independent films and began writing/directing her own projects in 2013.

Michael A. Livingston studied film production and theory at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After graduating Michael moved to Los Angeles to pursue a professional career in film making. He has since written and directed numerous short films, web series, music videos and commercial content for multiple production companies.

Amanda and Michael began working together in 2013 and formed their company Quick Brown Fox shortly thereafter. Their most recent project together was a short film for National Geographic called, "Take Me Back," which they wrote, directed, produced and Amanda starred in. It has garnered over 1 million views on youtube and facebook.

SeriesFest: Season 5, in Denver, Colorado, includes six days of in-competition screenings, panels, workshops, as well as never-before-seen sneak peeks and television premieres. Programming details, including the screening at Red Rocks ahead of the musical performance, will be announced in the coming weeks.

SeriesFest Season 5 is presented with generous support from the following sponsors: Elysium Bandini Studios, Denver Film Society, Liberty Global, Xfinity, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Once Upon a Time Productions, Coca-Cola, and i-Heart Media.

SeriesFest ( is a non-profit organization dedicated to championing artists at the forefront of episodic storytelling. With year-round educational programs, initiatives supporting underserved voices, and professional development opportunities, SeriesFest inspires, educates, and connects a worldwide community of creators. Each June, SeriesFest culminates in a highly-curated and celebrated Denver-based festival and marketplace. Dedicated to showcasing innovative episodic content, the annual festival also includes a musical performance and network screening at the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in-competition independent pilot screenings, panels, workshops, live reads, parties and network television premieres.

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Elysium Bandini Studios (Elysium Bandini Studios) is a philanthropic studio and streaming platform that provides funding, distribution, and mentorships that combines emerging artists with all-star talent. Launched by the founder of The Art of Elysium, Jennifer Howell, EBStudios’ goal is to ensure the sustainability of our full circle approach, giving back to artists who share their gifts with those in need, showcasing emerging artists in fashion, film, fine art and music. EBStudios feeds back into the community, funding community arts programs as well as an endowment for volunteer artists.

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