The initiative was launched last Cannes, where newcomers with an idea and a dream were invited to compete for a small spot in the program, which is run by Imagine exec veep Tyler Mitchell. Those “creators” who got accepted worked with “shapers” or mentors who in the first iteration are the Oscar-winningMilk scribe Dustin Lance Black, sitcom vet andblack-ish exec producer Stacy Traub, Burn Notice exec producer Ben Watkins,The Last O.G. showrunner Saladin K. Patterson, Gaz Alazraki, whose Nosotros los Nobles was a monster hit in Mexico, and Kate Purdy, co-creator of the Amazon series Undone. They met with their charges twice per week to create a saleable script, teleplay or presentation.
The program got 4000 applications from around the world, and a selection process ended with the 22 who’ve honed their film, hour long or half hour pitch with their shapers that the industry will hear Tuesday. Also attending will be reps from the major agencies, who might well want to sign these newcomers, most of whom don’t have representation.
“We’ve come a really long way in realizing an idea that we believed in so much,” Mitchell told Deadline. “The application process was only 16 weeks ago and the App we launched allowed us to process the 4000 applicants and review the submissions to get down to 22. We watched these writers grow and evolve every week. The shapers were really surprised at the level of talent that was in the program. They felt they were almost peers. They didn’t have the experience, but the talent was undeniable.”
Imagine co-chairman Michael Rosenberg said that the parent company gets no inside track on the 22 projects to be pitched next week, though Imagine Impact takes a passive participation and can benefit on the back end in success. Imagine will have to bid like everyone else, against what is looking like all the usual suspects including production companies, streaming services, networks and film studios.
Here’s how it will work.
“We’ll really leverage the power of technology to development,” Mitchell said. “We’ve built a mobile App that has already been sent out to people who RSVP’d to the event. On there is the schedule for pitches, and names and backgrounds, loglines and who their shapers are. The day is structured in 90 minute blocks. There’s a TV hour long block of seven pitches, a TV half hour block of eight pitches, and a feature block of seven pitches.
“The initial pitch is meant to be an overview of their project, who they are in terms of writers and voices, after their shapers introduce them and say why they were attracted to their writing and their project and what the experience was like. If you’re hearing the pitch and are interested, you can hit a “Set Meeting” button. After each block of pitches there is a Q&A section. You can say, I like this pitch, I want to set a meeting you want to meet this writer or that writer. Directly after that pitch session, you go to the assigned conference room, meet with the writer and ask follow up questions, and if the writers are not represented, the agents can meet with them as well. There is also a “Submit Materials” button where you can say, I want to read that pilot or script. You hit a button, and it instantly sends you and your assistant watermarked copies of the material.”
Both Mitchell and Rosenberg believe there are reasons already to feel good about the potential of this program at a moment where the industry particularly values inclusion and the introduction of new voices – pitchers in this first go-around hail from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, India, Australia, China and from all over and across the United States – but a couple deals would sure help.
“Think about the traditional development system,” Rosenberg said. “How many of these 22 voice would have ever gotten through the front door of a building to pitch or discuss an idea they had? What this team has done has turned that system upside down and allowed for new voices to be heard. With a turnout of over 100 people, these talented creators might never have had the chance to expose their idea to the level of people who are coming on pitch day. The cream on the cake will be if, out of 22, three or four get bought which would be wonderful when you consider the number of things currently in development at any movie studio, and ratio of what is in development and what gets made. We’ve made movies for 30 years at Imagine and the average project probably is in the studio system before green light for four to seven years. Tyler has put together a program, over five months, for people to be heard whose voices are worthy of hearing.”
Said Mitchell: “For me there is success in seeing people who come and read the material that was written in eight weeks. Most contracts, writers have 16 weeks to hand in a first draft. In half that amount of time, if people read the material and respond, we’ll have proven that our system can work. I said to Ron and Brian, Tuesday we show our first line of automobiles. But if we prove we can manufacture these scripts in the time we said we would, that’s a real win. We’ll have proven this collaborative system, and the way we are discovering and democratizing globally the process. That will be the big win. If things get sold or one thing gets made from this, that will be a home run.”
Here are the 22 creators and what they’ll be pitching:
FAMILY LAW —TV Half Hour
The story of a desperate young attorney, Jennifer Lombardi, who through hustle, luck, and sheer tyranny of will, holds together the Family law firm of an legendary, undefeated LA defense attorney.
Chris Stevens & Hunter Daniels
MORE HUMAN —Feature Film
Set in a futuristic Bay Area – a decade after a civil war between San Francisco and Oakland that left the latter city in ruins – More Human follows SF Police Officer Cameron Mitchell as he infiltrates Oakland’s underground world of cybernetic body modifications in order to stop a series of heists that threatens to ignite another war. But as he comes to sympathize with the people he’s been sent to investigate, Cam finds his loyalties tested and begins to question who the criminals truly are.
SHYFT —Feature Film
In a world where time-travel is outlawed, an elite government agent is sent on a secret mission to the past where he inadvertently witnesses his former self killed and returns to the present timeline, where he hasn’t existed for 5 years. Now, on the run from the agency that trained him, he is forced to turn to the underground world of illegal time travel in order to get his life back, and discovers… that he may be the key to saving humanity from a corrupted timeline.
David C. White
THE ENDS OF THE EARTH —TV One Hour
A western set in a near-future, warmed Antarctica, following the residents of an Antarctic frontier mining town as they discover a revolutionary new energy source, sparking a global battle for control of this new and potentially fertile continent that quickly evolves into an unexpected, underdog fight for independence. It’sDeadwood meets Game Of Thrones… with penguins.
SINLESS —TV One Hour
A 19th-century television drama inspired by the true story of John Humphrey Noyes, a charismatic preacher who believes he is without sin. When he creates a controversial utopian society founded on “free love,” his Heaven on Earth is condemned by the outside world as a sinful Hell.
SILOED —TV Half Hour
A wayward millennial ends up in a luxury doomsday bunker after an apocalyptic event and has to create space for herself in the community while staying on the good side of its overbearing leader.
TUNGA —Feature Animation
A spirited young girl ventures to the mythical lost city of Dzimbahwe to learn how to control her strong-willed animal totem and prove that true communion with totems is still possible.
John Clark Arends
THE TRAITOR’s SON: THE BETRAYAL OF PAUL ROBESON —Feature Film
Set inside a London psychiatric hospital at the height of the Cold War, a young doctor struggles to piece together the shattered psyche and memories of a mysterious patient being treated by the CIA—only to uncover the astonishing life and treacherous “assassination” of Paul Robeson.
Kate Oliviero and Kristen Vadas
FLOCK —TV One Hour
A character-driven drama about an all-American poultry dynasty in crisis, and the diverse blue-collar work force that lives under its feudal rule. It’s about the price of family, and the cost of your chicken dinner.
Kuamel Winston Stewart
UPTOWN —TV One Hour
In the 1920s, a revolutionary writer, a gifted musician, and an innovative gangster each move to Harlem to capitalize on extraordinary opportunities provided by the Harlem Renaissance: an explosive period of African African achievement in the arts, entertainment, and organized crime. But what they don’t expect is the price they’ll each have to pay for their ambitions.
CANARY —TV One Hour
Grace Chen is serving 20 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit so her best friend Kyle Wang could live out the promise of an amazing future. Seven years in, she buys her freedom in exchange for spying for the FBI on prominent leaders of a Chinese human smuggling ring — who happen to be Kyle’s own family. As Grace grows into her new role as an undercover informant, she will be torn between embracing her new destiny in espionage and her unexpected freedom, or betraying the only person she’d ever trade it all away for. The Departed meets Revenge.
Lynda Heys and Steve Turnbull
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED —Feature Film
An inspiring adventure painted on an epic canvas of faraway lands with a 1969 VW Beetle and a honeymoon do-over that proves life doesn’t always come with a map.
Matthew J. O’Neill
THE TIMES —TV One Hour
The filthy rich Chandler family, founders of the L.A. Times, has their fake news empire rocked when Dorothy Buffum marries in and makes it her mission to bring progress to the family and raise her son, Otis, to legitimize their newspaper.
Matthew T. Price
EXCHANGE STUDENTS —TV Half Hour
Plans unexpectedly change for high schooler Jason Pierson on his semester abroad when, instead of France, he’s sent to Cartoonisia: a country populated by animated creatures. Back in America, his family is surprised the foreign exchange student they received is a cartoon character: Trixie.
JAMESTOWN —TV One Hour
On the night of his brother’s coming-of-age ceremony, a seven-year-old Powhatan boy is kidnapped by Spanish conspirators plotting to colonize his homeland. For ten years he is raised like a prince in the Spanish Empire before returning home and upending his captor’s plans with a plot of his own…
AMERICAN REFUGEE —TV One Hour
In a future beset by climate change, the American government faces an unprecedented refugee crisis and re-opens the evacuated state of Texas for settlement, triggering the first major land rush in almost 200 years. As homesteaders compete for land, each must reckon with their own vision of “home”—and how far they’re willing to go to defend it. GAME OF THRONES meets THE GRAPES OF WRATH in a grounded, science-fiction landscape.
WHATEVER IT TAKES —TV Half Hour
When her powerful Colombian family loses everything, Helena engineers a plan to fund her American Dream through an older man’s pockets. In other words, she finds herself a sugar daddy. Whatever It Takes is not the Gf Experience; it’s a LatinX Insecure.
POLE BOSS —Feature Film
A hedge fund analyst begrudgingly joins a bubbly heiress in a pole dance competition, in hope of winning her investment.
ROCKET —TV Half Hour
A visual memoir about an African-American girl who survives the journey to womanhood with magical realism and empathy.
Victor M. Dueñas
SLICE OF LIFE —TV Half Hour
Two gay divorced fathers – one Latino, the other white – decide to move their family from LA to the small town of Yucaipa after discovering the existence of a daughter the Latino husband didn’t know he had. There, they’ll struggle to uphold their urban gay identity as they co-parent alongside his conservative ex-wife, help run his overbearing mother’s popular pie shop, and coexist with the town’s quirky locals.
WEDLOCKED —TV Half Hour
To placate their marriage-obsessed parents, an Indian-American woman, Laxmi, marries her gay Indian-American friend. It’s the perfect plan — until Laxmi’s mother-in-law moves in with them and keeping up the charade of the fake marriage becomes much harder. Especially, when she discovers that she is pregnant with her very white ex-fiancé’s baby.