This year’s film festival circuit introduced me to Stage 13, a new digital content service from Warner Brothers (there’s no stage 13 on the lot for superstitious reasons, hence this is their Stage 13). The horror series Snatchers was a hoot and I Love Bekka and Lucy played well as a feature at SXSW. So when Stage 13 presented a Television Critics Association panel, I already knew what they were.
SVP and GM Diana Mogollon and SVP at Warner Bros. Television/Head of Scripted Content for Stage 13 were in the center of the Stage 13 panel with talent on each side. Now that the film festival premieres have been successful, Stage 13 series will premiere in October on the Mobilefirst network, YouTube, Facebook and Stage13.com.
“On the scripted side, we decided to ask ourselves basically two questions,” Mack said. “If this was something that you would see on a regular network, that wasn’t for us. And if a television executive brought it to their boss and they got fired, that was definitely something we’d want to program.”
Verizon Go90 already premiered Snatchers and will host the Tribeca entry Two Sentence Horror Stories. Mack assured me that Snatchers would return with a second season reuniting Mary Nepi and Gabrielle Elyse as teenagers dealing with the alien pregnancy that resulted when Sara (Nepi) lost her virginity.
“Absolutely, the same cast, the same producers,” Mack said. “It will basically pick up where it left off and just explores the two essential characters’ relationship and to see if they can repair the damage that had been done previous to the show. Yeah, I’m pretty sure an executive would have gotten fired if you had brought that to NBC.”
Two Sentence Horror Stories showrunner/producer/writer Vera Miao joined the executives on the panel. Two Sentence is an anthology series of horror shorts. Though based on the Reddit format, the stories themselves are original and written by Miao.
“I love horror as a fan, but the kind of horror that I want to make is more cerebral and conceptual,” Miao said. “It’s actually not going to be a slasher and there’s not going to be blood and guts everywhere. I just kind of thought, okay, now the meeting is going to be over because that’s not necessarily always the driving inspiration behind the horror that sells. And, Stage 13 was, like, ‘That’s great. Let’s see it.’”
Cesar Mazariegos wrote and produced High and Mighty which won the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He worked in a mortuary before.
“When I went in to pitch it, I told them it was like Unbreakable meets Friday,” Mazariegos said. “It’s about Chelo Chavez, a young, loveable loser/lush who maybe thinks that he has these superpowers, but only when he’s drunk or high. The powers correlate to how he feels. So, when he’s drunk, he feels super strong and he’s impenetrable and he can break bricks. When he’s high, he floats. When he’s coked up you’ll have to watch and see what happens. Originally, it was a guy who is not that great a dude, and he didn’t have maybe the problems that he does [now]. There’s a point in life where someone goes from, like, ‘Do I like partying a lot, or am I maybe an addict?’ And this is kind of where we find this character. Before, it was just a guy who will get high and this and that, but Chris was like, ‘What if he’s an addict?’ There’s a ton of humor in there, reality and finding the humor in those real moments. Like, I have friends who are hilarious, but there are moments where we have real conversations about what’s going on.”
Stage 13 will have reality shows too, like Lipstick Empire featuring entrepreneurs Lora Arellano and Dana Bomar, who met working a Nordstrom counter and started their own makeup brand. The show will go behind the scenes and show Bomar and Arellano finding a chemist and testing the lipstick.
“They actually go behind the scenes, into the labs and watch us actually press shadows and make lipsticks ourselves,” Arellano said.
Stage 13 will remain free to the viewer, supported by advertising, sponsorship and licencing.
“Free to the people, power to the people,” Mogollon said. “The audience has the right to see all of our stuff.”
Look for more Stage 13 shows this October.