In June, New Form Digital — the online studio from Discovery Communications, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard — asked 14 YouTubers to produce short films based on the theme of curiosity, and the videos that premiere today showcase just how creators can turn the same resources into very different projects, which range from a sci-fi comedy about an intergalactic beauty pageant to a drama following a man running from a Mexican drug cartel.
“The range of styles and genres is really impressive to me,” says New Form chief creative officer Kathleen Grace. “They put a lot of creativity into bringing something new to their channel, bringing something that people haven’t seen from a Joey Graceffa or a Ryan Hunter before.”
The New Form Incubator, announced in July, represents the first set of production deals that the studio has announced since it was founded in April. Each film features a cameo from YouTube vlogger Mitchell Davis, which Grace says helps create continuity between the varying projects.
After debuting on each creator’s YouTube channel, the projects will act as back-door pilots of a sort to fully fledged digital series that could stream on a variety of online platforms, says Grace. “These are 14 distinct, interesting worlds to explore,” she adds. “While we’re focused on bringing audiences to these shorts, we’re also thinking about what’s next and how we continue to work with these filmmakers and turn these projects into series.”
One of those projects is Miss Earth, which was produced by Anna Akana, who also stars as beauty queen Victoria Young, who competes for the fate of earth in an intergalactic depopulation pageant. “I don’t think there’s enough science-fiction comedy out there,” says Akana, who has been mulling the idea for some time and took advantage of New Form’s resources to finally bring the project to life.
Grace says New Form’s goal was to work with budding filmmakers like Akana — who creates cinematic shorts in addition to vlog-style videos on her YouTube page — to help them stretch their skills. And Akana confirms that Miss Earth was the biggest production she’s led. She adds that after working on many of her YouTube videos on her own, having a collaborative experience with New Form was a welcome change. “They had some great notes about making the story feel more complete,” says Akana. “They haven’t tried to step on me creatively, and they’ve been really insightful. They offer really solid insight into making the project better.”
New Form also looked for filmmakers who were willing to develop ideas outside of more standard YouTube models. That’s what appealed to Ryan Hunter, a member of comedy group POYKPAC, which created Mr. Student Body President, a comedy inspired by House of Cards and West Wing that follows the trials of school president Tyler as he tries to maintain his power. “One of the first things that Kathleen said to me is that they weren’t interested in comedy because they felt that it was overserved online,” says Hunter. “I actually became very interested at that point because they’re trying to do something different, and I totally agreed with her.”
All 14 shorts debut Oct. 16 on the creator’s YouTube channels. Here is a full list of the shorts funded through the New Form Incubator:
The Front Page — Delve into the world of the bizarre and highly dedicated employees of The Weekly Gazette, a newspaper-turned-blog that specializes in stories of the paranormal, supernatural and just plain weird. The Front Page is a comedy short produced by 5 Second Films.
Miss Earth — Set 1,000 years in the future, Miss Earth, starring and produced by Akana, chronicles beauty queen Victoria Young as she competes for the fate of our planet in Galactic’s depopulation pageant.
Killed the Cat — A surreal, indie coming-of-age pic by filmmaker Bertie Gilbert about three escapee teenage mental patients on the loose, trying to cope with life outside the walls of the hospital.
The Rose Window — This film from the Brothers Riedell follows a young couple who decide to try out a controversial technology that allows them to see into their future — and what they see will change their relationship forever.
Fine Tuned — A coming-of-age comedy from filmmaker Craig Benzie, aka WheezyWaiter, follows Linus, a computer programmer, and Reid, the emo rocker next door, as they team up to create a hit love song and put technology and old-fashioned songwriting to the test while trying to win the love of the girl.
Instant Getaway — Filmmaker Joe Penna‘s story centers on a man running away from a Mexican cartel who uses a new teleportation device to get into the U.S., only to be accused of a murder he didn’t commit.
Ethereal — This sci-fi coming-of-age series, starring and executive produced by Graceffa, is set in a futuristic world where virtual reality immersion has been outlawed and banned — but best friends Zane and Asher find a way in.
The Grey Road — In a post-apocalyptic world, where zombies have ruled the night for well over a decade and where people’s souls are believed to have fallen into “the void,” best friends Chance and Dallas are on a journey to find a way into “the void” to save the lives of the ones they love. The project stars and was produced by Meghan Camarena.
Oscar’s Hotel — From the surreal and fantastical mind of filmmaker PJ Liguori, aka KickthePJ, the story centers on Oliver, who has been made the new proprietor of Oscar’s Hotel for mythical creatures and must ban together with the finest guests in the hotel to evict a troublesome beast.
Mr. Student Body President — When the new principal threatens to dissolve the student government, Tyler, the seemingly upstanding student-body president, begins to release his true colors and his willingness to stop at nothing to maintain power. The comedy was produced by POYKPAC.
Parallax — One morning, a meteor strikes the earth and leaves the world ablaze. Seventeen years later, Jonathan has devoted his life to predicting when the next wave of meteorites will hit the earth — except nobody believes him until it’s too late. It was produced by Sawyer Hartman.
Bad Burglars — From filmmaker Tim Hautekiat, this comedy follows a trio of loveable yet dysfunctional burglars that are ridiculed by the media and not taken seriously by their peers as they attempt to build a name for themselves through various failed robbery attempts.
The Fourth Door — From filmmaker Tony E. Valenzuela and BlackboxTV, the project is an interactive cinematic exploration of death and the events that haunt our lives.
I Ship it — This coming-of-age romantic comedy, produced by Yulin Kuang, revolves around Zoe and Charlie, wizard rock fans and musicians whose friendship turns into something much more when they are both dumped by their longtime partners.