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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

MarVista Entertainment

Programming Profile

New directions for MarVista’s film slate

26-07-2021

LA-based MarVista Entertainment is feeding the growing market for TV movies with a new slate that puts women centre-stage and has inclusivity at its core.

 

As more and more players enter the TV market and demand for content skyrockets, LA-based content studio MarVista Entertainment is finding its competitive edge in “topical, inclusive, high-quality and efficient” feature films, according to exec VP of creative affairs Hannah Pillemer.

 

“The market is in a period of major transformation, shifting and evolving even as we speak. Every day, you read the trades and there’s a new merger, new shift, new player moving in or moving out,” Pillemer says.

 

“With more players entering the streaming space and linear networks still very much in the game, what we’ve been seeing is that buyers are really competing to provide a deep library of content for their viewers without necessarily having to spend millions of dollars acquiring huge theatrical movies, big studio projects or expensive series. So that’s where we find at MarVista, we can really compete and lead,” she adds, noting that the company is “working with almost every new streamer in the space,” including Disney+, Tubi, Peacock, HBO Max and Discovery+ and continues to work with top existing players including Netflix.

 

Pillemer
Hannah Pillemer,
MarVista Entertainment

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, MarVista is experiencing demand for films across all genres that resonate with audiences hungry for lighthearted content, according to Pillemer, who stresses the need for more diversity in TV content.

 

“Stealing a phrase from Amy Winter at Lifetime, ‘Right now, people do not want to look in the mirror; they want to look through a window,’ and I think that’s really true this year, more than ever,” Pillemer says.

 

“We’ve just come through this really challenging time. The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to reveal itself and people want to see content that is escapist, that’s going to make them feel good, that’s going to be shocking, that’s going to be fantastical and larger than life. That’s really the trend across genres, whether it’s modern romantic comedies or true crime.

 

“Amazing kids doing amazing things is also a big area for us that we’re seeing a lot of demand for in the family and kids space. Date-night thrillers are also still relevant as, yes, people are starting to go out and things are reopening, but if you can create a really salacious, juicy, fun, sexy movie with a great cast, that’s still going to resonate on a Friday night. And, of course, holiday programming – we’re hearing now that a lot of our partners are pushing to have content out for as early as October this holiday season.

 

“More exciting still is the openness and call to action from our buyers to continue to push the envelope in terms of diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera.”

 

List of a Lifetime
List of a Lifetime

In keeping with the demand for diversity, most, if not all of the 12 of the films on MarVista’s Digital Screenings playlist centre on female protagonists from a mix of racial backgrounds, under the helm of women directors who are also of various ethnicities.

 

Two of the films, List of a Lifetime and All for Her, are female-centric dramas that are set to premiere on US cable net Lifetime. List of a Lifetime follows a woman with breast cancer as she seeks to reunite with the daughter she gave up for adoption years earlier. The movie is female-directed and has a diverse cast, with Kelly Hu and Sylvia Kwan, and also stars Shannen Doherty.

 

All For Her, meanwhile, is inspired by a true story about a woman who finally becomes pregnant after years of trying and many miscarriages, only to discover midway through pregnancy that she has a life-threatening blood disorder that could impact her and her unborn child. All For Her is also directed by a female with an inclusive cast.

 

All For Her
All For Her

Seven of the films on MarVista’s playlist fall into the thriller category, two of which are due to launch on Netflix. The first, Hostage House, follows an ambitious realtor determined to close the biggest sale of her career when she and her daughter are held hostage by two armed burglars during a viewing.

 

The second, Family Seductions, centres on a mother and daughter who are both, unknowingly, seduced by the same man. When the daughter discovers the man’s relationship with her mother, she must prove he is a fraud and stop him from ruining their lives.

 

Produced with Tubi is Twisted House Sitter, in which a struggling rideshare driver assumes the life of a successful entrepreneur who is away on a month-long retreat, by pretending to be her house sitter.

 

Family Seductions
Family Seductions

Also in the thriller category is Malicious Motives, which is about a social outcast high school student who, in a bid to climb the social ladder, desperately wants to be the liver donor for her popular classmate. Unable to get her legal guardian’s permission for the surgery, she takes matters into her own hands, leading to a series of deadly events that spiral out of control.

 

Daughter in Disguise, meanwhile, follows a couple whose daughter returns home after being kidnapped alongside five other girls six years earlier, only to discover she is not their real daughter but a different, previously unknown, captive.

 

The final two thrillers in MarVista’s playlist are Therapy Nightmares and A Criminal Affair. Therapy Nightmares follows a woman who becomes a renowned therapist after escaping an abusive relationship. However, following the release of her memoir about her experiences, she is attacked and begins to receive mysterious threats.

 

A Criminal Affair
A Criminal Affair

A Criminal Affair centres on two female criminology students who are researching a man who claims he is falsely imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Upon his release from prison, one of the girls becomes romantically involved with him before she goes missing and is presumed dead. It’s then up to her classmate to find out if the man is truly innocent or has been guilty all along.

 

MarVista also has two holiday movies on its playlist. The first, A Chance for Christmas, is a Tubi original about a social media influencer whose real life is far less perfect than the one she portrays online and she soon learns that family is far more important than views.

 

The second holiday movie, Sweet Navidad, plays into the LatinX space. It follows a Puerto Rican pastry chef who is given the chance to work at a hotel’s grand holiday gala, where she clashes with, and soon falls in love with, her colleague as they race against the clock to assemble their intricate menu. The movie marks Columbian-American actress Brittany Underwood’s directorial debut.

 

A Chance for Christmas
A Chance for Christmas

The final film in MarVista’s playlist falls into the young-adult genre and is titled The Miseducation of Bindu. Executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, the plot follows an Indian teenager who joins a high school in the US after being homeschooled. Constantly bullied, she enlists the help of a classmate to find the money to pay for an exam that will allow her to leave school early, against her parents’ wishes.

 

Over the next year, three of MarVista’s core focuses are expanding in the romantic comedy space, branching out further into female-driven thrillers and working on more kids and family content, according to Pillemer.

 

“We may have gotten used to a certain formula [in romcoms], so how do we turn that formula on its head? How do we make it feel funny and fresh and appealing to the modern woman today? We [women] are not the same as we were 20 or 30 years ago,” Pillemer says.

 

Sweet Navidad
Sweet Navidad

“Another puzzle we’ve been trying to put together is in the female-driven thriller space. How do we take that, elevate it, make it surprising, do something that’s going to be unexpected and continue to push the envelope with those stories? There’s a lot of content we’re looking at now – either IP we’re sourcing or interesting talent who have a point of view that maybe we haven’t seen before – that will help us to reinvent and refresh this genre.

 

“Thirdly, in kids and family, there are these big Disney projects that drop, but how do you continue to keep that pipeline fresh? And how do you find these stories that are going to appeal to parents and kids of today’s generation?

 

“Our main challenge right now is how to break through the noise with so much content exploding into the market. The key for us has been keeping that passion alive in the way we tell stories and really pushing to not fall back on old tried-and-tested formulas, but to push the envelope as much as we can creatively and continue to try to bring on new meaningful talent and IP.”

 

The Miseducation Of Bindu
The Miseducation Of Bindu

Throughout all of this, Pillemer adds that MarVista will continue to strive for diversity and inclusion in its content, while forging more partnerships with content creators.

 

“We’re going to continue to answer the call of our partners and go deeper, if we can, on our push for inclusivity and representation in our films, in front of and behind the camera, and not get complacent, so that we’re continuing to bring unique, fresh voices, points of views and stories to all of our genres,” she says.

 

“We’re focusing on expanding our partnerships with different content creators and will continue to do that, as well as strategically investing in IP, which we think is going to move the needle in a bigger way for our partners.



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