L-R: Shay Spencer, Carly Heaton, Darcy Prendergast, Seamus Spilsbury, Lee Naimo, Mike Cowap.

Darcy Prendergast and Seamus Spilsbury won the inaugural Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Pitch competition for scripted series intended for television or the web.

Their concept Monster’s Playground follows fun-loving siblings Bro-Bro and Siswa and their magical pal who can conjure up a bathtub rocket ship, attract a flock of winged hedgehogs and land the siblings in sticky situations.

The pair’s pilot for a Claymation series of the same title has been nominated for the best short animation prize at the 8th AACTA Awards.

They win $5,000 cash, post-production support from Spectrum Films of the same value, ongoing guidance and mentoring and tickets to the awards.

The judging panel comprising Mike Cowap, Carly Heaton, Lee Naimo and Shay Spencer gave special mentions to Kaleb McKenna, Kristian Barron and Joshua Gilbert’s Virgin in a Sex Store, Sean O’Keeffe, Ben Matei and Jennie Tkaz’ Emerald Way and Ben Shackleford, Stephanie Bendixsen and Gus Ronald’s Pixel Raiders.

The eight finalists made their pitches during the AACTA Shorts Fest on Wednesday at Event Cinemas Bondi Junction, hosted by writer/comedian Justin Hamilton.

Prendergast and Spilsbury, who created the Nickeloden animated miniseries Supa Phresh, said: “We’ve got a few opportunities at Amazon, Hulu, Apple and Netflix in LA so we’re going to leverage this win to strengthen our production bible, try to sell it over there and get a few production partners.

“The chance to create Monster’s Playground is quite exciting. There’s so much more that we want to do with the franchise. The whole idea is to just have fun with it, sitting in the writing room, coming up with crazy stuff.”

The AACTA Shorts Fest launched in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth with the 2018 Oscars® Short Film Program, screening 10 of the best short films made worldwide in the last year, with nominees from France, Germany, US, Kenya, UK and Australia.

On Thursday the eight AACTA-nominated short animation and short fiction films were screened in the same cities.

The awards will be presented at an industry lunch on December 3 and at the AACTA Awards on December 5, telecast on the Seven Network, with repeat screenings on Foxtel.

The Pitch finalists were:

MONSTER’S PLAYGROUND | Darcy Prendergast, Seamus Spilsbury

Claymation series MONSTER’S PLAYGROUND follows the adventures of fun loving siblings Bro-Bro, Siswa and their pal MONSTER! With his rusty and unpredictable magic, a clap of Monster’s hands can conjure a bathtub rocketship, attract a flock of winged hedgehogs and more often than not, place Bro-Bro and Siswa in sticky situations.

BULLDOG’S ALLEY | Jessica Pearce, Sarah Hickey
The filmmakers behind multi-platform web-series DEE-BRIEF hold a mirror up to Australian culture with BULLDOG’S ALLEY. When a small town heist goes all kinds of wrong and a local hero dies as a result, two women hold a bunch of socially and politically opposing characters hostage in the local bowling alley.

EMERALD WAY | Sean O’Keeffe, Ben Matei, Jennie Tkaz
Set in a nursing home, sex, drugs and euthanasia are the backdrop for this complex comedy series. The Perth-based filmmakers behind the series challenge and celebrate what we think and feel about old age, how we view life and when life truly begins and ends.

GOOD GRIEF | Amanda Reedy, Nicole Minchin, Amanda Jane, Natalie Harris, Jess Harris
From the minds behind AACTA-nominated series TWENTYSOMETHING and feature film THE WEDDING PARTY, GOOD GRIEF is based on comedian Natalie Harris’ sell-out stand-up show of the same name. The series follows Nat on her rollercoaster ride through the five stages of grief following the sudden death of her dad.

THE MIRAGE | Andrew Ryan, Rebecca Murphy
Two-time Sundance Sloan Fellowship finalist Andrew Ryan brings THE MIRAGE, a magical motel where guests can request anything they want, from the simple to the surreal. But with two hapless employees at the helm it’s no surprise that, as they make their visitors dreams come true, each shift is riled with chaos and a severe lack of clean towels.

PIXEL RAIDERS | Ben Shackleford, Stephanie Bendixsen, Gus Ronald
Based on the popular book series of the same name, PIXEL RAIDERS comes from the mind of Australian video game critic Stephanie Bendixsen (GOOD GAME). Trapped inside an un-tested video game, Riley and Mei-Lin must use their gamer knowledge to battle various foes and beat each unique game world within the digital realm or be stuck inside the game…forever.

TRADIES | Zack van Prooije, Matthew Davies, Johannes Beer, Rijen Laine
Having worked with Netflix, SBS, Foxtel and ABC, the Turnkey Productions team brings TRADIES, which follows the ups and downs of a small construction company on the brink of bankruptcy; lying, cheating and stealing their way out and back into debt while they struggle to stay afloat amidst sexual harassment cases, divorce and the dysfunctional tradies that drink and work there.

VIRGIN IN A SEX STORE | Kaleb McKenna, Kristian Barron, Joshua Gilbert
From the creators of web-series FOUR QUARTERS, VIRGIN IN A SEX STORE follows 19-year-old Hugh who, desperately saving for a European holiday that he’s convinced will change his life, takes a job at Paula’s Pleasure Palace – his mum’s business. There’s just one problem; he’s a virgin.

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