Vice’s ongoing quest to be among the most dominant media empires of the 21st century has been going pretty well so far. They’ve cultivated an authoritative voice on topics from music and drugs, to far-flung civil wars and promising technological breakthroughs. After they announced the launch of their own TV network, Viceland, they followed it with an announcement that they’d presold advertising for the next three years.
One area that they haven’t ventured much, though, is an area that everybody from Amazon to HP has been investing big: scripted content.
That all changed this week, though, as Vice launched its partnership with French digital media studio Blackpills, and with it, four new short-form scripted series. Those series–Maniac, Skinford, All Wrong, and Playground–feature a variety of creators. Vine star Brittany Furlan cocreated All Wrong with actor Christopher Marquette, while Playground is the creation of the famously weird French blockbuster filmmaker Luc Besson. Further projects will include work from Zoe Cassavettes and James Franco. And Blackpills founder Patrick Holzman says that their ambition is what enables them to attract that kind of talent.
“We want to overhaul and radicalize the ways that series are consumed on mobile, which is something we’ve been doing by experimenting with new video formats and focusing on creating compelling content that can rival top-tier episodic and linear TV,” Holzman says. “Today, despite the rise of social media, young adults are having an increasingly hard time expressing themselves and rallying around their wants, needs, and fears–our goal is to tell their stories, and produce content that will speak to them and bring them together. This is why we’re able to attract talent like that.”
That ambition is also what got Vice’s attention. Vice’s media strategy is broad, and Blackpills fits into it nicely–as did production studio Pulse, which will create content for the channel further down the line (and whose CEO brokered the deal between Vice and Blackpills). “From the first time we saw the content from Blackpills, we knew that we wanted to give the Blackpills channel its home on Vice,” Hosi Simon, the brand’s global general manager, said in a statement. “The content, creators, and people at Blackpills and Pulse have an ambition and vision that we value at Vice, so we couldn’t be more excited to partner with them.”
There are already three additional series slated to launch on Blackpills’ Vice channel in the near future, with more to come. One of those in the “more to come” camp is an adaptation of Harmony Korine’s 2012 film Spring Breakers, which Blackpills partnered with film producer Chris Hanley to secure the digital rights to. But while much of the content is going to deal with stories involving young people, and creating scripted entertainment intended for mobile devices skews young, Holzman says this isn’t just about catering to millennials.
“Distributing content on Vice is more than just reaching a millennial demographic for Blackpills,” he says. “We’re more interested in telling the right kinds of stories, rather than trying to appeal to a certain generation. We’ve strived to curate a team of writers, actors, and directors at the vanguard of media to produce high-quality, radical, edgy, short-scripted series made specifically for mobile consumption.”