Big Break for Chicago Pilot as SeriesFest Selects INFERNO

Big Break for Chicago Pilot as SeriesFest Selects INFERNO

It's a huge win for a Chicago-made pilot as Wendy Roderweiss' drama INFERNO has cracked the highly competitive lineup for SeriesFest, one of the premier international showcases and marketplaces for episodic content. Roderweiss created the pilot with Michael O'Brien, then assembled a mix of seasoned actors like David Pasquesi (VEEP), Marika Engelhardt (KNIVES AND SKIN), Ronald Conner (CHICAGO PD) and Josh Bywater (WIDOWS), pairing them with a veteran production team, alongside a student squad from the DePaul Chicago film school. SCREEN chatted with Roderweiss about what lies ahead for this potential Chicago series...

INFERNO looks to separate itself from its SeriesFest competition with its scathing satire of the family-law system. "Apart from MARRIAGE STORY, we haven’t seen that done effectively," Roderweiss told SCREEN. "INFERNO’s attorneys aren’t high-powered, and the clients aren’t celebrities or the extremely rich. The show will have ordinary people going through the ugly divorces that viewers hopefully haven’t been through themselves, but have definitely observed around them." Enjoy your first look at INFERNO:

Meet Tommy Laudadio and His Daunting Dilemma

Roderweiss believes audiences will connect with the naïve everyman at the heart of the pilot, Peace-Corps-warrior-turned-reluctant-divorce-attorney Tommy Laudadio, played by Josh Bywater. “He’s a fundamentally good person faced with an impossible choice. He can’t possibly take this job and make himself complicit in what goes on at this place, but he can’t possibly not take it.”

In crafting the script, Roderweiss and O’Brien found themselves infatuated with the way tragedy, comedy, and absurdity intersect. “Especially in light of the world’s current predicament,” Wendy told SCREEN. “Faced with misery, people look for catharsis in laughter and art. With INFERNO, we hope to provide it.”

DePaul in the Bluelight

INFERNO also marks a successful partnership for the digital cinema program at DePaul University, where Roderweiss is a faculty member. "This project was funded through a faculty/student program called “Bluelight” at DePaul University," Wendy told SCREEN. "Faculty serve as directors, hiring pros to serve as department heads. Students interview for positions on the crew and take a class that provides experiential learning and real set experience. We had 10 pros and 20 students on this project and they just killed it! Every day on set was like camp. We cried when it was over. In a good way."

Looking Ahead to SeriesFest

Roderweiss and her team feel SeriesFest could present the needed push to vault this pilot ahead into production. "The fest is well-respected and TV execs know that it’s a place to look for new content," Wendy explained to SCREEN. "This pandemic sucks, for many reasons, but we are hoping it also means that a number of high-powered TV people are sitting on their couches and tuning into our pilot."

What's next for INFERNO after SeriesFest next month? "HBO Max? I mean, they need some new shows, right???," Roderweiss joked. "We just finished the pilot - like a week ago - so we aren’t sure yet. We have it out to several other festivals with episodic or pilot categories, so we will see where that goes. We are also going to be working with the TV connections we have to 'get in some rooms' in order to sell the show. Though it’s set in LA, our dream would be to get the funding to make the show right here in Chicago with the amazing talent that this city has to offer."

Roderweiss and O'Brien's crew includes Producers Kevin Endres and Brian Khan, Production Designer Kaitlin Creadon, Director of Photography John Klein, Gaffer Natasha Major, Nick Fanelli and Andy Bosnak on sound, and Ward Crockett in the editing chair.

From June 18-24, the acclaimed episodic showcase SeriesFest will go 100% virtual, as is the protocol under the current pandemic constraints. Click here to purchase your pass and support the INFERNO World Premiere in competition.