New cross-platform drama and comedy indie, Donut Films, has been launched by scriptwriter and journalist Jane Marlow and producer, Virginia Orr.

The company’s first project, 8 x 30’ returnable drama They Them Us (pictured), has been picked up by Canadian LGBTQ+ television network and streaming service OUTtv. The show is billed as “an intense relationship drama set among a group of 20-something friends who are exploring their sexuality, identity and gender.” Set against the background of a women’s football team, series one follows Suze, a gay woman who is making the journey to a non-binary identity.

Marlow says: “They Them Us is a story that reflects how young adults in 2020 are exploring their sexuality and gender identity in more detail and more freely than previous generations. We wanted to make a show with high emotional stakes that is hooky and returnable and also authentic. While They Them Us speaks to a specific experience, its appeal lies in the universal theme of identity. Who am I? Where do I belong?”

Donut Films shot a test-of-concept pilot in November 2019 after working with gay, trans, non-binary and straight actors in the development process. Award-winning artist, filmmaker and campaigner Fox Fisher from My Genderation also came on board for the pilot as story consultant.

They Them Us has also been selected as one of 10 in-development projects to be screened at France’s Série Series festival this month. It will be showcased in the festival’s new strand, Spotlight on Trailers by Série Series, which aims to help European producers working on new projects to access partners and financing. Série Series’ sponsor, La Fabrique des Formats, will offer the two most promising trailers up to €75,000 in financial support, along with practical help and guidance.

Marlow’s career spans screenwriting, TV-industry journalism and content production. Her TV career started as a storyliner on Coronation Street and she went on to write for many of the UK’s most successful soaps, notably EastEnders, Hollyoaks, Doctors and Bad Girls.

Orr’s career began in luxury fashion retail project management, working with brands such as Ralph Lauren, Comme des Garçons, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein. Orr subsequently established herself as a luxury management consultant working for over 25 years with luxury brands focusing on operational, financial and creative sustainability.

Marlow and Orr have produced short films in a freelance capacity, including Dancing Alone, which won Best Actress and Best British Drama at the 2017 Discover Films Awards, and 2018’s Take Me Back, which won a London Independent Film Award.

Orr says: “Donut Films formalises the success that Jane and I achieved with our short film Take Me Back and which looks set to continue with They Them Us. Our creative and business skills dovetail well — Jane’s TV knowledge and scriptwriting experience complement my expertise in transforming creative businesses into sound business propositions. I think the deal with OUTtv and the backing of Série Series show that it’s a formula that works, both creatively and commercially.”

Jon Creamer