Producer/director Bill Bennett is launching an innovative, global, online pitching competition designed to enable aspiring filmmakers to fund short films. Dubbed picSeeder, the inaugural edition will reward the winner with a cash prize of up to $50,000, funded from the $28 entry fee.
Contestants will be asked to submit a 1-minute video. Membership of the site (www.picseeder.com) is free and members will get to vote on their favourite pitch. Those who submit the 12 most popular pitches will then be asked to provide a 3-minute video.
From that shortlist the winner will be determined by an international jury comprising US sales agent Robbie Little, French financier/producer Jean-Charles Levy, Stephen Gates, New York-based head of the literary department at talent management company Evolution Entertainment, actress Michelle Ang and Indian producer Udayan Baijal, who was first assistant director on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and on the Indian shoots of Zero Dark Thirty, The Dark Knight Rises and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.
Bennett hopes the response will be sufficiently strong to warrant staging the event two or three times per year. The veteran filmmaker, whose credits include Backlash, Spider & Rose, Kiss or Kill and The Nugget, developed the concept with his wife, producer Jennifer Cluff.
The competition launches on February 4, entries can be submitted in March/April, closing May 4. The shortlist will be announced on May 18 and the winner declared on June 15.
“The idea came to me in a flash,” Bennett tells SBS Film, noting that he was motivated partly because Screen Australia exhausted its 2012-2013 drama investment budget in December. He sees picSeeder as a viable alternative to financing short films, particularly for young, inexperienced filmmakers.
The judging panel has impressive credentials in financing, production and sales. Levy's Forecast Pictures has produced movies such as The Tall Man, O Jerusalem, Walled In, Celle que j'aime, Lullaby for Pi and Faces in the Crowd.
Robbie Little established The Overseas Film Group in 1980, followed by First Look Media, and now runs his own worldwide sales shingle. He executive produced the Oscar -winning Tsotsi and was co-executive producer on The Last Station, The Prophecy and An American Haunting. Evolution Entertainment's offshoot Twisted Pictures produced the Saw franchise.
New Zealand-born Michelle Ang stars in Jane Campion's upcoming mini-series Top of the Lake. At the 2011 New Zealand Film and Television Awards she was named best feature actress for My Wedding and Other Secrets. She's since moved to New York and is a regular in the MTV scripted series Underemployed.
Bennett says the 1-minute pitch could be as simple as the aspiring filmmaker talking into his/her smartphone, webcam or laptop, or a trailer, sizzle reel or storyboards. The longer pitches would give the contestant the chance to expand on his or her vision for the film and how it would be executed.
The judges will select the winner and two runners-up, who will receive film gear and software. The prize money will depend on the number of entries and will be paid out of the proceeds, minus an administration fee.
The winning filmmaker will own the movie and have complete creative control. The film can be any length, any genre. The rules stipulate only that it's fiction, an original work and that it doesn't contain offensive content. Each contestant can submit as many pitches as he or she wishes, separate concepts or variations of one idea, and they can come from one individual or a group.
Recognising the global nature of the competition, videos can be in any language but those in foreign languages must carry English sub-titles. “It's all about the idea, and the passion of the filmmaker,” says Bennett.
PicSeeder will reserve the right to screen the winning film on its website and to have a credit on the film.