By Sam Wyatt
A question often raised by prospective and current students of Sydney Film School is “what do I do when I graduate?” The SFS Industry Alumni Board Pitch Competition was established in 2009 to encourage and assist alumni in taking the next step towards being a filmmaker. The Pitch Comp is designed not only to enable the winners to create a film that is a building block for their careers but also to give all entries valuable experience in developing a marketable concept and pitch.
This year the Pitch Competition was back for the 20th SFS Film Festival on July 15, bigger than ever. We were lucky to have not only the $5,000 main prize but supplementary prizes from Pozible, Panavision and an additional co-contribution to any crowd funding campaign from SFS. In the first round of judging we had a large number of entries, all of which were of a very high standard; the judges agreed that the level of preparation that went into this year’s pitches raised the bar and every single pitch was impressive.
Our biggest challenge was to choose three finalists from the field, and then to pick a winner. The three finalists, Paromita Dhar’s documentary “In Between”, Erin Latimer’s comedy “The Crush Space” and Julian Tynan’s comedy “Hustler” were all excellent pitches and concepts. They were so impressive that after the votes from Industry Patron Rich Welch (Antenna Documentary Festival), IAB Judge Sam Wyatt, and the audience, there was a tie!
For the first time in Pitch Competition history a tie-breaker was called for, resulting in the narrowest of victories for “In Between” a documentary focusing on Bangladeshi immigrants living in Madrid.
The victory of “In Between” breaks new ground for the Pitch Comp as both our first winning documentary and international winner. The IAB would also like to thank the crew of “In Between” for donating the $2,000 Panavision camera package to second placed “The Crush Space”.
We hope this result proves to current and future students just how much of a worldwide community the SFS alumni really are. We also hope that the two excellent international entries from this year will encourage more global SFS filmmakers, however far away they may be, to enter next year.
The judges have some feedback based on this year’s entries that they want to give to all prospective entrants of the Competition. Firstly, take time to refine your script (or documentary treatment) as much as possible; the fewer questions the judges have to ask on story the better. The most successful pitches were those that could clearly articulate their concept’s tone, style, audience, marketability and achievability. It is best to be as far along as you can be with all your pre-production process – transparent intentions, preparations and examples with elements like casting, design, locations, budgeting and scheduling are key contributing factors in a strong pitch.
Think along the lines that people who are potentially going to fund a film want to know that the vision is clear and marketable, that their money is safe and that the film is going to be completed by the required date. Be as professional as possible in everything that you do and in how you present because impressions of a crew’s attitude to a project can make a big difference. All three finalists this year had either started shooting or had most preparations for their shoots locked in for the imminent future.
It is not always necessary to have a trailer, however film is a visual medium so concrete examples and references for visual style and the tone of the film really help. The more out of the ordinary an idea is the more the judges need to see of how the finished film will look and feel to be convinced that it will work.
The IAB looks forward to seeing everyone at the premier of “In Between” at the 21st Sydney Film School Festival in December. We note that many of the other entries, including the other two finalists, are either currently in production or about to go into production. We look forward to seeing so many great films.
Sam Wyatt is a member of the SFS IAB and served as a member of the SFS IAB Pitch Competition judging panel.