Josh and Laura Sambono.

Filmmaking teams entering AACTA Pitch: Mother should think about their idea in terms of audience and do what they can to learn from the process, according to last year’s winners.

Applications are now open for the horror and genre development initiative, which offers $10,000 in development funds and an Australian theatrical distribution agreement with Monster Pictures Distribution.

Writers, directors, and writer/director teams are encouraged to submit original feature film concepts that incorporate the theme of ‘mother’, with project ideas required to work effectively with minimal locations, small casts, and lower budgets.

This will be the third year of the AACTA: Pitch and Monster Pictures partnership, following AACTA Pitch: Bite in 2021 and AACTA Pitch: Isolation in 2020.

Josh and Laura Sambono were the recipients of last year’s prize for Drop Bears, a story about a bullied Indigenous teenager and an international marsupial expert who must protect a baby koala from a hoard of vicious drop bears.

They have since had the opportunity to work with Academy Award-winning special effects artist John Cox and author Maria Lewis on their concept, which is nearing the end of the treatment phase.

It was the second project the pair had developed in as many years, after making it to the finals of the inaugural initiative.

Josh told IF that filmmaking teams should think about the marketplace response to their idea while developing it.

“With Drop Bears, I was thinking about how we can really refine the audience, so we approached the idea from the audience perspective, rather than what I wanted to make,” he said.

“It’s not as if I was compromising on my story to sell to an audience but I was able to better shape it to be market ready.”

For Laura, it was important to keep in mind that any idea can become a winning idea but also that learning and shaping new skills was a valuable part of the journey.

“It’s okay if you don’t win because the process itself gives you the skills you’re going to need to get your films out there,” she said.

“You have to do your concept art, your pitch deck, and all the little bits and details that go with it, and it’s that part and those skills that are essential to becoming a better filmmaker.”

According to AACTA, the criteria for successful projects include having creative and unique ways to engage audiences; strong characters that resonate with audiences; concise subject matter demonstrating clear, dramatic tension; and ideas that bend genres and break new ground.

AACTA awards and industry development manager Ivan Vukusic said the organisation was always impressed by the “inventive interpretations of the brief”.

“If you’re an aspiring genre filmmaker, this is a great way to road test your horror chops, with a very real pathway toward production and distribution,” he said.

“Mum’s the word, so get cracking.”

Monster Pictures director Grant Hardie said he was excited to see filmmakers take the next step through the initiative.

“AACTA Pitch has become a vital part of Monster Pictures’ yearly activities as we continue to support independent Australian cinema, especially as the first two years have unearthed a fantastic crop of talent and projects,” he said.

AACTA encourages emerging or experienced content creators to enter, particularly those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

Round one entries close at 11:59pm AEST on Friday, September 23. Find out more information about how to enter here.

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