PicSeeder rewards Filipino filmmaker

A young filmmaker living in the Philippines has won the inaugural picSeeder competition. Avid Liongoren's pitch, Saving Sally, was voted the winner by five of the six international judges.

The intention of the contest launched in February by filmmaker Bill Bennett and his wife, producer Jennifer Cluff, was to reward a short film by an aspiring filmmaker. Only after the judges had viewed the short-listed entries and chosen Saving Sally did they discover it’s a feature-length film, a highly original, three-way love story involving a boy, a girl, and a monster.

The prize: post production house Spectrum will fund the completion of the film, including the compositing and marketing materials. French-based international sales agent Wild Bunch aims to launch the title at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Bennett describes Saving Sally as a “gentle, witty and charming film,” which combines live action and animation. He showed a rough cut to Spectrum’s head Josh Pomeranz, who readily agreed to invest in the film. Bennett estimates Spectrum’s contribution is worth “several hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Avid, who is 29, makes his living directing commercials in Manila. He worked on the self-financed film for eight years.

Says Bennett: "I'm thrilled that Josh and Spectrum have seen the potential of Saving Sally and are taking a large financial risk to further the career of a very promising young filmmaker in Avid. “

PicSeeder invited filmmakers to submit a 1-minute pitch video. The winner was chosen 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.

Five of the six judges chose Saving Sally and the sixth ranked it as the second best of the 32 entries. At the outset the organisers said the cash prize, funded from the $28 entry fee, would be up to $50,000 and they were hoping for at least 1,000 entries and, more optimistically, 2,000-3,000.

Bennett was disappointed with the low level of entries but said, “PicSeeder has delivered on its promise to help aspiring filmmakers. The Spectrum deal would not have happened if Avid has not sent in his pitch which the judges responded to. We had no idea it was a feature until I rang him to tell him he had won.”

He will serve as an executive producer, acting as liaison between Avid, Spectrum and Wild Bunch, whose executives saw an earlier iteration of the film in Cannes a couple of years ago.

This development has encouraged Bennett and Cluff to mount a second edition of picSeeder, probably in March/April next year. This time, he says, they will offer a defined amount of prize money. He is hopeful of securing commercial sponsors and will approach government film agencies to seek their support.