Winners of The Pitch Film Fund announced
January 22, 2024
The Pitch Film Fund has announced its 2024 winners, following the January 21st finals held in Sheffield. Drama Our Child, from Anatole Sloan and Maddie Dai’s comedy, Jael Drives the Nail, are the winners of The Pitch Film Fund 2024 Awards. This year’s Lucy Scher Award goes to Olga Thompson for Stavros & Demetra.
Celebrating its fifteenth year, The Pitch Film Fund is one of the biggest short film funds in the UK, with its annual adaptation challenge to see re-envisioned stories from the Bible brought to the big screen. This year’s winners are recipients of £60,000 funding plus production support split between the two short films – one comedy, one drama. As well as training and development opportunities for everyone who applies, the Fund offers emerging filmmakers – of any background – the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of everyone from CS Lewis to the Wachowski’s, in making a film inspired by the Bible. Entries open for the 2025 Award in April and deadlines will be posted at www.enterthepitch.com.
Anatole Sloan, a Londoner of mixed British-Chinese descent, is the winner of the Drama Award with Our Child, a story set in Hong Kong about how a young surrogate mother – isolated and yearning to be seen – searches for recognition. It is inspired by the story of Abraham, Sarah and the child born to them through their servant girl, Hagar. In exploring this from Hagar’s perspective, the deeply unsettling but contemporary story gives a voice to issues of human trafficking and surrogacy. Commenting on his win, Anatole said: “It’s such a honour to be able to explore stories on social issues that I saw growing up in East Asia and being able to draw on the cinematic language of that region.”
Anatole’s film captivated judges, with Jassa Ahluwalia remarking that: “British East Asian voices are woefully underrepresented in the UK media, so it was deeply satisfying to be able to champion Anatole’s pitch – Our Child, promises to be a narrative debut of profound depth and cinematic vision.”
New Zealand Filmmaker Maddie Dai from London, won the Comedy Award with Jael Drives the Nail, a cinematic exploration of the gruesome death of General Sisera at the hands of a woman. This overlooked story of Jael is given a modern dark comedic twist with three girlfriends plotting a killing, with a How to Kill your Family/Desperate Housewives style script. The judges commended her fresh take on the subject. Commenting on her win, Maddie said: “It’s so rare and exciting to find funding bodies that take a chance on films that are off-kilter and a little unlikely, and do so with such enthusiasm and excitement. I feel so grateful that I stumbled across The Pitch at the moment I did, toying frivolously with the idea of being a non religious woman telling a story based on The Bible. This film means so much to me, and I’m thrilled that it has found collaborators willing to embrace the challenge.”
Judge Nour Wazzi, said: “Maddie blew the judges away with her clear vision delivered with a fresh, unique and bold perspective that we hadn’t anticipated for the project and really elevated the material. It’s a privilege to be able to support a fellow female diverse filmmaker at the cusp of her directing career.”
Luke Walton, Founder, The Pitch, added: “Our winning ideas are of course always timeless and current and this is particularly true of our winners this year. We were presented with cinematic, truly original adaptations of Bible stories that have remarkable resonance with our times.”
This year’s Lucy Scher Award, for the best female filmmaker, goes to Olga Thompson for Stavros & Demetra, a hilarious slapstick reimagining of Samson and Delilah told from the female perspective. Set in an 1980s hair salon, a Greek Cypriot, mono-browed, moustached bullied teenager seeks revenge on the school bully and heartthrob. Lucy was a friend of The Pitch and former judge, who died in 2018. Her passion for championing new screenwriters is being honoured with this special award. Olga from London, receives development mentoring with The Script Factory’s Justine Hart, a screenwriter and script developer.
Alice Johannessen, from Leamington Spa, was a recipient of the Outstanding Pitch Award for drama captivated judges with Running Water, a hard-hitting ecological drama which tells the story of a security guard at a water treatment plant whose everyday pattern of work is upended when two men trespass onto the site and ask for her help in exposing a corporate cover-up. The protagonist must decide whether to do her job, or risk exposing the truth to save her family from water pollution, but destroy the plant. It’s inspired by the story of Rahab the prostitute, who hides spies in Jericho who in return save her family.
And British Comedy Duo The RomCom Guys – David Ajayi (Croydon) and Phil Ossai (Gillingham, Kent), received the Outstanding Pitch Award for comedy with The Graveyard Shift, their humorous tale of a hapless barman who spots his University crush after seven years and persuades a colleague to introduce them. Comedy ensues as he’s introduced to a different woman. Based on the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel, this comedy questions whether love is worth waiting for.
Unlike in other film competitions, entrants to The Pitch are guided every step of the way, with the opportunity to take part in multiple masterclasses, coaching and a residential workshop weekend for the finalists. They receive detailed feedback so that they can fine-tune their pitches ready for the next level of the selection process. (See Editors’ notes.) The overall winners don’t just receive a pot of money, but work with The Pitch team to produce their shorts, with story consultants and Pitch production partners Reel Issues Films to develop the script. Pre-production of the winning shorts will begin next month, in February 2024, with principal photography starting in June 2024. Films are shot by the summer with the aim of having them finished in time to showcase at the 2025 Pitch finals, ahead of Global Festival submissions. All of the finalists receive a unique combination of support, advice, training, experience and feedback.
The ten 2024 finalists, whose original submissions (before the start of The Pitch mentoring process) are available to view on www.enterthepitch.com, have a broad range of backgrounds from documentary makers, to cartoonists, branded content creators to stand-up comics and actors, to directors.