“Help,” a short by Val Lauren, has taken the top prize – which earns the director $50,000 in cash and $200,000 in financing. The film tells the story of a man on a desperate mission to save his dying mother’s life. (Watch it here.)
As the next round of the competition opens, some changes are being made, though. Instead of offering four quarterly prizes totally $1 million, Openfilm has decided to awards two annual prizes of $50,000 cash and $450,000 in financing.
“This newly extended time period … will allow more time for our community of filmmakers to submit,” said Dmitry Kozko, Openfilm’s CEO and co-founder. “It will also provide more time for the Openfilm community to screen the submissions as they are uploaded to the site. We feel this provides a more valuable platform for our community.”
Since its launch in April, Openfilm has seen its numbers grow substantially. Nearly 50,000 people have registered with the site and its film catalog now numbers roughly 6,000. The site, which already had a deal in place with Tivo (to syndicate three or four films per week), has also signed distribution agreements with Boxee, Verizon and Canada's Rogers Communications. And over 200 film festivals have signed on to use the company’s technology.
The site aims to be a community for independent filmmakers, letting them upload short works and get feedback from peers and pros. Auteurs can also sell downloadable versions of those works through the site, with Openfilm taking just $0.69 per sale, regardless of the film’s price.
Premium members of Openfilm also have access to an advisory board that includes actors James Caan, Robert Duvall and Scott Caan, along with director Mark Rydell.
“We have a genuine lust for what it is we’re attempting to do,” says Caan, who is also chairman of Openfilm. “The film business right now is not in great shape for the type of talent and the type of films we saw in the late 70s and early 80s – with good stories with good actors and directors. … Some of this dangling in front of the green screen stuff is fine, but there’s too much. I’m starting to realize we have to do something to ensure young people have the opportunities that I had.”