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Alum up for award for little known role of film pitcher

Courtesy of AFM

Contestants participating in the “Favorite Film Pitch” competition had only two-and-a-half minutes to showcase their idea for a film, and four men (one an Ohio State grad) with divergent pitches were chosen as finalists. Only one will take home a People’s Choice Award.


The “Favorite Film Pitch” contest, which is sponsored by the American Film Market and the People’s Choice Awards, showcases the art of film pitching. “Pitching” is explaining an idea for a movie to industry executives who might be interested in buying the story and making it into a film. The person proposing the idea is sometimes the writer of the script, and sometimes the producer.


This is the second annual “Favorite Film Pitch” contest. Last year, producer David Minnihan won the award for his pitch for “Father John.”


At the AFM conference in November, judges saw about 100 film pitches, but only four were chosen, said Jim Benson, a spokesman for both events. The finalists are Neal Havener, Michael Lipoma, John Marshall Jones and Mouncey Ferguson.


The first finalist, Havener, graduated from Ohio State in 1993, and was the arts editor for The Lantern while in college. He has been involved with several films, such as “Minus One” and “Mann in Hock,” and has acted in many cinematic positions, from composer to producer. Havener said his other works could be described as unconventional, but he said he needed to make this pitch “accessible” to as many people as possible.


The idea that he proposed for the contest, “The Dragon Lore Trilogy,” is a script he is in the process of writing. He described the piece as “The Lord of the Rings” meets “Galaxy Quest,” and said that “fantasy and reality end up intertwining” in the plot. Although this action-comedy film idea is more mainstream than most of Havener’s work, he said he doesn’t feel his family-friendly concept is selling out.


“It’s not like you can’t be commercial and intelligent at the same time, and obviously that’s my goal,” he said.


While the contest continues, Havener will be rushing to finish his script.


“My experience at OSU taught me how to ‘pull an all-nighter,’ and that’s what I’m going to need to finish this project,” he said.


The second finalist is Lipoma, who pitched a mafia comedy titled “The Lost Notebooks of Jimmy Ganootz: Culinary Secrets of a Wise Guy on the Run.” Lipoma acted out Ganootz’s character to propose his idea for the film.


He said he wanted to “present this screenplay to the judges or to people who’d be watching online in a way that would communicate the essence of the story.”


Finalist Jones gained some fame as Floyd on the television show “Smart Guy.” Jones, in contrast to Havener and Lipoma, is the producer for his film: “The Guest at Central Park West.” The script is about a pair of improbable friends who have a dark past together. The dramatic piece has already been performed and recorded as a stage play.


Jones said he still feels the project should be made into a film, which is why he chose this script for his pitch.


“Every place where we tell the story or show the piece, it has been an award-winner, and so we’re pretty certain that once people see this … they’re going to be really excited about the whole thing,” he said.


Jones said he feels pitching is about selling a story, and the main point is to “get the idea across in a way that the person listening can see how they can make money off of it.”


Ferguson, the last finalist, is only one of the writers for the film that he pitched, “Playdate.”


He described the idea as “a career-oriented dad and a stay-at-home dad share the craziest playdate in history when their wives go to Las Vegas for the weekend.”


Ferguson was also a finalist in this competition last year, and said he feels that “learning to pitch effectively and to represent your material well is an important skill.”


The pitches can be viewed and voted on through the People’s Choice Awards website, under the link for promotions. The voting will close on Jan. 24.

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