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OSU alum wins People’s Choice for film pitching

Neal Havener, a 1993 Ohio State graduate, learned Tuesday that he won the “Favorite Film Pitch” category for the People’s Choice Awards.

“I’m on cloud nine,” he told The Lantern on Wednesday. “If I was a bell, I’d be ringing.”

Havener was one of about 100 nominees who had two-and-a-half minutes to pitch a film at a November conference for the American Film Market, a sponsor for the competition. Havener’s pitch for “The Dragon Lore Trilogy” was one of five finalists. The public could vote for a favorite on the People’s Choice Awards website through Jan. 24. Havener said he took the lead on voting and held on.

“I had been behind about half the time,” he said. “Then I got the lead and pretty much stayed ahead.”

At the end of voting, Havener’s pitch had gathered 66 percent of the vote. Jonathan Wolf, the managing director of the AFM, e-mailed Havener on Tuesday to alert him that he had won.

Havener attributed many of his votes to his dedicated family members. He said there wasn’t a limit on voting and that his brother-in-law, John Dirina, voted more than 500 times.

“It might sound like cheating, but a big part of this contest is who has the most family members,” he said with a laugh.

Havener is in the process of writing “The Dragon Lore Trilogy,” and he described it as “The ‘Lord of the Rings’ meets ‘Galaxy Quest.'” Havener has also worked ias a producer and composer in cinema, and has worked on films including “Minus One” and “Mann in Hokk.”

Dirina also told Havener that last year’s winning pitch, “Father John” by David Minnihan, is currently in production. Havener said he wasn’t “counting the chickens” yet, but that part of his prize is that he gets to make a “wish list” of 12 studios to speak to at next year’s AFM conference. Havener said regardless of the film’s production future, he’s happy to have won.

“I got the opportunity, and I’m excited for that.”

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