21-year-old receives $5 million to direct feature

Nuru Rimington-Mkali is ready for his closeup. The 21-year-old Londoner has been crowned the winner of the yearlong film contest sponsored by Web-based production shingle Filmaka.

As his prize, Rimington-Mkali will receive funding of about $5 million for a feature film he will direct. He’s prepping to pitch a handful of ideas to Filmaka partners Deepak Nayar, producer of such indie pics as “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Buena Vista Social Club,” and former Fox TV Entertainment Group chief Sandy Grushow.

Rimington-Mkali has signed with WMA for representation; the agency reps Filmaka in its various production ventures. Filmaka also has a management division that has tapped Rimington-Mkali as a client.

Filmaka contest challenged non-pros to take on a monthly series of assignments to produce short films based on a thumbnail idea posted on the website. Judges of the competish included actors and helmers Colin Firth, Werner Herzog, Neil LaBute, John Madden, Zak Penn, Paul Schrader, Bill Pullman and Wim Wenders.

LaBute called Rimington-Mkali’s final winning short, “And I Refuse to Forget,” a “wonderfully impressive paranoid thriller that was told with great economy and vivid imagery.” He also cited Rimington-Mkali’s innate skills on the technical aspects of directing.

Filmaka, which went wide earlier this month after more than a year in beta-test mode, hosts a range of contests for users that are designed to help it glean promising directing and writing talents from around the world.

Filmaka’s biz plan hinges in part on leveraging the value of the unusual creative community it is assembling, to marketers such as beer giant SAB Miller, which has challenged Filmaka users to pitch commercial ideas to the company, or entertainment concerns a la FX, which is running a contest on the site to develop a comedy project.

Company also is diving into production of ongoing Web serials and other content that in time will be shopped for traditional TV and film adaptations, Grushow said.

“We’re using the Web to build an online creative community composed of aspiring writers and directors from around the world who are capable of powering a new kind of studio — a studio that has virtually no overhead and is capable of generating a vast amount of high-quality, low-cost content,” Grushow said.

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