Openfilm.com, a Website dedicated to offering independent
filmmakers a chance to get its foot in the door, has found its first winner.
Help  

“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.”

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