Hollywood eyes on winning filmmaker

A COLLEGE lecturer has been given a grant for £20,000 to make his own short film and show it to a Hollywood audience after winning a national competition judged by a celebrity panel of judges.

Rob McLellan, from Sheffield, won this year's The Pitch competition with his idea for a film called Jericho, based on a biblical prostitute.

The competition asked potential filmmakers to present a two minute-long pitch for a short film based on any verse, character or story taken from the Bible.

Mr McLellan, a video lecturer at the Norton campus of Sheffield College, came across the contest while browsing the internet and encouraged his students to enter.

The last thing he expected was to win the competition himself, with a pitch that cost just 80 to produce.

He said: "I am very excited and can't wait to get started on what will be a brilliant film.

"It is an amazing competition which offers and unprecedented opportunity for filmmakers to break into the industry. Play it right and it is a ticket in."

After submitting his pitch and making it through to the next round of the competition, Mr McLellan travelled to Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire last weekend with nine other finalists, where his original idea for the short film was discussed by a panel of judges.

He was selected as the overall winner after two days of deliberations and, after taking the judge's advice, Mr McLellan has now decided to focus the final film on the story of Rahab, a prostitute from the city of Jericho who saves the lives of two Jewish spies and is, in turn, saved by them.

Luke Walton, executive producer of The Pitch, said: "Rob showed a rare mix of creativity, storytelling and terrific skill with visual special effects.

"I am very excited about working with this talented young director and helping produce the film.

"It will, I believe, have a clarity and passion that short films require and tell the story of Jericho in an exciting new world."

The judging panel at Pinewood Studios included Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park and actor David Oyelowo, who flew in from Hollywood especially for the occasion.

Oyelowo, who has appeared in the television series Spooks and films including The Last King of Scotland, is about to start shooting the film Rise of the Apes, prequel to Planet of the Apes.

He said: 'I have been saying for ages that we should be doing something like this, but until now no one has managed to do this, and to this standard'.

Mr McLellan will now get to make his short film Jericho with 20,000 of production support and show it to industry professionals including Hollywood film producer Ralph Winter, who worked on films including X-Men and Fantastic Four.