Queer Screen Pitch Off winner & finalists for 2023

Four people against a pink wall with a giant cheque

Queer Screen Pitch Off winner & finalists for 2023

The 2023 Pitch Off Winner is…

Congratulations to all the filmmakers who entered this year’s Pitch Off! All the photos are available here.

Our winner for 2023 was Lizzie Cater, for her proposed work, SARA. Read about her work and an interview with Lizzie below.

Short Fiction
Leo, a week away from a shotgun wedding to the father of her unborn child, has stolen two days to find a wedding dress with her best friend Amy at her side. From a distance their relationship might look platonic – up close, electricity flutters between them, their connection irrepressible. But the spectre of a husband-to-be haunts their getaway and when they return home, they’ll be forced to return to the closet.

Lizzie Cater – Writer/Director
Alex Cook – Producer

The winner of Pitch Off 2023 Lizzie Cater with three people

Interview with Pitch Off 2023 winner, Lizzie Cater

Congratulations on your win for Pitch Off 2023! For those who missed out on the event, could you give us the elevator pitch for your film?
Thank you! SARA is set against the backdrop of summer in so-called Australia in the nineties, and it follows best friends Leo and Amy on an impromptu road trip. Leo has built a life conforming to societal expectations, she’s engaged to a man she doesn’t love and is pregnant with their child. Amy, secretly yearning to be chosen by Leo, believes all she deserves is friendship. On the drive home, the sexual tension between them is palpable — though each minute on the road brings them closer to home, and closer to the closet. As they stand at the crossroads, on the final night of freedom, Amy and Leo realise that their love can’t be denied any longer, and together they dare to challenge the lives laid before them.
What is the reason you wanted to make this story into a film? 
SARA has intense personal resonance for me, because it’s inspired by a true story about forbidden love between my mum and one of her best friends. My mum and her friend tried to make a relationship work but being Queer in the 90’s in a small town was illegal, invisible and unsafe. They tried for as long as they could but the pressure of keeping their love a secret broke them. I’m making this film to put them back together.
What does it mean for you to receive funding for your short film from Queer Screen?
Because I’ve built my career in producing, I’m not usually known as a writer and director, and so taking on this role is pretty scary. Having Queer Screen support the film financially, in press like this, and guarantee a premiere in Sydney as part of this incredible festival, means so much. There are very few opportunities to get funding for short films, let alone Queer ones, and so this means the world to me. I can’t thank the organisation enough!
As a filmmaker, what’s an LGBTIQ+ film you’ve seen lately that you absolutely loved and why?
There are almost too many to name. I loved BLUE JEAN which opened the Queer Screen festival this year, because it was so tender and subtle. OF AN AGE was just heartbreaking and so beautiful, and I am very excited to see BOTTOMS soon too. In terms of the classics, anything by Celine Sciamma, Desiree Akhavan and Miranda July.
When Sara is finished, what’s next for you?
Because there’s so much richness in my mum’s life as a closeted Queer woman in the 90’s, and so much that relates to my own Queerness, I’d love to look at making the short film into a feature that explores our experiences on two timelines (though that’s a way away!). In the meantime, I’m working on some really exciting projects as a producer — including the debut feature film of Jessica Barclay Lawton, and a TV series with my longtime collaborator Thomas Wilson-White.
How can we get in touch with you and see the progress on your film and career?
My insta handle is @lizziecater — though as my girlfriend will confirm, I am pretty terrible at posting on socials. I’m one half of production company Everyone We Know and our work is on our website.

2023 Pitch Off Finalists 

We’ve selected the finalists for Queer Screen’s Pitch Off 2023! This initiative is an opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers to win $10,000 in funding for a short film project! You can check out our previous finalists and winners here.

On Sunday 27 August, at 2pm, six finalists will participate in a live Pitch Off at Set Bar at Event Cinemas George St, Sydney. Each of them will present their film proposal to a live audience (yes, you can come along too to watch it all unfold) as well as a panel of experts from the film industry. Up for grabs is a chance to win $10,000 to produce their short film.

Short Fiction
Kev, a flamboyant queer android mentors a soon-to-be-expired service model android to find the meaning of self and connection through self-gratification.

Vee Shi – Producer/Writer/Director
Nicholson Ren – Producer

Short Fiction
Sixteen-year-olds Daisy and Lila’s friendship is put to the test when a night out at a suburban house party goes terribly wrong.

Domini Marshall – Writer/Director
Josie Baynes – Producer

Short Fiction
Leo, a week away from a shotgun wedding to the father of her unborn child, has stolen two days to find a wedding dress with her best friend Amy at her side. From a distance their relationship might look platonic – up close, electricity flutters between them, their connection irrepressible. But the spectre of a husband-to-be haunts their getaway and when they return home, they’ll be forced to return to the closet.

Lizzie Cater – Writer/Director
Alex Cook – Producer

Short Fiction
A gay serial killer identifies a potential victim on a hookup app, but unbeknownst to him the man he’s about to meet also has murder on his mind; will either survive the night?

Benjamin Brewer – Writer/Director

Short Fiction
When teenage siblings are left in charge of their family farm for a weekend, chaos ensues with the arrival of their sister’s forbidden boyfriend, leading to a gripping exploration of love, loyalty, and the consequences of desire.

Chelsea Ingram – Writer/Director
Sara Mather – Producer

Short Fiction
When a disabled teenager fears she will never find love, she enlists her friends to become her mentors in the unpredictable world of dating and discovers that love can come in unexpected ways and different forms.

Lily Drummond – Writer/Director/Producer
Jeremy Lowrence – Producer

2023 Pitch Off Jury 

These six finalists will pitch their projects to this panel of professional industry judges for the opportunity to win $10,000 in funding. 

Jeremy Fernandez

Jeremy Fernandez is a journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and is one of the network’s most experienced live news & events anchors.

He’s presented some of the network’s most complex broadcasts over two decades, including coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the 2022 Northern Rivers floods, the Black Summer bushfires, New Years Eve on Sydney Harbour, the Australian of the Year Awards, and Sydney World Pride.

Jeremy regularly appears on ABC television and streaming services including the News Channel and NSW 7PM News.

Bobby Romia is the Head of Development at Screen Australia. He is a former producer, writer and broadcaster with 15 years of industry experience. Prior to joining Screen Australia, Bobby was Acting Senior Investment Manager at Screen NSW where he managed projects including Bali 2002, Underbelly: Vanishing Act, After The Verdict, Bump, Upright, Here Out West, The Secret She Keeps, Frayed, June Again, The Drover’s Wife, True Colours and Hardball, and talent escalation initiatives such as Talent Camp NSW and the Emerging Writers’ Incubator. Bobby previously worked as a Commissioning Supervisor (Scripted Drama, Comedy & Entertainment) and Producer at SBS Australia and NITV. 

He has also worked with Screentime Australia, Hopscotch Films, eOne Entertainment, and Screentime New Zealand in Auckland. Bobby holds a Master of Arts in Screenwriting at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

MahVeen Shahraki

MahVeen Shahraki is an award-winning producer. Originally from Iran, MahVeen soon found her home within the Australian film industry with her strong eye for identifying compelling stories and marketplace, linking gifted individuals to launch original work.

MahVeen has produced and delivered outstanding national content with international impact including Ellie & Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt) which featured as a program highlight in Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) and the New Zealand International Film Festival. Ellie and Abbie is the first Australian film to open the 2020 Mardi Gras Film Festival in its 27-year history and went on to win the coveted Audience Award, as well as the 2021 AACTA Award for Best Indie Film.

As Executive Producer, MahVeen has delivered the international title The Translator a Georges Films production in France, The movie has been selected for TIFF industry selects, cementing its status as an international title of great merit. Being represented by Charades International sales The Translator premiered at Tallinn, and its exceptional reception resulted in numerous showings at various global film festivals.

MahVeen was selected as a 2020 ‘One To Watch’ Producer by Screen Producers Australia for her creative passion, commercial knowledge, and ability to deliver quality international products.

Her latest feature film “The Rooster” is starring Hugo Weaving and Phoenix Raei and had its world premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival 2023, “The Rooster” has just commenced its festival tour and is being selected in both Bright Horizon and CinefestOz Competition.