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Ford Pitch Fest and Producers Grant

SVFF and presenting sponsor Ford Motor Company are thrilled to announce a new grant to support the hardest working folks in the biz: producers. Three finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their film to a panel of award-winning producers, and one will walk away with a $25,000 Ford Producers Grant to take their project one big step closer to reality.

During a live event, the three finalists will pitch their films before the Producers Panel, and SVFF audience. Attendees will get the chance to participate in this typically behind-the-scenes process, including a Q&A with both producers and finalists. The winner will be announced live at the end of the event. 



Final Deadline March 6th


  • Pitch practice with a coach

  • The opportunity to pitch their project to award-winning producers

  • Roundtrip flight from Los Angeles

  • Two nights of lodging

  • Filmmaker pass for SVFF 2020

  • Invites to select insider events and networking opportunities during SVFF 2020



$25,000 cash grant towards project’s budget


Submission Rules


  • Projects submitting for the Ford Producers Grant must be submitted, represented, and pitched by a producer. Producers are allowed to submit as a team, but only one producer will be considered as a finalist.
  • Open to scripted and documentary feature-length projects. Short films and episodics are not eligible.
  • Project must have partial funding, or feasible line on funding.
  • Project must have a feasible projected start date before March 2021.
  • Project must be previously unproduced.

For complete rules, terms & conditions, please visit FilmFreeway submission site

2020 Producers Panel

Michael Burns

Michael Burns

Vice Chairman, Lionsgate

Since becoming Vice Chairman of Lionsgate in March 2000, Mr. Burns has played an integral role in building the Company into a multibillion dollar global content leader with a reputation for innovation. In December 2016, he helped spearhead Lionsgate’s $4.4 billion acquisition of Starz, reflecting the studio’s evolution into a diversified global contentplatform.

Lionsgate’s portfolio of businesses features a film slate that has grossed over $10 billion globally over the past six years, driven by the critically-acclaimed La La Land, Knives Out and the blockbuster Hunger Games, Twilight Saga andJohn Wick franchises. One of the largest independent television businesses in the world, Lionsgate has been responsible for such iconic hits as Mad Men, Weeds, Nurse Jackie and Orange is the New Black.

Mr. Burns has also played a key role in the acquisition, production, and distribution of some of Lionsgate’s most successful films, including the Academy Award®-winning Best Picture Crash, the Academy Award®-winning Monster’s Ball and the Oscar®-nominated Precious.

Mr. Burns served for nine years as managing director and head of Prudential Securities’ Los Angeles investment banking office and nine years at Shearson/American Express (now Morgan Stanley).  He has been featured in major media outlets from CNBC to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Burns graduated with a B.S. from Arizona State University and received his M.B.A. from the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA where he serves on the Board of Visitors.  He joined the Hasbro Board of Directors in December2014.

Heather Rae

Heather Rae produced Academy Award nominated Frozen River. She received the Piaget Producers Award and has been recognized as one of Variety’s Producer to Watch.  Rae also produced Netflix Originals Tallulah starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney and Dude from Blacklist script by Olivia Milch, Sundance highlights The Dry Land starring America Ferrera, feminist comedy Ass Backwards and festival darling I Believe in Unicorns from director Leah Meyerhoff.  Rae produced Un Certain Regard film Bull, written and directed by Annie Silverstein. As a director Rae made the acclaimed documentary Trudell, which tells the story of Native American movement leader and poet, John Trudell. Formerly Rae ran the Native Program at the Sundance Institute. And recently Rae began an overall producing deal with Amazon Studios.  As a speaker and social critic Rae is working from both her settler and indigenous heritage to deepen the dialogue of reconciliation and responsibility in the Americas.

Jim Burke

Born and raised in Edina, Minnesota, Jim Burke’s film career spans several genres and range from prestige pictures to wide release films. He is the Academy Award-winning producer of Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly and starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The film won 2 additional Academy Awards as well as the Golden Globe for Best Film (Comedy or Musical), the Producers’ Guild Award, the National Board of Review for Best Film and Best Actor, and numerous film festival audience awards across the nation, including the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award.


He operates under his Innisfree Pictures banner, which has a first look producing deal at Focus Features. Films in development include Patience, based off the Dan Clowes graphic novel, and Fruitland, to be written and directed be fellow Minnesota native Bill Pohlad.

Prior to Innisfree, he served as President of Production at Focus Features, where he oversaw the production and releases of numerous titles including Darkest Hour, Victoria and Abdul, The Beguiled, and The Book of Henry.

In 2004, Jim, along with Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, created the production company Ad Hominem. In 2011, he received his first Academy Award nomination for The Descendants. In addition to its 5 Academy Award nominations and win for Best Adapted Screenplay, the film won the Golden Globe for Best Film (Drama) and was named Best Film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Other notable films produced under Ad Hominem include Downsizing, the Academy Award-nominated film The Savages, and Cedar Rapids.

Prior to Ad Hominem, Burke spearheaded Rysher Entertainment’s foray into feature films and oversaw the development, production and release of the company’s motion pictures. Rysher’s diverse slate included the Sundance Audience Award winner Big Night as well as Primal Fear, Kiss the Girls, Private Parts, and The Saint. Burke also co-produced 2 Days in the Valley, Kingpin, and Election

Prior to this, Burke was Vice President of Warner Bros. Television Domestic Distribution.

Effie T. Brown


CEO, Gamechanger

Effie T. Brown is the CEO of Gamechanger, which launched in 2013 as the first film financing fund by and for women and now under Brown’s leadership includes projects by and about people of color, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities as well as its expansion into television and digital content. Brown is also an award-winning film, television, and digital producer known for her highly acclaimed, multi-platform repertoire as well as championing inclusion and diversity in Hollywood, both behind and in front of the camera. Brown has produced several critically acclaimed films and award-winning projects including Real Women Have Curves (directed by Patricia Cardosa) Dear White People​ (2015 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Screenplay), HBO’sProject Greenlight (Executive Produced by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck), among several others. Brown also served as an executive producer on Lee Daniels’ ​STAR ​on FOX and Disney Channel’s ​Zombies. Prior to Gamechanger, Brown founded Duly Noted Inc., a company dedicated to ground-breaking narratives that use genre to challenge and advance our culture in a disruptive way. Brown’s dream is to change the world through film and TV – celebrating our differences while bringing us all closer together.

2020 Pitch Fest Host

Will McCormack

Will McCormack is a writer, producer director and actor. As a writer, Will was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER co written with Rashida Jones. Other writing credits include Toy Story 4 and A to Z on NBC. He’s currently adapting Neal Shusterman’s novel CHALLENGER DEEP for Disney Plus and co-writing the script THE WAR AND TREATY with academy award nominee Craig Borten. Will and his producing partner Rashida Jones produce the hit show CLAWS on TNT, now going into its fourth season. They also produce KEVIN CAN FUCK HIMSELF, a new series coming to AMC in 2020. As an actor Will won a Lucille Lortel award for his performance in Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel’s play  “A LONG CHRISTMAS RIDE HOME”. He’s appeared in dozens of films and TV shows including THE SOPRANOS and BROTHERS AND SISTERS. He recently completed the animated short film IF ANYTHING HAPPENS I LOVE YOU which he co wrote and co directed with Michael Govier – a film about parents grieving the death of a child killed in a school shooting. The film will be coming to festivals in 2020 and is produced by LalaLand producer Gary Gilbert.