Deadline exclusively announced the competition in May as the world was on lockdown due to the pandemic. Jane the Virgin alum Baldoni took these circumstances and aligned them with his film socially distant teen drama Five Feet Apart to launch the experiment. The competition challenged storytellers to look past social isolation and use the current circumstances to fuel their creativity, keeping social impact the focal point for their submissions.
The five winning filmmakers will be paired with seasoned directors, producers and writers who will mentor them throughout the production process. Company 3 is official post-production partner handling editorial and finishing services, with its Founder and President, Stefan Sonnenfeld, (Star Wars: Episode IX, Wonder Woman, Bad Boys for Life, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) serving as an Executive Producer to all films.
Wayfarer will provide the selected filmmakers and storytellers with $50,000 in production financing and in-kind services including dedicated mentorship from established filmmakers, with a goal to complete the entire process before New Year’s Day.
“After our amazing team of readers and judges read through all of the submissions, we couldn’t be more thrilled to announce our five winners, all first-time feature filmmakers, four of which are women,” said Baldoni. “One of the most important aspects to this experiment was finding a way to empower artists with the resources to make their first film surrounded by a supportive and loving environment so their creativity can thrive. I can’t wait to work with each of them and see what they pull off!”
Over 350 submissions were evaluated and judged by story quality, originality, commercial viability, producibility, and potential social impact. Projects did not have to have a specific genre but must have captured the spirit of Wayfarer to create radically sincere content that celebrates and elevates the human spirit while also keeping COVID guidelines in mind. The selected films centered around social impact themes of mental illness, human connections, grief and COVID-19.
The full list of winners can be read below.
LOVE YOU ANYWAYS by ANNA MATZ
The evolving formats of home video chronicle the life of Mackenzie from birth to womanhood as she experiences the highs and lows of life alongside her childhood best friend, Lucas. As Mackenzie’s struggle with depression worsens over the years, she’s forced to find the will to fight alongside the people who love her most.
Anna will be mentored by ADIL & BILALL (Bad Boys 3 & Beverly Hills Cop 3, Directors)
SMILE OR HUG by CHELSEA JAVIER
After being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend during quarantine, 29-year-old art teacher Trish works to heal her heart with the help of some youngsters in her elementary zoom class. Smile or Hug is a film for our times; it’s relatable to anyone trying to make sense of their purpose amidst uncertainty and loneliness.
Chelsea will be mentored by JIM BYRKIT (Coherence, Writer/Director)
25 CENTS PER MINUTE by TYLER BURKE
An anthology where six unique characters experience triumph, defeat, love, and loss — all through interactions with just a payphone. It is a film about the connections we have with others, and there has never been a better time to make the world feel connected.
Tyler will be mentored by BRAD SILBERLING (Reveal Entertainment, Director/Writer/Producer)
THE MOON AND BACK by LEAH BLEICH
One year after her father’s death, high school senior Lydia Lee feels completely lost…until she discovers something unexpected: a space opera screenplay needing a blockbuster-sized budget — written by her dad. Equipped with just a VHS camera and pocket change, Lydia (with the help of her best friend) decides to honor her late father and make this script a reality.
Leah will be mentored by CATHY YAN (Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, Director)
DIE TRYING by JULIANNE FOX
A young woman with Cystic Fibrosis is caught in the repetition of quarantine. When her self-interested roommate returns and fails to practice safe social distancing, our immuno-compromised heroine finds that boredom may be the least of her worries.
Julianna will be mentored by NZINGHA STEWART (Tall Girl, With This Ring, & The 10th Date; Director)