When 49-year-old Columbus, Ohio piano teacher Neal Havener (pictured) attended last fall’s American Film Market in Santa Monica, he had no plans to pitch The Dragonlore Trilogy, a 90% completed script he describes as “Galaxy Quest meets Lord of the Rings.” But after seeing a sign at the event for an AFM-Peoples Choice Awards “Favorite Film Pitch Contest,” he went ahead and did so, and earlier this week learned he is the fan-voted winner.
“It’s kind of funny, because I have been telling some of the kids I teach piano to about the contest and when they ask what I win, I have to basically tell them, ‘Well… I get to go out and pitch the project again,’” Havener explains with a laugh via telephone interview with FishbowlLA. Indeed, the prize package includes a hotel room for the next AFM in November and a promise by event organizers to arrange up to a dozen wish-list industry meetings.
Havener’s wife, Deb, is a two-time Nicholls Fellowship screenwriting competition semi-finalist. The pair have collaborated on several other scripts and market themselves under the name Pretty Egg. “I started peeking over her shoulder and offering advice like, ‘Aliens should land here, or more bikinis,” jokes Havener, who also plays in the indie rock band Go Robot Go.
Havener says he is still amazed at how much online vote support he received from his brother-in-law, the kids he teaches, their families and even, somehow, viral fans in Poland. He has become friends with several of the other competition finalists and says the group is planning to get together at this fall’s AFM.
[To watch Havener's clear, consise and highly energetic winning pitch, click here]