Persistence Pays for Texas Filmmaker at AFM

Writer-director Shalene Portman is one AFM attendee who is watching the hard corridor hours spent at the Santa Monica shindig pay off. Albeit, slowly.

Perseverance, a good pair of walking shoes and a willingness to talk about your project to anyone who will listen are three attributes American Film Market attendees with projects in search of finance need.

Writer-director Shalene Portman is one AFM attendee who is watching the hard corridor hours spent at the Santa Monica shindig pay off. Albeit, slowly.

Picture the scene: Three years ago the enthusiastic filmmaker from Texas arrives at the AFM to find a sales agent and some cash for her romantic comedy The Significant Other. Having produced, written and directed it for less than a million dollars with an ensemble cast including Brittany Joyner, Donny Boaz, Stephanie Young and Morgana Shaw, Portman has her shoe leather cut out to find friendly faces.

And in the wake of her debut trip to AFM, the writers' strike threatened to derail all her plans to up her fimmaking ambitions.

"All the meetings I had lined up on the back of Significant Other got cancelled when the strike hit," Portman said. "It was a difficult time."

Between then and now, her movie debuted in Cannes at the Marche du Film this year and unspooled for charity in Dallas, Texas to a packed theater audience who laughed "in all the right places."

Portman told THR she "cried with relief" when her film was first shown to a paying audience at the event.

The movie is scheduled for another "all proceeds go to charity" event in Dallas at the beginning of December this year.

Cut to three years on and deal memos are being drawn up by Imageworks here in multiple territories including Germany, the U.K. and Scandinavia for various rights such as DVD and television.

With her debut gradually finding an audience, Portman is now putting together plans for her sophomore script, Doctor Jack's House of Love. The comedy drama centers on female radio sex therapist who, unfortunately, has the voice of a squeaky little girl. On discovering the mixing desk at work, she transforms her voice, and character, into a Barry White sounding version of herself. Renamed Dr. Jack, the script details the juggling act between her alter egos.

Portman, who made Significant Other for less than a million bucks, expects the budget for Love to be slightly higher, rising to $5 million.

And the young filmmaker is still developing Here Kitty Kitty which she bills as Weekend at Bernie's with a cat.

"The plan would be to make that on an even bigger budget to do it justice. It would work with names in the cast because I'd like to tie in some deals to support pet charities via the film," Portman says, still as wide-eyed and enthusiastic three years on as she was back in 2007.

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