The 4th annual Pitch at Industry Days—a partnership between IFP Chicago and the Chicago International Film Festival—was won by writer/director C.J. Arellano and producer Becca Stahl. Their project, Case Unsolved, is a nostalgic genre mashup that follows a queer couple who inadvertently summon the ghost from a 1980s docu-series.

According to Arellano, "As a queer filmmaker of color and avid fan of horror, I’ve always dreamed of seeing more diverse representation in the genre. Winning this competition means we're one step closer to making Case Unsolved and to making my dream a reality."

With five projects pitched in front of a live audience and a panel of industry judges, The Pitch at Industry Days is designed to introduce and spotlight the best work coming out of the Chicago and Midwest region. The winner of the Pitch at Industry Days is awarded an in-kind production package of goods and services worth $20,000.

According to Jonah Zeiger, VP of IFP Chicago and Chair of Artist Development, “The Pitch at Industry Days has galvanized the vibrant independent film community in Chicago. This year was new high water mark in terms of creative vision, business savvy, and cultural relevancy. Our industry judges had a hard time selecting a winner because of the overall strength of the slate. Our pitch mentors included Chicago-based producers Nicole Bernardi-Reis and Ericka Fredrick who worked closely with the filmmakers to craft the most compelling pitch possible for each project. IFP Chicago is committed to elevating the boldest independent work from this community and showcasing it to industry decision-makers who see Chicago for what it really is: the leading creative incubator in the country for breakout talent.”

Case Unsolved prevailed in a highly competitive group of projects that ranged from innovative animation to a dark futuristic thriller and from a romantic comedy for the #MeToo-era to the character-driven crime drama, The Thieves and Their Friends, which garnered an Honorable Jury Mention.

See below for the full list of selected projects.

“We’re so proud of all the filmmakers whose strong pitches showed the vitality and professionalism of Midwest filmmakers,” said Anthony Kaufman, programmer for the Chicago International Film Festival’s Industry Days program. “And I look forward to seeing our support help lift Case Unsolved from a pitch to a full-fledged feature project.”

The jury for The Pitch at Industry Days included Joshua Foster of Cinetic Media, Molly O’Keefe, Senior Director, Artist Programs at the Tribeca Film Institute; and Paula Froehle, Co-founder & CEO of Chicago Media Project.

Past projects from The Pitch at Industry Days include the Chicago Film Project’s and Full Spectrum Features’ award-winning Signature Move directed by Jennifer Reeder. Signature Move premiered at SXSW, played scores of festivals worldwide and was picked up for distribution by Amazon’s Festival Stars program. Other alumni projects include Reeder’s upcoming Knives and Skin and Haroula Rose’s Once Upon a River, both expected for release in 2019.

The projects presented at the 2018 Pitch at Industry Days are:

Case Unsolved Loving husbands Riz and Owen enjoy some seemingly harmless nostalgia when they dial a hotline number they remember from a spooky 1980s docu-series called Case Unsolved, only to find that they’ve summoned a ghost from the old show and must now work together to stop her from killing people. Director: C.J. Arellano Producers: Becca Stahl, Taylor Witten, Mark Burns

Plain Jane When buttoned-up L.A. morning news anchor Jane Wilson lands the network job of her dreams, she must return to her Bible Belt hometown to make sure a salacious secret from her past doesn’t destroy her future. Director: Jacquelyn Jamjoom Producers: Jacquelyn Jamjoom, Keely Wise, Steven A. Jones, Screenplay: Keely Wise

The Limits of Vision The Limits of Vision is a "diary-of-a-mad-housewife" story featuring Marcia, a twenty-something South Londonite, whose fanciful notions about dust and dirt take a dark turn when she hosts coffee morning. This animated feature based on the novel by Robert Irwin tackles themes of art, metaphysics, obsessive compulsion, and second-wave feminism. Director: Laura Harrison Producer: Eugene Sun Park

The Men Who Angered God To avoid wrongful incarceration, an immigrant woman flees to a safe haven on the U.S./Canadian border. Her sanctuary becomes a living nightmare when she is subjected to a series of bizarre genetic tests by the fanatical religious cult that runs the facility. Director: Hamzah Jamjoom Producer: Patrick Wimp

The Thieves and Their Friends When a robbery is interrupted, two thieving brothers find themselves entangled in the lives of a struggling, thirty-something Los Angeles couple and a sudden tragedy changes them all. Director: Haroula Rose Producers: Grace Hahn, Shane Simmons Screenplay: Stephen Cone