Debut feature wins Champs-Elysées Film Festival’s US in Progress initiative aimed at connecting US indie fare with European buyers.

Hannah Fidell’s A Teacher, about a Texas teacher who has an affair with a student, has won the top prize at the inaugural Champs-Elysées Film Festival’s US in Progress event.

Jocelyn Towne’s I Am I, about a woman who poses as her dead mother in a bid to connect with her long-lost, amnesiac father and own past, received a special mention.

The aim of the initiative, hosted by the fledgling Champs-Elysées Film Festival, is to connect independent US pictures in post-production with European buyers.

Four films were screened on Friday followed by meetings on Saturday.

“It’s too early to say whether any of the distributors present will make acquisitions on the back of the event,” said Champs-Elysées Film Festival founder and chief Sophie Dulac. “But for me it was already an achievement to get the directors and producers here with their films and to present them to a selection of distributors… it’s a start.”

In Progress is a joint venture with the American Festival in Wroclaw and the New York and Paris-based Black Rabbit Films,

Producer and distributor Dulac wants to position her US-focused, public-oriented Champs-Elysées Film Festival, which kicked off its inaugural edition on June 6 and runs until June 12, as a conduit for U.S. indie fare into Europe.

“Our aim is to forge stronger links between America’s independent scene and France and Europe and hopefully get more of their films onto the big screen here,” says Dulac. “This year is a first step in that direction.”

Alongside In Progress, other industry events have included a roundtable last week between the festival’s guest of honour Harvey Weinstein and a number of France’s top distributors and producers.

In total, 50 European buyers attended the In Progress screenings on Friday including representatives of France’s Le Pacte, Rezo Films, Wide Management and the Coproduction Office as well as the UK’s Bankside, Artificial Eye and The Works. Also in attendance were Spain’s A Contracorriente and Scandinavia’s Trust Nordisk.

The prize includes post-production services by Paris-based indie producer hub Commune Image and two of the companies based there, Fire Fly and Eaux Vives, an invitation to the 2013 edition of the Producers Network in Cannes and a pay-TV deal with Cine+.

The other titles screening included Michael Bartlett’s House of Last Things about a bunch of slackers who unwittingly take on a housesitting gig in a haunted house, described by one buyer as “a cross between Donnie Darko and Twin Peaks”, and Travis Gutierrez Senger’s Desert Cathedral about a suicidal real estate developer who retreats into the desert.

House of Last Things producer Rene Berndt commented after his meetings on Saturday, “In Progress gave us a terrific international boost in advance of our official world premiere and we leave Paris after very enthusiastic meetings with agents, distributors and producers.”

Winning picture A Teacher is Fidell’s feature-length debut  after two shorts including The Gathering Squall, an adaptation of a Joyce Carol Oates’ short story which premiered at SXSW in March.  

Producer Kim Sherman’s other recent credits include Amy Seimetz’s Sun Don’t Shine which is due to screen in the New Perspectives section of the Edinburgh Film Festival this month.

I am I producers Cora Olson and Jen Dublin of LA-based Present Pictures were also in Paris with Anne Renton’s The Perfect Family, which screened in the festival’s competition devoted to recent independent US features.

Other contenders in the section include Ira Sachs’ Keep The Lights On, Sheldon Candis’ Luv and Matthew Akers’ feature documentary Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present. All the directors flew into Paris for their screenings.

The winner of the public jury prize will be announced on Tuesday evening.