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Live action short funded by Ontario sports anchor up for Oscar trophy

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The crew of the Oscar-nominated live short “The Voorman Problem” Emma Friend assistant camera, top left, Phil Wood Director of Photography, third from left top, Paul Warsaw, lighting assistant, fourth left top, actor Tom Hollander, bottom left and Paul Gordon assistant camera, bottom right, are shown in this undated handout photo.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

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The crew of the Oscar-nominated live short “The Voorman Problem” Emma Friend assistant camera, top left, Phil Wood Director of Photography, third from left top, Paul Warsaw, lighting assistant, fourth left top, actor Tom Hollander, bottom left and Paul Gordon assistant camera, bottom right, are shown in this undated handout photo.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

TORONTO - Alastair Connolly says he doesn't consider himself a filmmaker, dismissing his involvement in an Oscar-nominated live short as little more than a favour to friends.

Still, he revels in the glory now surrounding "The Voorman Problem" and says he'll be at the celeb-studded awards gala next month to cheer it on.

The British transplant — who works in Barrie, Ont., as a CTV sports anchor — says he really didn't contribute much beyond funding the dark comedy, which stars Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander. But he's proud of the results.

"I'll allow myself a slight self-pat on the back for having recognized that it was a film that needed to be made," Connolly says in a recent phone interview from Barrie.

"And thankfully lots of people are agreeing with that."

The 12-minute film follows a psychiatrist, played by Freeman, who is called in to examine an enigmatic prisoner, played by Hollander, who believes he is a god.

The story is based on an extract from David Mitchell's novel "Number9Dream," and Connolly says "a brilliant script" convinced him to invest. That, and the involvement of former ITV co-worker Baldwin Li, who serves as writer/producer with writer/director Mark Gill.

"I cannot claim any creative input into this whole process," admits the 33-year-old Connolly, who moved to Canada three years ago after meeting his wife at his best friend's wedding in the U.K.

"It was simply a case of (knowing) Baldwin, and he approached me and said: 'We're under a bit of time pressure here — we only have a small window of availability (to) Tom and Martin if they're going to be on board and we need the funding now. Can you help?'"

Connolly says he doesn't expect to make money from the venture, although the team is pursuing sales around the world.

"It wasn't 100 per cent selfless in that I felt that it was a good investment in the two of them as much as anything," he adds, declining to reveal the budget. "Everything that has happened since has only served to vindicate that belief."

In addition to collecting accolades on the festival circuit, "The Voorman Problem" was nominated for a BAFTA in 2013. Connolly recalls bumping into Samuel L. Jackson and Judi Dench at that awards bash, run by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Eager to support the film at Hollywood's Academy Awards, Connolly says he'll attend the ceremony as a guest of Gill and Li, who earned the official nomination.

The film is pitted against Esteban Crespo's "Aquel No Era Yo" (That Wasn't Me), Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras's "Avant Que De Tout Perdre" (Just Before Losing Everything), Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson's "Helium" and Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari's "Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?" (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?).

Connolly also helped fund a second short by Gill and Li, and has a small stake in their film company. But he admits he's not especially interested in a career change.

"I love movies and it's been a thrill to be involved in this but sports will always be my first love," he says.

"It's more (about) giving support to Mark and Baldwin at this stage and launching them on what I hope will be a long and successful career."

The Oscars will be handed out March 2.

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