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Films for mobile gaining prominence

ORLANDO, Fla.-Six short films were screened here at CTIA Wireless 2007 for the debut of the Mobile Movie Fest. Each of the films ranged in length, graphic appeal and storyline.
Three films in a live action category, two in animation and one “green” film were shown before dozens of onlookers at the Mobile Entertainment Expo, launching a two-day period of text voting for the live action and animation awards. However, hundreds of films were submitted for the festival and were available for viewing at the Mobile Movie Fest booth and on Nano Network Inc., which touts itself as America’s first wireless short film channel.
“Short form is going to be successful on mobile,” said Jon Katzman, one of the founders of the festival. “We’re trying to figure out what will be the killer content, but we don’t know,” he said, adding that’s one of the biggest goals of the project.
In the live action category ‘Promises” by Dino Gallina was leading votes at the conclusion of the screening. ‘Pumpkin” by Matthew Daniel Page and “Laud Weiner,” directed by Philip Euling and featuring David Hyde Pierce, were also shown on the big screen.
In the animation category “Finister and Gil are Flakes” by Jason Baskin and Dan Fredman were leading initial text-voting results while “Stonecutter” by Michael Kwant rounded out the pair of films shown at the event.
“We want to teach the filmmaking community how to do things right,” said Nano CEO Jonathan Nash, who partnered with Katzman for the project. The channel has a diverse roster of established stars ranging from Jim Belushi to Felicity Huffman.
“One common thread with any film that launches is if it’s a great story people will find it,” said Eric John, a marketing executive at Yahoo Inc., who sat in on the panel.
“You start with a great project-it will carry,” he said. “Films are going to find audiences; audiences are going to find films.”
John said the biggest opportunities going forward lie in increased distribution for these creative endeavors.
Erik Smith, vice president at Metacafe Inc., said when he worked at MobiTV, the industry was mostly retrofitting content for mobile TV, while it appears the industry has changed course and realized there’s much more value in creating content specifically for the mobile platform. “Longer narrative things don’t play as well,” he said when talking about the noticeably more dense “Stonecutter” submission.
Jon Bukosky, a consultant in the film industry, said mobile “pushes content and storylines forward.” He compared the medium to cartoons with their quick, almost instantaneous emotional draw. Bukosky added that the mobile film industry is in a “semi quagmire right now,” and that newcomers to the industry need to understand the legal parameters in which the movie industry operates and that content must be cleared through multiple channels before it’s delivered to audiences. Virtually every guild representing actors, producers, directors, writers, and on down the chain, have entered the fray recently.
“I think mobile is what I call the last mile, but it’s a piece of the puzzle,” he said.
And as the field continues to grow so too do the number of established heavyweights jumping into the pool. “We are aggressively looking at getting into the mobile platform in particular and are very excited in seeing what this is all about,” said Kris Petrovic, vice president of business development at Playboy Media Group.
The Mobile Movie Fest sits among a breeding ground of outlets for this new medium. The Sundance Film Festival Global Short Film Project and Mobile Bollywood Initiative were both launched last month at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, and traditional film festivals are increasingly adding mobile categorizes to their lineup.
The winners of the Mobile Movie Fest will be announced Thursday.

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