'Tiny Screen' Films for Phones

CIOL Bureau
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NEW ORLEANS: An X-ray of a yellow pepper, a man falling down over and over again and a dog eating a roast chicken might not qualify as Hollywood movies, but one production company is hoping these films, made for mobile devices, will find a place in the entertainment industry.

Closely-held company BigDigit Inc. sponsored the "World's Smallest Film Festival" here on Tuesday at the annual Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association wireless conference to showcase films made specifically for mobile phones.

"This is a new medium, and we want to explore what the new rules and the new content are going to be," said Beau Buck, chief executive of BigDigit. "We were interested in finding out what would be the most effective way to stimulate sales of mobile telephones."

The more advanced Internet access mobile phones are capable of receiving streaming video, necessary to watch the mini-movies. But the issue is whether the public wants to receive mini-movies over their mobile devices.

BigDigit hopes its film festival and others to follow will kick-start interest in the filming side.

Some filmmakers created mini-movies such as the one about a boy trying to prevent his carved pumpkin from getting run over by another boy on his bicycle. Many of them departed from the traditional narrative format.

In one "film," written by Loren Carpenter, co-founding scientist for Pixar and two-time computer graphic Oscar winner, viewers were treated to a three-dimensional astrology chart generated automatically.


Other films included a cartoon character explaining gravity and a cowboy, covered in buttons and bows, lip-syncing to a song about buttons and bows with a magnifying glass in front of his mouth.

Buck said BigDigit received more than 100 submissions mostly from independent filmmakers.

For big screen filmmaker Bonnie Palef, whose credits include such Hollywood hits as "Moonstruck," "Marvin's Room" and "Children of a Lesser God," the challenge of the tiny screen was to make an impression with the audience in just a few minutes.

"It's still about story-telling," Palef said. "You have to distill a great amount of material into a soundbite... It forces you to be creative."

Palef submitted a film called "What Great Thinkers Think," in which the Dalai Lama's exploration of the concept of love is illustrated by dogs and roast chicken.

"You use humor more in a short period of time because you want an epiphany for the person and you only have their attention for a brief moment," Palef said. "It's like movie-making in the silent era. It's preparing audiences for a whole new way of seeing."

Submitted films were 2.5 minutes long on average although the shortest film latest only 16 seconds.

BigDigit is planning two more similar events in Mexico City and London later this year.

Buck said he hopes to eventually attract Hollywood movies studios to the emerging medium.