TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: College Launches Cell Phone Film Contest

College Launches Cell Phone Film Contest

William Kates (
Sat, 24 Dec 2005 14:45:50 -0600

By WILLIAM KATES, Associated Press Writer

An Ithaca College dean is encouraging students to instead think small
-- and she's offering a $5,000 prize to do it. The school has invited
high school and college students across America to submit a 30-second
movie shot entirely with a cell phone.

It may come off like a gimmick, but Dean Dianne Lynch has no doubts
about the contest's academic value.

In today's media marketplace -- where cell phones can take pictures,
play music and games and connect to Web sites -- it's all about
thinking small and mobile.

"Historically, we've always had students thinking bigger and
bigger. It's gone from radio to television to the movie screen, to the
era of blockbuster films. All of a sudden, things have reversed and
everything is getting smaller," said Lynch.

The submission deadline is Jan. 10. A winner will be chosen from among
10 finalists and announced online Jan. 30.

The idea came to Lynch last year while she was in New York City
attending an industry conference. One of the topics was the future of
mobile delivery of content.

Disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the July bombings in London
showed what cell phone cameras are capable of, as everyday people used
them to provide TV stations and the Internet with vivid images of the

Bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger portions at the local fast food
joint. In America, the guiding maxim is to think big -- really big.

There are an estimated 2 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide
and 194.5 million in the United States, according to the Washington,
D.C.-based CTIA The Wireless Association.

About 130 million Americans own cell phones with camera capabilities
and approximately half of those camera phones also shoot video, said
Roger Entner, an analyst with Ovum, a Boston-based technology
consulting firm.

This fall, MTV launched "Head and Body," a comedy series of eight
programs created exclusively for cell phone users. Last year, Zoie
Films, an Atlanta-based producer of independent films and festivals,
ran what it billed as the world's first cell-phone film festival.

And in October, the Forum des Images in Paris held its first Pocket
Film Festival, which included everything from 30-second shorts to
mini-soap operas to full-length features.

"It's exciting. We were discussing this last year in film club," said
Sasha Stefanova, an Ithaca College junior from Kazanlak, Bulgaria, who
is majoring in photography and visual arts. As soon as she heard about
Lynch's contest, "I went immediately to the dean's office and said,
`How can I enter?' I love old films, and old-school techniques. The
challenge here is how to get a meaningful idea into such an everyday

Stefanova is still pondering her entry. She is traveling home to
Bulgaria for the holidays and plans to shoot scenes during her

"It will be about my generation's mobility and the falling down of
borders," she said.

Sudhanshu Saria is a senior in filmmaking and likes the novel
challenges presented by working with a cell phone and a 1- to 2-inch

"There are definitely visual limitations. You have to be able to tell
a quick story. You can't really make it character-based," said Saria,
from Siliguri, India.

"With a super small screen, you can't have wide shots or crowd
scenes. The images have to be visually simple. You can sustain
closeups better than on a huge screen but some images may need to be
exaggerated to compensate for the small size of the screen," Saria

Saria's initial reaction was that the contest "could be gimmicky
... But I hope people studying film will take it as my generation's
chance to provide a new language, a new way of thinking."

The rules of the contest are simple.

There must be a story, a narrative and sound, and the film must be
shot on a cell phone. The movies can be edited digitally on a computer
or a cell phone that has editing functions.

The technical quality of the movies will depend on the cell phones,
some of which can film with greater resolution than others. To ensure
fairness, all submissions will be judged in basic VGA (video graphic
array) quality, Lynch said.

The submissions will be reviewed by a panel of film students and
faculty, who will select 10 finalists. Those entries -- which can be
viewed on the contest Web site -- will be judged by a panel of faculty
and professional filmmakers.

"The challenge is, can you capture an audience member's attention in
30 seconds and hold it an environment where not only is the delivery
system small, but the time frame is short?" Lynch said. "Every single
frame matters. There's no excess. That's an incredible discipline to

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Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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