Pint Sized Pics

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has taken the plunge into “micro-cinema,” currently preparing 10 movies specifically designed for cellphones distributed by Bell, Rogers, and Telus.
The NFB and its co-producer from Toronto, marblemedia, are negotiating with 10 well-known Canadian producers who have agreed to display their art on two-inch-wide screens.

“This is a brand new platform for our filmmakers” says Tom Perlmutter, director of NFB’s English programming.

Available for years in Asia, video on cellphones has been available in Canada since last fall, opening a whole world of opportunities for our filmmakers.

“A whole market is ours to explore,” Perlmutter says.

Producers will have to comply with a theme, “the art of seduction,” in addition to adapt their movie to the small screen’s constraints: No long shots, no fast moves, simple dialogue and refined image composing.

They will have the choice of shooting with traditional cameras or with any of the 10 Sony-Ericsson W600 cellphones at their disposal.

“We want our filmmakers to be familiar with the new medium, we want them to control what they do,” says Perlmutter.

“This is a very exciting moment,” adds marblemedia’s Matt Hornburg. “This is a completely new audience. Everyone wins.”

These micro-movies lasting between four and six minutes will be funded by BravoFact!, a CHUM channel. Each producer will have a $15,000 budget, according to Hornburg.

Bell, Rogers, and Telus users having a phone powerful enough to do so should be able to download any of those 10 micro-movies as soon as this summer, for a nominal charge.

“We’ll have details soon,” says Telus spokesperson Stacey Masson.

“We hope to distribute one micro-movie every week for 10 weeks,” says Hornburg.

The films will then be distributed through TV, Internet, cinema, video iPods and other devices. All of the micro-movies have already been sold to Robert Redford’s TV channel, Sundance. The budget for this project is about $500,000.

They were all presented during last year’s Toronto Film Festival. Two of them were nominated for the MIPCOM 2005 Mobile TV Awards, which acknowledges the best content for cellphones.
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WHERE IT ALL STARTED

SMS Sugar Man was the first project shot by, and for, cellphones.

Designed for cinema, this South African feature film was fully shot with eight cellphones. That’s a world first.

Before being presented in theatres, it will be offered, separated in three-minute segments, to South African wireless phone subscribers this May.
Director Aryan Kaganof, 41, is suddenly being talked about all over the world.

He has done countless interviews since his story broke. Distributors from Japan, India, Brazil, South Korea and Czech Republic all want to buy his movie — even before the editing was over.

“I’ve never been so feverish,” he says from Johannesburg. “It looks like the movie is coming just at the right time. Everything was ready. We just gave birth to the thing.”

SMS Sugar Man is about the struggles of a pimp and three prostitutes on the streets of South Africa’s capital. Eleven days of shooting were required, with a budget of less than $200,000 US. Faced with South African film industry’s misfortunes, Kaganof was seeking a way to produce a low-cost movie.

“I live in the Third World, where filmmakers cannot access high technology,” he explains. “But everyone in Africa has a cellphone.”

That’s how, last October, he got the idea of testing video recording on cellphones.

“The only one that worked was the Sony-Ericsson W900I,” he says.

He still had to see if his images would be transferred to 35 mm film. To his astonishment, no laboratory from South Africa agreed to help him.

Kaganof finally found a laboratory in Denmark willing to give it a try.

And what does he think about his movie possibly helping increase the use of cellphones? “I signed a deal with the devil,” he admits. “But you know, one day, we have to face reality.”

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