Festival Honors Short Films Shot on Cell Phones Ithaca College in upstate New York is sponsoring a contest for the best short film shot with a cell phone camera. Entries can be no longer than 30 seconds and must include music, dialogue or other audio.
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Festival Honors Short Films Shot on Cell Phones

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Festival Honors Short Films Shot on Cell Phones

Festival Honors Short Films Shot on Cell Phones

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Now, on Mondays, our business report focuses on technology. And for the next few Mondays, we'll report on the changing cell phones; how people use them, and what the cell phone of the future might do.

Chances are, the instruction book for your new cell phone is thicker than the phone itself. That's because your phone can also be your mp3 player, a connection to the web, a camera, a scheduler, an alarm clock, a Gameboy, even your source for news. Ithaca College, in upstate New York, has launched a film festival to find out if you can make a movie with a cell phone. And NPR's Douglas Hopper has the answer.


Sutanji Saria(ph) is in his senior year, and Suds, as most people know him, has big plans. He's sitting at Juna's coffee shop, and just got a call from his casting director.

Mr. SUTANJI SARIA (Student, Ithaca College in New York): Yeah, you know the faces, get their head shots. Tell them what they need to do. Get those auditions lined up. Okay, what else?

HOPPER: Between calls from the crew on his latest project, a feature length film, Suds is making a much shorter, but no less ambitious movie for the contest. But this movie can't be longer than 30 seconds, so there's no film crew, no auditions, and the set is everywhere.

Mr. SARIA: I'm shooting random bits of footage, then I'm going to go into my video, because it's very montage based, so, you know, you need a lot of footage to make those 30 seconds work. Even one second, I'm planning to use pretty, as much as four shots.

HOPPER: His mission? To make a movie about what it means to be an American. Suds came to Ithaca three years ago from Darjeeling, India, so the question is a personal one. He finds his next actor behind the counter making lattes at Juna's. Suds holds up his cell phone and tells her to confront the lens.

Mr. SARIA: Fantastic. That's it.


Mr. SARIA: Wasn't that simple?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Do you want a cup of coffee?

Mr. SARIA: No, I'm good.


HOPPER: When Suds finally submits his movie, Dianne Lynch will be one of the first people to see it. She's the Dean of the Park School of Communications at Ithaca. Lynch started the contest with the hope of challenging students to think big and small.

Dean DIANNE LYNCH (Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York): I sort of thought of it as, like, the Haiku of film production. Instead of thinking big screen, mega millions, blockbuster films, it was about every frame counts.

HOPPER: She's already watched about 75 entries, and squinting into the screen on her laptop, Dianne Lynch admits, they're not all poetic masterpieces.

Dean LYNCH: Some of them are so unbelievably terrible, you can't even imagine, and some of them are actually quite remarkably good. Here's somebody in an airplane, and he's doing what appears to be some kind of, oh, perhaps hallucinogenic drugs while they're on the airplane. No, a visual representation of flight, in color.

HOPPER: Other filmmakers didn't take themselves so seriously. Dianne Lynch says a lot of the entries are just 30 second jokes.

Dean LYNCH: There's nothing new under the sun. The banana peel trick, in a shopping mall with a cell phone.

HOPPER: Not everyone is so sure cell phone movies will catch on. Simon Tarr(ph) teaches animation at Ithaca College. He's not holding his breath for a cell phone Casablanca.

Professor SIMON TARR (Professor, Ithaca College, New York): There's all kinds of two-way, interesting stuff going on with cell phones. But, just using it as a very small movie camera, I don't think that's going to happen.

HOPPER: But, he says, you never know.

Prof. TARR: I hope it actually breaks the mold of cinema, and that there's something there that was completely inconceivable, and not envisioned before. I don't know if that'll happen, but I hope so.

HOPPER: As for Suds, the student filmmaker, he finished his film minutes shy of the deadline. Here it is, all 30 seconds of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This message is for all Americans. You are white, you are male. You live in California and New York. You are married to a woman. You speak only English. You weight 145 pounds, you are 5'10" tall. You are 25 to 30 years old. You make 60 to 100 thousand dollars a year. Your shoe size; 10. You have two children, you own two televisions. You are a Christian. You voted for George W. Bush. You have sex twice a week. You watch four hours of television. This message is for all Americans. You are the demographic. You are Americans.

HOPPER: Douglas Hopper, NPR News.

INSKEEP: Hey, you can watch Suds' cell phone movie, Demographic, at NPR.org.

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