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Internet Allows Filmmakers to Take Their Works Directly to the People

June 11, 1998|ERIKA MILVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ever since the movies made their first buck, the craft has become a business largely controlled by a select sphere of muckety-mucks who tend to view art with dollar signs in their eyes. Wielding more power than taste, movie moguls ordain much of what we will and will not see at the local multiplex. Distribution defines success--and getting something out there is a tricky task indeed. Or is it? With the help of the Internet, filmmakers are getting the opportunity to bypass big business all together and peddle their wares directly to the public. Employing the Net as an ever-ready, no-frills/no-fuss/no-attitude film festival, filmmakers are feeding their works over the wires.

The Real Short Film Festival is one of a slew of cyber-venues where Netizens can bypass the prohibitive red velvet ropes and feast on cinema in the privacy of their own homes.

Sure, the movie screen is the size of a matchbox. Sure, there's Net-congestion and the tendency for the image to distort into unintentional cubism. But with video streaming, viewers can watch the film as it downloads. Eliminating the wait, video streaming puts the fun back in multimedia for those with svelte bandwidth.

Of course, the Real Short Film Festival (http://www.film.com/reviews/rev_ff/98siff/filmlist/) is sponsored by Film.com, itself under the auspices of RealNetworks, which makes the Real Video plug-in that employs video streaming. Still, the Real Short Film Festival is the Internet's largest cinematic showcase, boasting some 30 acclaimed short films from around the world. With categories that include drama, comedy, documentary and animation, the festival will be judged by a select jury panel. The winning film will be announced Sunday.

Among the films screened here are the comedies "Have You Seen Patsy Wayne?," Todd Korgan's mockumentary about the love child of Patsy Cline and John Wayne; and "William Sexpeare's Much Ado About Puberty," in which Ken Boynton mingles iambic pentameter with the birds and the bees in 16th century suburbia.

Other online film festivals include the Sync Online Film Festival (http://www.thesync.com/festival/index.html), which caters to fans of underground and cutting-edge cinema. Each month viewers vote for their favorite narrative, documentary, animated and experimental films. The winning films remain online for viewing and new films are added each month.

Elsewhere on the Net, the American Film Institute has established the AFI OnLine Cinema (http://www.afionline.org/cinema/cinema.home.html), an ongoing festival of classics presented in their entirety. AFI launched this project five months ago with an airing (accompanied by the original score) of the 20-minute Charlie Chaplin film "The Rink," which was originally released in 1916. Other films available for viewing are Buster Keaton's "The Boat" (1921), early animation from Disney & Fleischer and D.W. Griffith's "A Girl and Her Trust," a 17-minute film made in 1912 about a telegraph operator who witnesses a crime.

At another corner of its Web site, AFI is hosting a celebration of 100 years of cinema with its "100 Years . . . 100 Movies" Web site: (http://afi.100movies.com/). In conjunction with a CBS special that airs Tuesday, in which the 100 greatest American movies will be announced, the Web site is holding a competition allowing Web surfers to browse some 400 films online and pick the top 10 flicks.

Erika Milvy is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. She can be reached at erika@well.com.

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