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Filmfest panels for digital filmmakers

“There’s definitely a home for film on the web.”

– Jennifer Ouano, Elastic Entertainment

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By Cindy Filipenko

Digital technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to filmmaking. With cheap digital video cameras and programs like Final Cut Pro, anyone with a dream and access to a mid-range Mac can bring their vision to the masses. The only difference between a clever little independent film destined for the festival circuit or a vanity project best suited for iTube.

“We’ve gone through the phase where the filmmaking process has come down in price and become a lot more accessible,” said Rochelle Grayson, co-owner of Elastic Entertainment. “I think now the distribution arm is going through its own process.”

Elastic Entertainment is a digital entertainment production and distribution company, dedicated to creating and driving original interactive content for what it describes as “the media 2.0 generation.”

As the former tech-head speaks, it becomes apparent the trick to cinematic success in the digital arena is understanding what avenues are available for cost effective, far-reaching distribution, learning how to maximize funding opportunities and developing storytelling techniques that are transferable to new media.

Grayson, and her business partner, Jennifer Ouano, will be moderating panels on these subjects during the Whistler Film Festival at the Filmmaker Forum.

Before the dotcom bomb hit, content was king, with everyone seeking, needing and creating content. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a business model in existence that allowed for making money off content. Grayson, a veteran of the tech industry, says that is changing.

“You’re not going to get rich showing your stuff online. But if you can hit critical mass, which may mean attracting a few tens of thousands of viewers, you will be able to make a living.”

Ouano has worked on both the production and creative sides of TV, radio, film and new media. She believes that the time is ready for filmmakers to capitalize on the web’s potential.

“There’s definitely a home for film on the web. All the major studios have people whose job it is to scour the web looking for new talent. Clearly they believe there is something there,” she said.

Digital technology also changed how films are funded. The Bell New Media fund has been giving filmmakers cash to add interactive components to their work for that past five years. Telefilm, the main sponsoring agency for Canadian film and television, has recently added a specific area of funding for new media projects.

While distribution and funding are well-known headaches for all independent filmmakers, some may not be familiar with digital storytelling.

Ouano says that the best example of digital storytelling, which tends not to employ traditional linear narratives, can be found in video games, where the player can take over the direction of the story. This type of story telling has so far been relegated to complimentary online components that allow a traditionally broadcast TV show or film’s viewer to customize their experience. Ouano points to ReGenesis as a current hit that utilizes this type of convergence to enhance the program.

Both women agree that what separates new media from existing media is this aspect of interactivity.

“It’s not just passive viewing,” said Grayson.

Grayson and Ouano are planning to introduce a new interactive social connectivity product for mobile platforms, such as cell phones, that will make text-messaging look as sophisticated as passing notes in grade school.

Digital Content Financing and Distribution

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006

10:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.    

Callaghan Room,

Westin Resort & Spa

Digital Storytelling Panel/ Filmmaking 2.0 Interactive Workshop

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006

2 p.m.–4:30 p.m. 

Callaghan Room

Westin Resort & Spa

Interested filmmakers and content creators can register for the forum at www.whistlerfilmfest.com . Prices run from $100 for a day pass to a $495 all-inclusive delegate’s pass.

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