The first annual CellFlix Festival -- featuring movies shot entirely on cell phone -- has been won by Ithaca College junior Mike Potter, a triple major from Broomfield, Colorado. His work was selected from among the 178 entries by a panel of professional judges. Sponsored by Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications, the CellFlix Festival invited high school and college students to utilize their creative talents to shoot a 30-second movie on their cell phone for a chance to win the grand prize of $5,000. The winning entry can be viewed at www.cellflixfestival.org.
Titled <i>Cheat</i>, Potter's submission features a humorous and endearing interaction between his grandparents. "When I heard that I had won the competition, I was really excited," says Potter. "I put a lot of thought and hard work into my piece, so it was great to have that recognized. I thought the diversity and the quality of the entries made the festival a real success. It certainly made winning that much more of an honor. The best part for me was telling my grandparents."
The CellFlix Festival has garnered international attention, including stories in such media outlets as the <i>New York Times</i>, <i>USA Today</i>, <i>Boston Globe</i>, National Public Radio, Voice of America, and CNN. The top 10 finalists in the contest had been unveiled on January 25 on ABC's <i>Good Morning America</i>.
"So many of the entries did exactly what great films do: They captured your attention, they evoked an emotional response, they presented a complete story," says Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications. "It proves that today's young media makers have no problem moving from one platform to another. We're delighted, of course, that one of our own students took top honors, but it's important to remember that the judging was 'blind,' meaning the final-tier judges had no information about who submitted the entry or what school they were from."
The judges for the grand prize were two Park School alumni -- Bolivian filmmaker Rodrigo Bellott, executive producer of <i>The Most Beautiful of My Very Best Years</i> (2005) and producer/director of <i>Sexual Dependency</i> (2003); and David Lebow, executive vice president and general manager of AOL Media Networks.
"It's a 30-second love story, with a buildup and a payoff," says Lebow of the winning entry. "I want them to be my grandparents; in fact, I am going to tell people that they are my grandparents from now on!"
Bellott's verdict on <i>Cheat</i> would be welcomed by any filmmaker: "Fantastic. Timeless. Inspiring. Contagious. Lovable. Effective. Visual economy at its best. We've got a winner here!"
Potter says that the idea for <i>Cheat</i> came from sitting at dinner with his grandparents. "I saw something in their interactions, how much fun they have together, that was so powerful that I knew it would jump out in something as quick as a 30-second piece, even if it was made on a cell phone. Actually, especially if it was made on a cell phone. My hope was that if I had fun with it, other people would, and that if my grandparents could make me laugh, they could make other people laugh."
Considering his active schedule, even making a movie that only lasts 30 seconds took a lot of time out of Potter's calendar. He is majoring in television-radio, business administration, and computer information systems. He has been featured on MTVu for his research on gaming, he has helped train a dog for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program, and he leads Megaphone Media Productions, a student-run group that helps nonprofit organizations by developing advertising and awareness packages to promote their causes.
"At first, I was overwhelmed by the restrictions of the cell phone medium: small size, low video resolution, and poor sound quality," says Potter. "Only in the moment when I realized that I shouldn't view the medium as restricting, but rather as liberating, did I come up with my idea. I started thinking that, with the cell phone as my weapon, I could attack a story just as well as Steven Spielberg can. He may be able to do amazing special effects and use tons of money to make his blockbusters, but with only a cell phone, we're on equal ground. Suddenly, the prospect of making cell phone films not only seemed liberating, but a whole lot of fun. The process turned out to be a great lesson for me -- great stories are great stories, no matter their size."
In addition to Potter, the CellFlix finalists were:
* Brandon Roots, New York University, <i>Broken Sounds</i>
* Peter Herron, Moorestown High School, Moorestown, New Jersey, <i>Blind Before Yesterday</i>
* Sudhanshu Saria, Ithaca College, <i>Demographic</i>
* Brad Gover, Vancouver Film School, <i>Boo Ahh</i>
* Dylan Luyt, Ithaca College, <i>Burst Impressions</i>
* Sam Friedman, Ithaca College, <i>Log and Capture</i>
* Forrest Sansom and Bryan Oki, University of Colorado, Boulder, and University of Arizona, <i>Short Movie</i>
* Lauren Brady, East High School, Denver, Colorado, <i>On Second Thought</i>
* Johan Paulsen, Sweden, <i>What if we have had cell phones in 1986?</i>
More information on the CellFlix Festival, including the submissions from the 10 finalists, is available at www.cellflixfestival.org. The finalists can also be viewed at the <i>Good Morning America</i> website at www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=1539125.