MOFILM for More Mobile Content

If you’re interested in mobile content, you need to know about MOFILM,which, according to its website, “celebrates the intersection of art, commerce and technology in the fast evolving sector of mobile entertainment,” and also distributes independent film content to mobile operators and content service providers around the world. MOFILM just debuted its first film festival on February 18th and 19th, 2009 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, in collaboration with the Mobile World Congress and sponsored by Chevrolet, Gigafone and Accenture. Mobile film festivals are an essential way of moving mobile content forward, exploring formats for mobile content, celebrating creatives who achieve success in the arena, and developing the aesthetics particular to the format.

For the first MOFILM Film Festival, participants submitted films of five minutes or less. A panel of leading experts selected the short list of five films, and the audience then voted for the winner with their cell phones. Winners were: Best Comedy (Frank Chindamo for English as a Second Language), Best Drama (Tor Kristoffersen for Enough), Best Documentary (The Science of Attraction by Claveski), Best Science Fiction (Star Chicks by Jay & Angela Lee) and Best Animation (Pushkin by Trevor Hardy). The overall winner was a close contest but in the end Frank Chindamo won the Chevrolet Cruse. [MobilizedTV will have an interview/story with Frank Chindamo early next week, so stay tuned.]

MobilizedTV had a chance to interview the MOFILM co-founder Ralph Cochrane, a pioneer of content for mobile and online services.

When was MOFILM founded and how has its mission evolved?

It started two years ago in 2007, the result of a dinner conversation in Chicago between the Sundance Institute and the GSM Association. The conversation went along the lines that the Sundance Institute is tasked with showcasing emerging filmmakers, they have a huge catalog and a number of submissions every year in the short film category. Two years ago, we had a huge issue of needing short, punchy clips for mobile. We asked the question, would it work on mobile? So we created a test at Barcelona. We took five leading filmmakers that Sundance recommended including Dayton & Ferris, Justin Lin (who directed Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift); Corey McAbee (the actor in American Astronaut); and the writer/director Jody Hill, now working with Seth Rogen and Maria Maggenti. That’s how we started. I was brought in because I was the ‘expert’ who knew how to deliver film to the phone. For us, it was a marketing project: trying something out in the Sundance lab style. The reaction was so positive we thought, maybe something is here.

What changes/evolution have you seen in mobile content over the years?

There are lots of changes. The biggest one is that compared to two years ago when people asked, Is this a good idea? We don’t even get asked that question now, because of the iPhone, as well as other phones from LG and others. The device size is no longer a problem, no longer an issue. The networks are much better, so you now can transmit content in that way.

There are ways of monetizing it. Look at the iPhone. You can actually make money off of content. It’s still developing; iPhone is the tip of the iceberg. People are much more aware of mobile also: there are 4 billion mobile phones in the world. It’s not just about content-either. If you can do something people want to share virally, like games or content, people are actually using it. So a lot has changed in two years.

Initially everyone thought mobile content had to be snack-sized in terms of length. Is that still true? Or do you see long-form gaining traction?

I think if you look at what Corey McAbee is doing with Stingray Sam, you can see he’s created content of 10 minutes in length, episodes, and that’s a format that’s becoming more popular. There has been some research done by Nokia to show the average viewing length for mobile TV, which is basically broadcast TV, is about 22 minutes. That’s the length of a 30-minute TV serial. You also have to bear in mind how it’s being paid for. It’s very similar to broadcast TV. There are advertisements, brought-to-you-by sponsorship preroll. It’s different than buying content on iTunes. But the technology and viewing shows that people will watch a reasonable length. People also side-load movies, but that’s probably a step too far for the market around the world.

What was it about English as a Second Language that made it a winner in the comedy category?

We had a review panel made up of the community, the people who create from around the world, so it wasn’t just English- speaking. We had people from Brazil and China. I think a couple of things about this entry really worked: it’s shot very well for mobile, it’s close-up, and it’s a topic–men and women interacting–that you can relate to . Oh, and it’s funny. I was slightly surprised, because I thought animation might win since it has less spoken dialog, and we had animation with no dialog at all. Overall, English as a Second Language won pretty narrowly over the animation genre because it wa a funny, well written script.

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