Sundance: Only a click wheel away

It’s year two for the iPod Film Festival, hosted by the online short film advocates at The Flux (www.theflux.tv). A recent manifestation of the current generation’s appetite for high technology, iPods are now being used to promote new bands and independent filmmakers. With incentives in the form of prizes — an iPod or an Apple Mac Mini — participants need only submit an indie film, student film, or creative thought on tape that is less than ten minutes long. Oh, and the video must be iPod compatible.

Independent films have been gaining more attention; Little Miss Sunshine, for example, was nominated for two Golden Globes, and with the attention Apple has acquired due to their ever-growing collection of gadgetry, the connection between the two seems a wise choice, right?

Maybe. There is some value at least, namely the prospect of making a film by oneself. “[There are] a lot of films being produced quickly and cheaply by people who wouldn’t have had the resources a decade ago to rent or buy a real film camera and manually cut their film in a studio,” said David Hartunian, a movie and iPod enthusiast, WRCT staff member, and junior mathematics major.

According to Hartunian, the festival “is both a good and a bad thing. It’s a lot like how there’s a ton of random bands on MySpace.com that are quite terrible but somehow feel like they deserve to be heard.”

But don’t worry, the headaches will not be yours to bear: The task of trudging through the chaos of amateur films will be left to a panel of judges, whose votes will be combined with those of visitors to The Flux.

The use of iPods in a film festival is, admittedly, a bit inventive. iPod users have the world at their fingertips — one touch on the swirly pad yields easy access to music, movies, and photographs. This control is precisely the point, says Hartunian. And although he agrees that the iPod revolution is good, perhaps the iPod Film Festival is not.

“[Short] films are a great format for expressing certain ideas … but I don’t agree with using the popularity of iPods to create some sort of artificial buzz for an art form that has nothing really to do with the device,” he said. “The iPod didn’t inspire any kids to pick up a guitar and play, music did. I am interested in short film festivals that use iPod-compatible videos to promote screenings and spread information, but not ones that use iPods as an exclusive medium.”

Still, The Flux has a noble cause. In an announcement on Mac Slash (macslash.org), producer Ryan Ritchey wrote, “[The] iPod video has people yearning for fun, portable video content, and our festival will give people access to free content, while exposing independent filmmakers and bands to an exciting new audience.” So far, that’s right. Last year’s entries came from eleven countries across the globe. And though in 2006 The Flux charged $15 in fees to submit a video, the company has since thought better of such charges.

The newly instated free entry policy does make this festival a bit tempting. That, and the chance to win (another) iPod or even a Mac is a strong incentive. If you’re satisfied with your current iPod situation and the Macs in the cluster, I wouldn’t bother. But if you dare to dream of fleeting fame and potential prizes, the deadline to submit is March 18th.