The Vodacom Best Mobile Phone Film Competition at the Jozi Film Festival 2013

From the Vodacom eMagazine, February 2013.

February 15-17 2013 sees the Jozi Film Festival return to Johannesburg for its second edition, where it will be showcasing films about Johannesburg, made by Joburgers and other creative folk inspired by one of Africa’s most exciting and dynamic cities. Billed as a quirky kind of “anti-Cannes” People’s Film Festival, JFF2013 aims to make movies accessible to a wide audience, and to attract those who traditionally don’t attend film festivals nor have the opportunity to make films.

A clear example of this revolutionary ethos is the 2013 introduction of an exciting new competition category: The Vodacom Best Mobile Phone Film (1 – 3 minutes in length). The Best Mobile Phone Film competition reflects the changing dynamics of movie production in a number of ways – from the filming process, to the distribution and viewing platforms, to the participation of the audience – and it highlights the impact that technology is bringing to bear on the filmmaking process.

Mobile technology has completely liberated filmmakers from the costs and complexities of traditional filmmaking. Using today’s smartphones, filmmakers can now not only film their movies, they can compose storyboards, manage their slates, distribute call sheets, measure distances and set up lighting positions, log reels and timecodes and record professional quality sound via a range of remarkable and affordable filmmaking apps. It’s a complete democratization of the filmmaking process, profiling talent and energy rather than cash and connections.

Secondly, there’s the distribution platform. Entrants to the Jozi Film Festival Mobile Phone Film competition were of course asked to upload their films onto the YouTube. However, YouTube is prepping to launch paid subscriptions for individual channels on its video platform – part of its latest attempt to lure content producers, viewers, and advertising rands away from traditional TV.

Video-streaming platform Vimeo has also announced two new plans to help filmmakers who upload content to the site to make revenue. Vimeo Plus or Pro members with videos uploaded to the site will be able to raise money by activating the new Tip Jar feature. A pay-to-view service will be launched in early 2013 for Vimeo Pro subscribers. Vimeo’s pay-to-view feature will be open to Vimeo Pro subscribers who want an alternative to other rental and VOD models. The service will be beta testing a curated slate of films this fall before opening up the service to all Pro members in early 2013. All of which means that in the not too distant future, Filmmakers will be able to use these free channels not only to promote their work but to begin earning some income.

Thirdly, the judging process is taking place via sms. This is of course not new, but it does reflect how the drive to ensure audience participation and buy-in via technology right from the start of the filmmaking process has built up speed, particularly with the successful application of crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter to film production projects. Quite simply, crowdsourcing allows filmmakers to connect directly with their fans and supporters, and raise investment directly for their films. Think “like” button, with cash attached.

So with the tools of film finance, film making and film distribution in everyone’s hand, mobile technology will completely transform the way we make and consume film – something the Jozi Film Festival clearly hopes to celebrate.