Babelgum’s Online Film Fest: Right Train, Wrong Track

Note from Liz: Chris Albrecht is NewTeeVee’s newest staff writer. I’ll post a formal introduction to him soon, but he just couldn’t wait for the long weekend to end to get started.

Babelgum (the “other” peer-to-
peer Internet TV startup), will host an online film festival to “reward the very best in international independent short filmmaking.” They even got Spike Lee to be an “honorary” judge (read: he’ll only watch a handful of of flicks).

Aspriring filmmakers can upload their films for consideration to the fest beginning September 15. Accepted submissions will be shown on Babelgum’s Online Film Festival Channel where the public will rate their favorites. The top ten rated films in each category go on to the jury.

It’s great that Babelgum is creating a program to recognize the short film format, but a closer look at the rules for entry indicate that Babelgum
a.) doesn’t get short films, or (more surprisingly) short-form content online; and
b.) is offering a raw deal forfilmmakers. See why after the jump.

First thing that immediately jumps out from the announcement is that Babelgum will accept films under 45 minutes.

Forty. Five. Minutes.

Crimeny. That’s not a short, that’s a long. That’s a too-long. That’s a too long for online audiences who crave their packed-tight, bite-sized bits of entertainment.

They would have been much better off limiting the run times to 20 minutes and under. Sure, that wouldn’t create as many hours of programming to pad their content library — but it would be a better
experience for the user (most short films over 20 minutes feel like an eternity), and there is still a vast pool of films in that timeframe to choose from.

Think Twice
More importantly, there are two reasons why a short filmmaker should take a serious look at this before entering:

  1. Exclusivity: The announcement states: “Babelgum will hold
    exclusive online rights to all accepted films from March 2008 to
    March 2009.” Want to post your film elsewhere online next year? Too
    bad, your work will only be seen by people with Babelgum.
    Babelgum revised their stance, check out the update.
  2. Real-world consequences: Many festivals are still
    reluctant to include films that can be viewed online. They don’t like
    charging people for something they can see for free online. It’s
    something to consider if a filmmaker wants to run the festival circuit.

But if Babelgum really wants to “reward” short filmmakers — it’s
missing the most important part of a festival: the after party (with
a hosted bar, of course).