Sure, the Oscars were the highest-profile event to come out of Hollywood lately, but the first Yahoo Internet Life Online Film Festival could have more long-term significance.
Held last week at various locations along the Sunset Strip, the festival promises to have a slingshot effect, accelerating the nascent love affair between the digital and Hollywood sets.
"This festival is the first blessing of the fact that the Web is emerging as a medium capable of providing and transforming entertainment," said Rodger Raderman, co-founder of L.A.-based entertainment Internet company IFilm. "Yahoo put the imprimatur on that. It will be very interesting to see where the industry goes from here."
About 2,000 people representing more than 45 major studios along with Web, indie film and digital technology companies attended the sold-out festival-cum-conference.
The industry luminary-studded panels tackled such topics as "New Media and the Underground," as assessed by South Park's Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and "Bringing Hollywood to the Web," a discussion featuring digital-industry investor Frank Biondi and top executives from IFilm, Wirebreak.com and HitPlay.
The festival featured 12 short and six full-length movies. "Time Code," shot digitally by "Leaving Las Vegas" director Mike Figgis, was the most anticipated.
While old-school entertainment companies were mostly there to look and learn, the online digital firms shared the clear agenda of boosting their profiles with mainstream Hollywood.
The soon-to-be launched Glendale-based Pop.com made a rare public appearance, giving the industry a better sense of where the company (which is backed by lots of Hollywood heavyweights) is headed. Executives at IFilm, which had three short features and two full-length features entered in the festival, were there with the hope that their filmmakers would win.
And Venice-based WireBreak Entertainment wanted to find talented filmmakers with whom to work. "We already have a pretty high profile, but we want to get greater industry awareness out of this event and to attract creative talent," said WireBreak.com Senior Vice President Sal LoCurto.
When first announced about six months ago, the event sparked only moderate interest. One reason is that it came on the heels of a handful of other tepid Internet-related film festivals, such as Leonardo DiCaprio's ongoing, online "LeoFest."
But Yahoo's affair is really the first of its breed. And when a veritable flood of big-name Hollywood creative talents committed to online gigs over the past several weeks, interest snowballed.
Idealab clearly has dreams of global domination.
Hard on the heels of opening its first East Coast office in New York, the Pasadena-based Internet incubator announced last week that it will soon launch a Boston office. The company also expressed interest in expanding to Asia and Europe.
Bill Gross said in a statement that Boston's proximity to elite universities and its subsequent deep talent pool were among the attractions that prompted establishment of the fourth Idealab office. (The company also has a presence in Silicon Valley.)
Bruce Johnston, former principal at Boston-based venture capital firm TA Associates, will head the newest office.
News of the Boston office follows on the heels of Idealab receiving a $100 million investment from Japanese telecom company Hikari Tsushin in return for a 1.34 percent stake. Company officials said the money would go toward acquiring new assets and exploring international expansion. The incubator is already valued at about $7.5 billion and intends to go public in a few months.
News & Notes
Pasadena-based Gemstar International Group Ltd. and TV Guide Inc. shareholders have approved the merger of the companies, which could be completed in the second quarter of this year, when regulatory approval is expected
Patent & License Exchange Inc., the Pasadena-based online marketplace for intellectual property exchanges, announced a $30 million investment from a 10-member global syndicate. Investors include TMCT Ventures in L.A. and Tokyo-based Softbank Corp
Digital Lava Inc., a Marina del Rey multimedia software company, received its seventh industry award in two years. The latest honor came from leading trade publication AV Video Multimedia Producer in the MPEG and streaming products category.
After chronicling the lightning-speed development of L.A's tech scene for the past two years, it's time for me to pack up my pen. This is my last column. Thanks to all.
Contributing columnist Sara Fisher can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.Site of the week
For owners of those outrageously expensive digital camcorders, POPcast.com offers some new options that enable you to transmit home videos to your friends and neighbors without causing their computers to crash from the sheer size of the files.
The L.A.-based company lets users stream digital video directly to the desired audiences via e-mail.
Sending digital photos and video snippets over the Net is relatively commonplace these days, but e-mailing the big video files directly, as an attachment, can take the receiving party hours to download and sometimes crash their system.
But those problems can now be avoided by uploading the digital images to the Popcast.com site, which features user-friendly, point-and-click technology. The company then forwards your video to whomever you designate, and they can immediately view the footage without any downloading at all.
POPcast.com users can send up to 10 MB of digital video for free, although they are subjected to commercials when they log in. The limit makes the free service better suited to handle birthday party videos or a CEO's pep talk than a fledgling filmmaker's effort.
For those with more serious transmission needs, the company offers other sophisticated and costly services.
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