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DAILY NEWS: All Eyes on Yahoo! Fest As Hollywood (Finally) Goes Online

DAILY NEWS:All Eyes on Yahoo! Fest As Hollywood (Finally) Goes Online



By Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE


>>All Eyes on Yahoo! Fest As Hollywood (Finally) Goes Online


(indieWIRE/3.20.2000) -- The week before the Academy Awards is typically a
big one in Los Angeles as movies take center stage in Hollywood -- even
independent films get their moment in the spotlight with the annual Spirit
Awards
on the eve of the Oscars. Now, online (often dubbed, next
generation) entertainment has a high profile showcase, with the debut of
the first Yahoo! Internet Life Online Film Festival on Wednesday.


Indie-minded companies and emerging filmmakers led the way over the past
year when online entertainment emerged as an increasingly high-profile
segment of the Internet. Along the way, the Hollywood film and television
establishment has taken notice and begun to stake its claim on the web. For
example, witness the frenzy that has emerged surrounding the Yahoo Online
Film Festival in Los Angeles.


Unveiled six months ago as an offshoot of Yahoo! Internet Life Magazine's
annual online music event, the Festival was greeted with interest, but
hardly embraced by the Hollywood establishment. The tide began to turn as
Dreamworks, Imagine & Paul Allen announced their online plans (dubbed
Pop.com) and AOL & TimeWarner made their own big announcement. Now, with
the Festival set to kick off with a series of high profile seminars and
screenings, organizers are overwhelmed with the response from Hollywood and
the event is poised to exceed its capacity.


"Its been an been overwhelming response," Festival Director Jesse Jacobs
told indieWIRE yesterday, " This is a testament to the power of this
medium."


More than 45 online entertainment companies are taking part in the two-day
event, according to Jacobs, With 17 companies participating in an opening
press conference that will certainly make news -- more than 200 journalists
are registered to cover the proceedings. Over the past few days, Jacobs and
the other organizers have actually been forced to turn away some high-profile
mainstream Hollywood companies who -- in typical fashion -- rejected initial
overtures and invitations to attend but have since realized that the event
is the place to be and their competition will be represented. Jacobs told
indieWIRE that the festival is sold out and they have cut-off attendee
registrations. As a warning to those who are registered, he encouraged
attendees to arrive early for events to guarantee a seat. Also, to
accommodate demand, organizers have added a second screening of the
Festival's world-premiere showing of Mike Figgis' new digital feature,
"Time Code."


A handful of notable start-ups are using the Festival as a way to gain some
added industry attention as they prepare to launch. Among the most
anticipated are Pop.com and Powerful Media's recently named, Inside.com.
Pop.com's suite at the Standard Hotel will certainly be a place to be for
two days. Hollywood's first major next-gen start-up -- from Hollywood
heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen, Ron Howard
and Brian Grazer -- has kept quiet during the development of its site, but
with a site launch expected this spring, that is about to change. In fact,
Pop has a few surprises in mind for the Festival -- don't be surprised if
some of its high-profile founders are spotted at the event.


Meanwhile, Poweful Media's Kurt Andersen will deliver a keynote speech
addressing convergence "in all senses, not just technologically." Andersen
told indieWIRE yesterday, "I'm going to talk about our belief that we will
see more change in the entertainment (and media) businesses over the next
five years than we've seen in the last 25." Continuing he added, "I'm going
to talk about how Inside.com is uniquely staffed and positioned to explain
the new world to the old, and vice versa -- and how the broadband film
revolution is the consummation of the independent film revolution." While
Inside.com is not designed to focus exclusively on next-generation
entertainment, "digital stories in all of our realms will be significant,"
Andersen offered, "And so the Yahoo Internet Life Film Festival seemed like
an ideal venue to start introducing ourselves to Hollywood in person. "
Other keynote speakers include critic Roger Ebert and Hollywood exec Peter
Guber
.


Undoubtedly, a major aspect of the festival will be the stellar list of
panel participants. Tuesday's "Bringing Hollywood to the Web" panel had to
be split into two parts to make room for all of the heavy-hitters. It will
surely be one of the defining moments for the event as the high-profile
group of CEO's and entrepreneurs weigh in on the state of the industry and
speculate about the next steps for this nascent sector's development. Among
the participants will be AtomFilm's CEO Mika Salmi, Propaganda Films' Rick
Hess
, IFILM's new CEO Kevin Wendle, POP.com's Dan Sullivan, SightSound's
Scott Sander, filmmaker and Nibblebox founder Doug Liman, William Morris
Agency
's Lewis Henderson, Wirebreak's David Wertheimer, and Frank Biondi, a
backer of numerous new entertainment start-ups. Other panels will explore
short films online, feature films online, and a discussion with some of the
companies incubating the next generation of entertainment online. The
series of seminars closes with filmmaker Figgis participating in a
round-table discussion entitled, "New Content for a New Medium Panel."
Shockwave, which recently signed a pact with Tim Burton, is organizing a
separate conversation with Craptv.com that is expected to feature South
Park
creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.


In the April edition of Yahoo! Internet Life, devoted to online movies,
magazine columnist Roger Ebert offers his take on the rapidly developing
movement, explaining that "Independent films will colonize the Web," Ebert
began his piece writing, "Hollywood and the Internet are on a collision
course. The Internet will survive, and so will those in Hollywood who
understand it."


Continuing Ebert wrote, "The next 'Blair Witch' won't be promoted online --
it will *be* online. It will bypass the traditional distribution system,
eliminate the middlemen, and go directly to the audience."


[indieWIRE is a sponsor or the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Film Festival.
For more information, visit: http://www.onlinefilmfestival.com.


Editor-in-Chief Eugene Hernandez will moderate four panel discussions at
the event and report from Los Angeles later this week.]

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