FESTIVALS: If We Build it, They Will Come: Nibblebox launches Nibblefest 2001
by Hugo Perez
(indieWIRE/ 02.27.01) -- "The future of cinema lies no longer in the past. The movies that you and me know so far will not help us to make the leap into the digital age of filmmaking," said acclaimed director Wim Wenders in his keynote address at last weekend's Nibblefest 2001, held at Columbia University, and sponsored by dot.com entertainment studio Nibblebox as a national conference for its college affiliates. Wenders went on to add, "The future of cinema is just about to get invented. I envy you in the audience that you are working today."
Nibblebox is "defining a new brand of internet entertainment by giving college students around the country the tools, funding and mentoring to create and showcase new and innovative video, radio, and animated content for the web and beyond." The impressive list of mentors lined up by Nibblebox to work with their student producers includes Stephen Soderbergh, Amy Heckerling, Joe Dante, John Leguizamo, and Minnie Driver. Nibblebox.com was launched in Spring of 2000 by co CEOs David Bartis , Liz Hamburg and director Doug Liman ("Swingers," "Go") as a company that would give access to production resources and distribution to talented young voices who otherwise might not have to the opportunity to develop their creative talent.
The results so far include such irreverent shows as "Sorority Crime Fighters" ("three hottie sorority girls decide to get feisty and get revenge") and "Dot Comic," a standup comedy show that was recently sponsored by HBO to make a thirty college tour of the country in search of America's funniest college student. The five finalists are being sent by HBO to the prestigious Aspen Comedy Festival. But the series that has achieved the greatest exposure so far is "Virtual Rob," an interactive entertainment which introduces us to the world's first 'clickable human.' "Anything we want to do they are really open to hear it," said "Virtual Rob" star Rob Kerkovich.
"We really see the internet as a new artform, something we've just really scratched the surface of," said Liman in his opening remarks at Nibblefest 2001, which was attended by over 500 student producers from all across the country who participated in panel discussions which explored aspects of producing digital entertainment and streaming radio.
Although the best attended panels were those focusing on storytelling and script and writing, and paneled by such industry talent as Jim Taylor ("Election") and John Hamburg ("Meet the Parents"), many of the livelier discussions took place in smaller groups such as the Interactive Games panel which explored the relationship between the art forms of film and interactive games, and the points at which they might intersect. The consensus among the group was that attempts to meld the two forms have been highly unsuccessful and for the foreseeable future the two entertainment platforms would run on parallel courses. "To try and take the techniques that work for film and apply them to gaming gives you a recipe for disaster," said Greg Costikyan of Unplugged Games, a wireless games venture. The panel felt very positively about the future of online interactive gaming, the development of an 'indie' gaming market, and the overall growth of the market for interactive gaming with expansion into previously unknown demographics. "We are in the early days of digital entertainment. "'Virtual Rob' is to the future of interactive entertainment what 'The Great Train Robbery' is to cinema today," remarked an audience member.
Panelists on the Producing Digital Content expanded on the topic of how to produce successful digital content, and how to distinguish digital content aside from the fact that it's distributed online. "Give them things they are not going to see anywhere else," said panelist Gene Klein, whose company Hypnotic.com developed the highly successful, irreverent web series "Rick & Steve The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World," from Q. Allan Brocka's short film.
With other online entertainment companies expiring in droves, and cutting back their operations, Nibblebox itself is another example of one of the few companies creating successful digital content, having launched its second season of original programming with irreverent new shows such as "Bitches" and "Subconscious Masturbation Fantasy." Liz Hamburg co-CEO of Nibblebox felt that the success so far of Nibblebox has been due to their unique business model that provides content to their college demographic that is produced by college students. "In addition to serving as an incubator for young talent, Nibblebox provides an ideal tool for test marketing series and ideas online before taking them offline to other venues such as television or cinema." Nibblebox has partnered with affiliates at over 150 colleges across the country including over sixty college radio stations, creating the largest aggregate of streaming college radio in the country.
One of the highlights of the weekend was an exclusive east coast premiere of Wender's close to five hour long director's cut of "Until the End of the World," which took place at the DGA Theatre on Saturday night. Afterwords, Nibblebox moved down to a party at the Knitting Factory at which Nibblebox network DJ's spun late into the night.
On hand on Sunday to give closing remarks was "Party Girl" Parker Posey, the queen of indie film, who with charm and deadpan humor touched on topics such as her experiences in indie film, her hope for the future of digital filmmaking, and the art of making saliva bubbles. "I hope this all promotes a garage rock mentality in filmmaking. I think it has already. After working in over thirty features, I can tell you the more money you have the harder it is to be creative because it's good to have something to struggle against," Parker declared. "You just have to go out and do it."
[Hugo Perez recently covered the Havana Film Festival for indieWIRE.]