Downloadable Phone Films As Of Now

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A NEW feature film starring Jude Law, Dame Judi Dench and Steve Buscemi is always going to attract attention, but the Sally Potter film Rage, which will be launched overseas this week, may revolutionise the way we watch movies.

The buzzword is ”multi-platform”. Not only is Rage opening in cinemas in the US and in Britain in the next few days, but the DVD of the film is being released overseas and Australians will be able to download episodes of the movie over the internet from Monday week, just days after its cinema release.

Not convenient enough? Fans in the US, Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Spain will be able to watch the movie on iPhones and iPods in daily instalments over seven days, starting tomorrow.

It’s the first time a feature film will premiere on mobile phones.

”This is exciting,” says Jim Shomos, a Melbourne writer-producer who has been making international award-winning mobile phone series, such as forget the rules, since before YouTube.

”The phones have got bigger screens, the 3G networks are faster, the speed of mobile networks is making this realistic technically. We’re finally catching up, so now the question isn’t can we do it, but in terms of marketing is it an advantage or disadvantage?”

Conventional wisdom has it that producers ensure a decent gap between a film premiering in cinemas, being released on DVD, appearing in rental shops and turning up on television. Mobile phones haven’t been part of the equation.

But Shomos thinks the mobile phone release, instead of reducing cinema numbers, could draw more people in. ”I think this could well attract attention to the film. If the audience is interested in the content, it’s a more direct way of getting it out to them.”

Shomos’ latest multimedia project is Mordy Koots, a series of 10 two-minute comedy ”webisodes” starring Shane (Kenny) Jacobson, which will be available on the ninemsn website. The series will feature live-action performances set against visuals from the Blazing Angels World War II console game.

”My theory on this is that people in this target market, people under 35, watch stuff on stuff when they can be stuffed! As content makers we’ve got to be in tune with what they’re doing.”

Geoff Brown, the executive director of the Screen Producers Association of Australia, is watching the Rage experiment with interest. ”Making films is the most fickle business in the world,” he says. ”The business model is still emerging, but in a way the question is where does the theatrical release fit in?”

Rage is an unusual looking film which, Brown says, may make this approach worth the risk.

The movie, which debuted at the Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for the festival’s Golden Bear, consists of a series of interviews, as if shot by a schoolboy on his mobile phone. The boy goes behind the scenes at a New York fashion show during which an accident on the catwalk turns into a murder investigation.

Law plays a gender-bending celebrity supermodel, Dench a fashion critic and Buscemi a photographer, in a cast that includes Dianne Wiest and Eddie Izzard.

Potter, who shot the characters’ interviews against a blue screen with just herself behind the camera accompanied by a sound recordist, loves the ”curiously intimate” aspect of distributing the film over mobile phones and the internet.

”Globalisation, sometimes a destructive force that makes everywhere seem the same and eliminates the small and individual in favour of the large and corporate, can be the exact opposite when it comes to a film on the internet,” the director has said.

”The product becomes accessible to all in the twinkling of an eye. A teenager in her bedroom in a village in Spain, a rancher in a small town in Australia, a movie star in a penthouse in New York, all are in it together, simultaneously … a vast web of parallel experience.”

For all the global parallel experiences, one question remains, crystallised by Sunday Age film critic Tom Ryan: ”Who’d want to watch a film on a bloody phone?”

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