The cameras capture the young man walking down the stairs, reciting a monologue about the three things people should know about him: His favorite movie is Gone with the Wind, he loves roller coasters, and he hates when people don’t take him seriously.
The shot is complicated and takes several attempts to perfect. But there’s no big camera equipment, no expert sound system, and no reels of film to capture the moment.
Instead, everyone involved, from the three cameramen and the sound guy to the extras, is producing the miniature movie with–and for–cell phones.
The exercise is part of a new Boston University class created through a unique partnership with cellular company Amp’d Mobile and taught by director Jan Egleson. During the semester, the students will produce a series of short episodes that eventually will be distributed by the company for its cellular customers. The students have challenged each other to shoot it using only the phones, despite obstacles surrounding sound and video quality.
The class, which the university believes is the only one of its kind in the country, offers students credit and a chance to be part of the new media culture–where anyone, anywhere, can create, distribute, and view entertainment using a variety of emerging technologies. Amp’d benefits by getting mobile content created by one of its targeted audiences: young, tech-savvy adults.
Amp’d, whose backers include Qualcomm Inc. and Viacom Inc., is trying to compete with mainstream cellular players like Cingular Wireless by branding itself as a youth-oriented company offering more than just phone service. It sells comedy clips, cartoons, and music videos for subscribers to watch on cell phones for prices that start at 45 cents for a single download to $20 for unlimited access.
Most content is geared toward people ages 18 to 35.
“They’re all about anywhere, anytime,” said Seth Cummings, Amp’d Mobile’s senior vice president for content, who helped start the program at his alma mater. “They want to be able to take their media with them.”
Amp’d has hired established writers to create original content, but Cummings said the company decided to work with BU to target budding artists.
“I know that when I was there, there was this stuff that we’d create that there was no outlet [for],” Cummings said. “There’s a real outlet here.”
The medium is so new, the students and Egleson spent some time in a recent class debating what to call their work. Options included mobisodes (mobile episodes), mobilettes, or cellenovelas (cellular telenovelas).
“We’re on the cutting edge of a new era of film medium,” said Mark DiCristofaro, a 21-year-old BU film student. “Why not get on board early?”
And because anyone with a cell phone can make a video and upload it to the internet to watch on computers or phones, the students said they felt a greater opportunity to get people to see their work. Television production graduate student Chris Miller said cell phones give young filmmakers a new way to distribute their work.