Popfest now accepting submissions

In its first major announcement since tapping Ken Wong as CEO, high-profile Netcaster Pop.com unveiled plans Wednesday for Popfest, a filmfest-like channel on the site intended to help generate independently created short films, animation and games — just in time for its launch.

Effective immediately, the yet-to-launch dot-com and very content-hungry site, founded by Imagine Entertainment, DreamWorks and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures, is accepting submissions such as short films, animation and games.

Announcement was made Wednesday at the Yahoo! Internet Life Film Festival, which marked the first public appearance from a Pop exec since venture was announced.

Unlike Pop’s original productions, which will be under six minutes and skew toward comedy, Popfest will exhibit all genres with running times up to 30 minutes.

New York-based film attorney and executive producer John Sloss will oversee the acquisition and exhibition of all Popfest content, as well as produce original shows with leading indie filmmakers.

Building a library

Move enables Pop to compete with rival Netcasters Atomfilms, ifilm and Entertaindom, among others, and helps to fill its pipeline with broadcastable shows online. Site is trying to build a library of 50 hours of programming it can air for its three proposed channels (Popfest being one of them) by June; a potentially tough task considering its shows are less than six minutes long.

Shows created by Pop.com — featuring what it hopes will be A-list talent such as Mike Myers, Julia Roberts and Will Smith — among others, will be funded by Vulcan Ventures. But so far, Pop has found it hard to attract other talent, since it is only offering stock options — from 100,000 shares to 1 million shares or a total of 20 million shares (7.5% of the company) — while Netcasting rivals are paying hard cash for programming.

Pop has also inked e-commerce deals with e-tailers Amazon.com and Whatshotnow.com. Amazon will create a co-branded page on its site to sell shorts on VHS and DVD through the Amazon.com Advantage program; Whatshotnow.com will enable Popfest filmmakers to sell T-shirts, hats, posters and other merchandise based on their pics.

Viewers will vote on their favorite works. The most popular filmmakers will be considered by Pop, DreamWorks and Imagine and possibly offered production deals with the companies.

“Our users will create content and tell us what merits our attention; in turn we will provide a platform for exhibition, as well as marketing, promotion, retailing and self-publishing support,” Wong said. “Through this exchange, we look forward to discovering tomorrow’s hits together.”

Scouting at festivals

Popfest also said it intends to acquire the exclusive Internet broadcast rights to short films and animation discovered at film and comedy festivals around the world and is developing a new talent pool of Pop.com filmmakers by establishing partnerships with film schools across the country for content.

Original plans call for Pop to push the site annually through $600 million in marketing once it launches.

“Popfest is the realization of one of the most exciting aspects of Pop.com,” said partner and Imagine topper Ron Howard. “To provide an outlet for talented people to present all kinds of new work for this medium is gratifying. I am looking forward, both as a fan and a filmmaker, to seeing the shorts and hopefully one day working with some of the top creators who emerge.”

Sloss’ leverage in the industry will enable him to attract filmmakers to a content-hungry Pop.com. Sloss’ clients include helmers Kevin Smith (“Dogma”), Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused”), Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and Ted Demme (“Life”). He also executive produced “Lone Star” and “Ulee’s Gold.”

Sloss reps billionaire and Pop partner Paul Allen and his film efforts.

“The world of online entertainment content, like the rest of the Web, is developing at an incredibly accelerated pace,” Sloss said. “As the field matures and the inevitable shakeout occurs, the people who are best at attracting creative talent will be the survivors. The track record of the partners in this venture speaks for itself.”

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