Tribeca, Amazon link

Online retailer's foray into showbiz continues

NEW YORK — Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro and Amazon.com topper Jeff Bezos announced Thursday that the giant online retailer is hosting a short-film competition in connection with the fest.

Winning filmmaker will score a $50,000 grant from American Express, official sponsor of Tribeca.

The twist: Visitors to Amazon’s Web site will be the ones selecting the five finalists and then the winning film.

Amazon’s partnership with Tribeca reflects the festival’s evolution and desire to extend its reach beyond the original purpose of focusing attention on Lower Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 2005 fest runs April 19-May 1.

“This contest will undoubtedly help discover important new filmmakers,” De Niro said. “The Tribeca Film Festival has always recognized the importance of short films, and we’re excited about supporting the people who make them.”

Also at the news conference announcing the short film competition, De Niro was asked about his longtime colleague Martin Scorsese’s losing the directing Oscar to Clint Eastwood. “I thought Clint Eastwood did a great job,” De Niro said, “but we all know that Marty is way overdue.”

The Tribeca short film competish continues Amazon’s foray into the entertainment biz. Netco, which is repped by UTA, produced the Amazon Theater program late last fall, featuring short films by emerging filmmakers — a sort of online version of HBO’s “Project Greenlight.”

Through April 13, Amazon will accept films that are between two and seven minutes in length.

Asked about any content restraints, Bezos said the films must generally conform to G, PG and PG-13 ratings criteria. “Customers will be able to report any violations, and we will remove a film from the site,” Bezos said.

Bezos also said it would be impossible for people to coordinate with each other and rack up votes for a particular short. That’s because visitors to the Tribeca Screening Room on Amazon won’t get to choose which short film they watch. What’s more, by the time the five highest-rated films are narrowed down, the voting population will be so large it would be difficult to stack the deck for or against any one film, he added.

Films will be rated from one to five, using Amazon’s five-star system. Five celebrity jurors, who will be announced shortly, will review the films separately and provide their commentary on the Amazon’s Tribeca site.

The five highest-rated films will run over a four-week period on Amazon beginning in late May. They also will screen at Tribeca Cinemas in Gotham.

Last year’s Tribeca fest featured more than 250 films from more than 40 countries.

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