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YouTube film contest winner revels in Web's possibility

Adriana Falcao of Brazil, who won a trip to the Sundance Film Festival as part of a YouTube film contest, says the experience has opened her up to the power of filmmaking for the Web.

PARK CITY, Utah--Adriana Falcao, the winner of a recent YouTube film competition, is no stranger to the film industry.

A professional author and screenwriter in her native Brazil, she's contributed to some 15 scripts, including A Maquina (The Machine), which screened at film festivals internationally, and Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, O (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation), which Brazil's Ministry of Culture submitted for the 2007 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

Adriana Falcao
Adriana Falcao readies for a night on the town on Friday night on Main Street in Park City, Utah, amid the Sundance Film Festival mania. Michelle Meyers/CNET

But Falcao is totally new to making films specifically for the Web, as she did with Lacos (Ties), the six-minute short that not only made her the winner of YouTube's Project Direct contest, it landed her a nine-day stay here at the Sundance Film Festival. Her expenses are being paid by Hewlett-Packard, which sponsored the contest. In addition to the trip, she'll get the opportunity to meet with Fox Searchlight Pictures production executives.

Never in her life did she think she'd end up at the Sundance Film Festival, said Falcao, who spoke through interpreter and friend Joana Braga, who's also involved in the Brazilian film industry. Unlike other film festivals, Sundance, she said, is considered more on the cutting edge of new media.

"This moved me and affected me so much," Falcao said through Braga, adding that she's now working on a film that relates to the way people use the Internet and is also planning other Web-based projects.

It was Falcao's 18-year-old daughter, Clarice, an actress, songwriter, singer, and YouTube aficionado, who first learned about contest. Project Direct is a followup to YouTube's similar competitions in the music and comedy realms, said YouTube spokeswoman Jennifer Nielsen.

Project Direct was limited to filmmakers in Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., for legal and other reasons, and entries had to be films created specifically for the contest. Judges included Juno director Jason Reitman and others from Fox Searchlight.

Clarice, who was interested in putting together a high-caliber entry for the contest, solicited her mother's help. Falcao said she was willing, so long as her daughter and the other cast member--a friend and former boyfriend of Clarice's--participated in the creative process. After getting feedback from the young actors on their visions for the piece, Falcao wrote a script in a day, while Clarice wrote and recorded an English language song to go with it.

Collegue Flavia Lacerda filmed the picture in one day, and they spent one day editing.

"The whole thing cost $500 and took three days." And it was quite a family effort. Falcao's 15-year-old daughter handled the very modest wardrobe.

Missing from Sundance, sadly, is Clarice, who couldn't get a visa in the month or so between when the contest results were announced and when Sundance began on Thursday.

What excites Falcao about the Internet medium is that it allows anyone--her maid included--to access to film. Many residents of the poor country can not afford to go to the cinema, she said.

And it helps residents of Brazil, one of Latin America's leaders in Internet use, feel less isolated from the rest of the world, she said. As for YouTube, it started off only popular among youth in Brazil. Now, however, Falcao's husband, a film director who is almost 50 years old, is hooked. So is her 90-year-old uncle. "His life is YouTube," she said, adding that every day her uncle sends her a link to view.