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Ford car making guest appearances in short films

AtomFilms and the automaker are co-producing short films written and directed by emerging artists--as long as the Ford Focus makes a cameo appearance.

The deal: AtomFilms and Ford Motor are co-producing short films written and directed by emerging artists.

The catch: The automaker's Focus model must make a cameo appearance.

Ford chose four budding filmmakers affiliated with AtomFilms to create the mini-movies that will be released this week online and in Park City, Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival is taking place.

The arrangement could signal the way companies are attempting to use Web entertainment to make profits beyond traditional banner ads. Financial details of the deal were unavailable, although an AtomFilms representative described it as a "six figure" project.

Regardless of the price tag, struggling filmmakers such as Morgan Lawley said they are grateful for the opportunity to create a video without having to pay for production costs themselves.

"It's something that's being done all the time in the theaters," Lawley said. "It's just product placement. But it's nice not to have to pay for it out of your own pocket."

Ford placed few conditions on the project other than that the car had to appear at least once in the movie. The short films are featured in a special area on AtomFilms' Web site.

Lawley decided to base her story on the car. Her star in "Little Man on Campus" is a short, geeky teenage boy who tries to win the keys to a new car before his 16th birthday. Trouble is, his dad wants him to join a sport at school before buying the car. When the boy, Archie, doesn't make any teams, he steals his dad's used Ford Focus to pick up a tall cheerleader for a date.

"It's not like a long commercial," she said. "Unless you know it's sponsored by Ford, there is no way to tell the car is a Focus."

AtomFilms recently became part of entertainment Web site The combined company is based in San Francisco.