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Tribeca Blog: Rossellini Catches the Digital Bug

Isabella At 56, actor Isabella Rossellini has all the youth, charm and grace that she had in Blue Velvet, but at the Tribeca Festival panel on The Future of New Media on Friday, she also demonstrated an unlikely knowledge of digital media and insect pornography.

At the 5-person panel on new media sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter, ex-L'Oréal model Rossellini discussed Green Porno, her series of short films that will appear at the Tribeca Film Festival, on the Sundance Channel website and on mobile phone screens. Green Porno will feature none other than Rossellini simulating bizarre, fully-clothed copulation with giant cartoonish critter mates.

“I found it very liberating to tell these stories,” said Rossellini. “Except the screens are so short that it can be very distracting to watch.”

The Future of New Media panel was not about mating bugs, however, but about the embryonic transition of entertainment into digital mediums. The 5 panelists included Rossellini; Gaurav Dhillon, the CEO of Jaman.com; Rick Cotton, executive vice president of NBC Universal and the chairman of the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy; and Jason Hirschhorn, president of Sling Media. The panel was moderated by Georg Szalai, New York bureau chief and business editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

The panel consensus was that although artists have global exposure at their fingertips in the world of digital entertainment, money is difficult to contain due to piracy, the popularity of small-scale productions as opposed to high paying gigs, and a general lack of business savvy. Even Rossellini, who received $75,000 from Robert Redford for the implementation of Green Porno, salvaged only $3,000 for herself after writing, directing, producing, and starring in the films. The royalties, like the phone screens, are projected to be tiny.

"It was amusing for me to make Green Porno,” she said. “But I feel sorry for people who are really trying to make a living [in new media], because it’s just not there.”

Panelist Jason Hirschhorn said the most successful new media artists have a sense of “monetizing” web products--that is, maintaining control over copyright, licensing, advertisement, subscription, and all the exhaustive things that constitute making a profit.

“Artists who use the web are starting to become entrepreneurial,” said Hirschhorn. “Or else, actors will have to be like Samuel L. Jackson and do like a thousand movies a year.”

Overall, however, the affect of new media on actors, writers and producers seems relatively unknown. Panelist Rick Cotton described the “digital ecosystem” as so spanking new that its rules are up-for-grabs.

“We are in such a transitional moment that everyone is trying to solve a puzzle and find out who’s good at this,” said Cotton. “Whether it’s the next writer or actor or producer, everyone’s looking.”

As the panelists hashed out the minutiae of legalities, moderator Szalai tried to funnel attention back to Rossellini, who, aside from being the prettiest of the male-dominated panel,  also ensured the laughs.

When asked if she would take the Green Porno series farther, she responded in her famously refined European accent: "Oh yes, I would make a whole new series where I make love to clams!”

Green Porno can be seen April 30 and May 4 at the Tribeca Film Festival. For more information visit http://www.sundancechannel.com/greenporno. (Photo Caption: Isabella Rossellini in Green Porno, courtesy Tribeca Film Festival)

--Halley Bondy

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