By ALICIA RANCILIO, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Hugh Jackman wants anyone with a cell phone to get a chance to break in to show business.
The actor is hosting New York's first installment of Tropfest, billed as the world's largest short film festival. It's free and open to the public.
"Forget it, (if) you've got a mobile phone you can make a film, you can enter," Jackman said. "It's a great way for me to support the arts and anybody who wants to can get involved."
A panel of celebrity judges including Rose Byrne, Judah Friedlander and Jennifer Westfeldt will pick best film, actor and actress on Saturday in Bryant Park.
The films showcased at Tropfest may be short (they must all be under seven minutes) but they've led to some impressive success stories. The idea for the FX series "Wilfred" starring Elijah Wood came from Tropfest. Sam Worthington of "Avatar" won Best Actor in 2000.
Jackman recently received a special Tony for his "contributions to the Broadway community" and "personal generosity of spirit." With Tropfest, he's reaching out to filmmakers.
"The movies are not judged on technical merit because that's one way to make film very elitist. It's not so much about that or the quality of the lens but more the strength of the idea and the concept," he said. "Previously it's people who may have been excluded or may not have the money but they have the talent and here they can show it."
The entries have been narrowed down to eight finalists — each required to have a Tropfest Signature Item. (The required item for New York's first Tropfest? A bagel.)
Tropfest, the brainchild of director John Polson, started 20 years ago in Australia and now draws more than 150,000 attendees each year. The winner for best film gets $20,000 from The Motion Picture Association and a week of meetings with studio execs, agents and managers.
Jackman says it's a no brainer for someone who wants to break into showbiz.
"When I first graduated from drama school I knew the statistics that 98 percent of actors were unemployed. I vowed to myself that every day I would do something for my career. I wasn't going to sit back. I was going to actively get out there and participate," he said. "Here is a way that anyone can contribute. There's no whining, 'But I'm a filmmaker it's so difficult, I can't get an agent.'"
Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.