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OTRC: Hugh Jackman to host free short film festival in New York

Hugh Jackman hosts the 81st Annual Academy Awards® at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CA Sunday, February 22, 2009 airing live on the ABC Television Network. (Michael Yada / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Hugh Jackman will be hosting the Tropfest short film festival in New York City's Bryant Park on Saturday, with the help of several celebrity judges.

Tropfest is being billed as the world's largest short film festival and will be free and open to the public. Jackman said in a statement to the Associated Press, "[If] you've got a mobile phone you can make a film, you can enter. 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 vote on the best film, actor and actress. The winner for best film will get $20,000 from The Motion Picture Association and a week of meetings with studio execs, agents and managers.

"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," Jackman 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 already been narrowed down to eight finalists, which are each required to feature the "Tropfest Signature Item," which was a bagel. The festival was started by director John Polson, 20 years ago in Australia.

Jackman, who is known for playing Wolverine in the "X-Men" franchise, said he wanted to promote the festival because he knows from experience how hard it can be to break into the entertainment industry.

"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.'"

Jackman, a Broadway vet who won a Tony Award for his role in "The Boy from Oz," finished a 10-week run of his one-man Broadway concert show on January 1. The show, called "Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway," earned more than $2 million in its final week.

Jackman is set to return to Broadway in 2013 to star in a musical about magician Harry Houdini. The story for the musical will be written by Oscar-winning writer Aaron Sorkin, known for writing "The Social Network" and creating "The West Wing," with music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner Stephen Schwartz, who penned the music and lyrics for the Broadway hit "Wicked."

Jackman married actress Deborra-Lee Furness in 1996. The couple adopted two children together - Oscar and Ava Eliot, 6.

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