updated 1/30/2008 6:20:21 PM ET 2008-01-30T23:20:21

Organizers of the Cinequest Film Festival have turned to file-sharing in an effort to attract a broader array of participants.

But the software they chose also enables illegal sharing of movies, music, software and other content. And that raises the ironic prospect of an up-and-coming filmmaker getting a legitimate distribution deal after succeeding at Cinequest, only to see his future work traded illegally using the same software that gave him his break.

Cinequest co-founder and executive director Halfdan Hussey says pushing the envelope for new distribution models is a risk he and young filmmakers are willing to take.

Filmmaking is less expensive now, and so are the means to reach the audience.

"The access barrier has been brought way down now. So many people can step over that barrier," Hussey said Tuesday at the soiree launching this year's festival. "You don't lose money by expanding awareness of your work."

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Vuze, Inc. is handling the technology for the online "Viewer's Voice" feature for Cinequest. Vuze users can view the films and vote on the their favorites. The Cinequest organizers then use a combination of ratings and total download figures to select one full-length film and one short to add to their lineup.

"If that gets you a deal and down the road a few people get a few freebies, I think it ultimately just enhances their value," Hussey said.

"No artists have ever starved because too many people knew about them," he added.

The annual festival, now in its 18th year, runs from Feb. 27 to March 9 in San Jose.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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