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Hugh Jackman to host short film festival open to the public

Hugh Jackman poses with Tony Award in the press room during the 66th Annual Tony Awards at the The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan on June 10, 2012, in New York. Pictures: Tony Awards 2012 red carpet Pictures: Tony Awards 2012 show highlights Special Section: The 2012 Tony Awards
Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Hugh Jackman poses in the press room during the 66th Annual Tony Awards on June 10, 2012, in New York.

(CBS/AP) Hugh Jackman is hosting New York's first installment of Tropfest, billed as the world's largest short film festival - and 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."

Pictures: Hugh Jackman

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 at the festival.

"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.