NEW YORK — Hugh Jackman is coming to Bryant Park next month as the host of the world's largest small film festival.
Film submissions are closing for the international phenomenon known as Tropfest, which will screen in the park June 23.
It's the 20th year of the free festival, which started in a tiny cafe in Sydney, Australia and now draws crowds 100,000 strong.
"It is a universal concept to see great short films by emerging directors... for free," said the festival's founder John Polson, an Australian-born but Carroll Gardens-dwelling director.
"It is a no-brainer when you think about it."
When 200 people showed up in 1992 to an informal short film screening at Sydney's Tropicana Cafe, Polson, 46, realized the demand. Now Tropfest fills a huge open space each year in Sydney with about 100,000 people, some arriving hours early to grab their piece of grass for a night of short films.
Tropfest also helped launch careers, with "Avatar" star Sam Worthington and Joel Edgerton from "Warrior" both starring in a Tropfest film in their younger years.
Last year, the festival expanded out of Sydney with the launch of Tropfest Arabia. This year, it is coming to New York and Las Vegas, and 2013 will see Tropfests pop up in New Zealand, Paris, China and Southeast Asia.
"We sort of live in a world where if you don’t have millions of dollars to make a film you can’t make a film," said Polson, who has directed numerous films and television series including "Blue Blood" and "The Mentalist."
"[Tropfest] enables filmmakers to say, 'For a couple of hundred bucks and a mobile phone I can make a film that connects with a large audience."
Entrants come with a range of budgets, from shoestring to high-end productions that spend more than $100,000. However, raw talent always rises to the top, according to Polson.
"If it does have a point and a great performance, we take it head and shoulders above the other films," he said. "That is what matters."
Polson also warns filmmakers against unnecessarily filling the entire seven minute limit.
"Many of our winners have been much shorter," he said. "Three minutes is six television commercials, so that is a long time."
For this New York Tropfest, filmmakers have until May 10 to submit their films with a $35 fee, or May 17 for $50.
Another aspect that matters is why the film was made. Rather than shorts that travel the circuit of numerous film festivals, a Tropfest film is made specifically for this screening.
When Polson realized early in the festival's life that directors were submitting old work, he created a mandatory "Tropfest Signature Item." This year, each New York entry has to feature a bagel.
The TSI changes each year and with each festival.
"A bagel needs to be on a desk or in the background or it could be in the dialogue," said Polson.
On the June 23 evening when Trofest does launch in New York, festival goers can expect some yet-to-be-announced bands and a D.J starting from 3 p.m.
"X-Men" star Hugh Jackman kicks off the main show at about 7:30 p.m.