RealTime IT News

Hollywood Honchos Mine Online Communities

An acclaimed movie producer and the former head of Fox Television Entertainment have built a new kind of studio that taps into an aspiring community of moviemakers on the Web to cultivate the next great talents.

Deepak Nayar, behind such films as "Buena Vista Social Club" and "Bend it Like Beckham," and Sandy Grushow, the former chairman of Fox Television Entertainment Group, are launching Filmaka on Monday after more than a year of testing the site and recruiting professional filmmakers worldwide.

As a business, Los Angeles-based Filmaka aims to build and represent a pool of talent as well as identifying and licensing entertainment for everything from Web series to television shows, advertising and movies.

The company's executives describe a new field for opportunity as some major movie studios trim their slates to rely on blockbuster titles and smaller film houses struggle with a cycle of buyouts or restructurings.

"There was a huge need in the marketplace for high-quality, low-cost content," Grushow, Filmaka's President, said in an interview. "It was maddeningly difficult to do it from the inside, and what I felt was we may have the opportunity to do it from the outside."

Filmaka already has begun to introduce the work of some of its members to well-known names in the industry. Brewer SAB Miller and cable network FX have also reached deals with Filmaka to create content for their marketing -- a deal that comes as online video ads are being seen as a potential gold mine for advertisers and publishers.

For aspiring movie makers, it offers a new entryway into the ranks of Hollywood, with a deal to introduce its top talent to the William Morris Agency for possible representation. To date, Filmaka has received submissions from nearly 3,600 filmmakers spanning 95 countries.

The site also solicits short video clips for a competition judged by some of the industry's biggest names -- directors Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Paul Schrader -- as well as an audience of regular Web users.

Next week, the site will announce a winner of its film contest, who will direct a feature film produced by Filmaka. Finalists include a suspenseful clip from the UK about a secret agent who uses his fine sense of smell to memorize classified information, only to botch his job when he mixes up the data with nostalgic scent memories of his lover.

"We are in the business of getting behind the talent and building their careers," Nayar told Reuters. "This is a place for anybody from anywhere in the world to have that opportunity."

Filmaka is also working on a local language site for India and considering a similar venture for Japan. It is producing some 40 Web series with filmmakers from 10 countries.