Jueves 26 de Mayo de 2005, Ip nº 110

For $1 you, too, can be an executive producer
Por Charles Lyons

Fabrizio Fante and Eugene John Bellida dream of a world in which everyone has the power to greenlight a movie.
The young entrepreneur-filmmakers--who operate a pair of related Web sites, Moviesforthemasses.org and IBI Films--have been asking Internet visitors to vote for film projects by donating at least $1 toward any of a list of movie synopses, promising to put the money into the designated film and give every donor an executive producer credit.

Fante and Bellida say they aren't discouraged that they have raised only $2,500 since starting their Web sites in March, even though the movies' budgets range from $500,000 to $2 million. Nor are they deterred by the limited success that such democratic approaches to film finance have had in their surprisingly long history.

Ronald Bergan recounts in his biography of Jean Renoir that an announcement about "La Marseillaise" in L'Humanite on July 31, 1937, called the film "a landmark" and urged readers: "Support the production by subscribing two francs each, exchangeable for the price of a ticket when the film is shown in the theaters." Bergan said that Renoir and company were able to finance the film by preselling tickets, "though the money coming in was not as generous as they had envisaged."

As digital technology reduces the cost and difficulty of making a movie, and memories of the dot-com bust fade, entrepreneurs, some less quixotic than others, are again looking at ways to bring the economic power and global reach of the Web to bear on the always difficult matter of film finance. In the heady days of the late 1990s, the Internet buzzed with a number of gambits for distributing "content" directly to the consumer. But the Internet's bandwidth then wasn't big enough. "It was an interesting idea that happened way too early," said Ira Deutchman, president of Emerging Pictures and a professor of film at Columbia University. "But watching a movie on a small window on your computer screen, with the image continually stuttering the whole time, was less than desirable."

This time around, several players have been testing the waters with more modest plans to bypass studios and reach directly for the consumer by selling completed films on DVD.

"The new Hitchcock can know the names and addresses of people who are in their audience," said Peter Broderick, who has had some success in selling a picture directly via the Web without first releasing it in theaters. "The middlemen, who in the past have gotten 100 percent control of your movie and 90 percent of your profits, have been less essential."

Broderick is president of Paradigm, based in Los Angeles, which provides consulting services to filmmakers and media companies. Before forming the company, he served as a sales representative on Mark Neale's documentary "Faster," about the MotoGP, the Formula One of motorcycle racing. Following a splashy publicity stunt at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, which featured motorcycles roaring up the Croisette, Broderick encouraged Neale to retain video distribution rights and sell directly off his Web site, Fastermovie.com. Neale said he had sold about 20,000 DVDs before handing over distribution to an established company, New Video, which has sold 50,000 more.

It is standard, Broderick said, for a major home video distributor to offer filmmakers a royalty fee that amounts to 15 percent of net receipts. As he explained in an article he wrote for the Directors Guild of America magazine last year, a DVD that retails for $25 might have a wholesale price of $12.50, yielding $10.63 for the distributor and only $1.87 for the filmmaker. By self-distributing from a Web site, Broderick said, a filmmaker could make 10 times as much per unit.

Deutchman used just such a strategy in 2004 to distribute "This Old Cub," a documentary directed by Jeff Santo about his father, Ron Santo, the Chicago Cubs third baseman, who has diabetes. After distributing the film in Chicago theaters and five additional Midwestern states, Deutchman, a veteran of independent film, hired a team of interns to investigate how the Internet could help. "It was a very virile campaign," he said. "The outreach was to drive traffic to our Web site,Thisoldcub.com. Ultimately, we sold roughly 20,000 units at $24.95.

"Between digital technology and the DVD release through the Internet, we were able to put together a specific marketing campaign that enabled us to get to a specific niche audience that we knew how to reach," Deutchman said. "But this is not repeatable on every movie. Not every movie appeals to a niche."

Broderick is intrigued by opportunities created by the Internet in the international marketplace. "In the old days, people overseas wouldn't see your movie," he said. "But in the new model, anyone anywhere with a DVD and a credit card can buy your movie."

Fante and Bellida, both 32, still wait for donations to trickle in for prospective projects that include "Sumo-Size Me," about a man who eats only Chinese takeout for 30 days, a story apparently inspired by the documentary "Super Size Me," and "Freshkills," a crime story that takes its title from the landfill in Staten Island.

The pair have been careful to distinguish between investing and contributing. Their Web site includes this statement: "A donation to Movies for the Masses is neither an investment (there are no returns on your donation of any kind), nor a tax-deductible charitable contribution. It is simply a gift to this project."

Which makes things a lot easier all around. One lawyer, Allen Sussman, a partner in Morrison & Foerster and a specialist in securities law who once worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission, said, "It does not appear that the transaction would be a security that would be regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or state laws regulating securities transactions."

In discussing his and Fante's dream, Bellida accentuates the positive. "Today in Hollywood the decision of what films will be made only comes from a few people," he said. "But why shouldn't the community have more of an input? That's what Movies for the Masses is all about."


  22/05/2005. CNET News.com.


Comentarios

No hay comentarios sobre este artículo.

Tenés que estar registrado para enviar comentarios. Registrate aquí.

Si ya te registraste, ingresá tu Usuario y Contraseña aquí:
E-mail:
Contraseña: