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Finding the next films

Finding the next films -- Producers turn to the internet to find unknown screenwriters and directors

Finding the next films

Forget film school and Sundance. These days, the shortcut to Hollywood is via the Web. ”We [used to] look at commercials and music videos,” says United Talent Agency’s Julien Thuan. ”Now we look at the Internet. It’s the new place to find filmmakers.”

Using a variety of sites that specialize in shorts and animation, tomorrow’s Tarantinos are making movies for Net audiences. Websites like AtomFilms.com, IFILM.com, icebox.com, and MediaTrip.com are not only capturing an increasing number of viewers, but also funneling talent to the studios. And the number of agents and execs screening the Web for talent is growing fastand bearing fruit.

The best example of how the Web can fast-track a filmmaking career features the somewhat improbable story of Bruce Branit, 33, and Jeremy Hunt, 26, who were working at the LAX-adjacent offices of Digital Muse, doing visual F/X for The X-Files and Star Trek: Voyager, when a colleague asked whether an airplane could land on a freeway. Branit and Hunt decided to find out. They took $300 and lots of borrowed film equipment and shot 405 (ifilm.com), a three-minute live-action film in which a 747 appears to land on a San Diego freeway — the 405 — atop a sport-utility vehicle. They posted the short on their website Monday, June 5. By Tuesday, they were flooded with admiring e-mails. On Wednesday, they were contacted by IFILM.com and asked to post their movie. A week later, the two had an agent from Creative Artists Agency. Quentin Tarantino’s A Band Apart film company has hired them to direct commercials and music videos.

Other success stories:

Greg Coolidge, 27, and Joe Jarvis, 29, were wannabe filmmakers from Norman, Okla. As writers, they’d sold New Line a coming-of-age spec script about life in high school, called Truth or Dare. But they wanted to direct and produce, and no one was biting. So they took $10,000 of their spec money and made the short Queen for a Day (atomfilms.com). AtomFilms.com purchased and posted it, and their phones started ringing. First, Disney bought a comedy pitch, this one about life in college, called Dogcatcher, then hired them to write someone else’s pitch, First, Last & Security. And as the result of a partnership between AtomFilms and Century Theatres, Queen for a Day is headed for movie theaters.

Peter Gilstrap and Mark Brooks, creators of the animated series Lil’ Pimp (www.mediatrip.com), made a deal with Revolution Studios to turn their series into a feature.

M.J. Butler’s wacky webisode The Real Whatever (www.twisted mojo.com) caught the eye of Bob Cooper and Jeff Wachtel’s EzFlix, and could become a full-season series for the Web and TV.

These discoveries aren’t accidental. AtomFilms and IFILM, the biggest of the short-film sites, are actively working to find new names. IFILM created Screening Network to bring filmmakers more directly to Hollywood’s attention: Clients — including the top five film and TV agencies — get a 14-day exclusive look at new material before the rest of IFILM’s audience sees it. Similarly, AtomFilms has created Atom Talent pages, where filmmakers pitch their own work to agencies, studios, and colleagues over Atom’s network of more than 1.5 million registered users. Says Atom founder and CEO Mika Salmi: ”Hollywood lacks a farm system [”beyond”] music videos and indie films and TV commercials. There’s a huge need for this.”

Charles Fleming, author of High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess, covers the entertainment industry for IFILM.com.