BIZ: How's Your Dotcom Treating You? Part 6
by Alan and Smithee
Two filmmakers, in the midst of the current dotcom frenzy, have agreed to share their email correspondences on the subject with indieWIRE in a continuing segment called "How's Your Dotcom Treating You?" To protect their privacy, the filmmakers (one with a deal at AtomFilms, the other with a pending spot at Pop.com) have decided to remain anonymous as they tread the muddy waters of the new dotcom business, trying to find the best place for their short, the most money and the widest exposure. Their conversation continues, debating Pop.com's delayed launch and recently reported restructuring, and how to leverage short film play into feature film deals.
I just read today's article about Pop.com in Inside.com. It is very telling and you should read it right now.com. . .
Inside.com - June 3, 2000, by Chris Petrikin
Apart from raising questions about the company and site as a whole, including their uncertain strategy, the following aspects hit me in the face:
- Pop.com considered merging with their biggest competitor(AtomFilms) BEFORE even launching.
- Celebrity names expected to sign, and have not done so.
- If they bought six short films for $100,000, then maybe you can get a $10-20,000 advance for your film (if you can't, then maybe you should insist on non-exclusivity, which apparently they DO offer, for audience-submitted films).
- In a contradictory passage, they say they have spent only $500-$5,000 per film.
- Do you want your film tied up in unexposed limbo, while Pop decides WHEN, or indeed IF, their site will launch?
Have you signed yet? Can you still reconsider? What reassurance can they offer you after an article like this? How are they behaving with you right now? Do they seem distracted or unsure?
I read the article and it doesn't seem too far off-base in that Pop is a bold idea whose time may never come. And it's somewhat depressing to learn that they are paying many thousands for some films and giving others crappy deals -- even for films like mine that they tell me they really, really want. And as for keeping my film in limbo -- no, I do not want that.
I called them and asked what their plans are. They admitted that there is restructuring going on, but that it's not a shipwreck, just that they want to get it right and have to iron out kinks. They do seem a little unsure about how things will end up, but they seem sure that they WILL come together. Nothing is inked yet, but Alan, I've gotten to the point where I WANT to ink, come hell or high water. I want to be done with the decision and go to the see-what-happens phase. Don't you, even on my behalf?
It's hard to imagine that they won't follow through, given that many millions of dollars have already been spent structuring the company, even if that structure isn't fully laid out yet. This, of course, begs the question: if they've spent millions on the company, than why must they have spent only hundreds on films? How about some money for their lifeblood, their content providers? Are they really spending many thousands on some films and not telling me?
But there comes a point in any negotiation where you don't want to keep going back and forth. I don't want to be stuck in limbo, but part of my attraction to Pop is that when they launch (when!), I will be part of that hoopla.
Theoretically. If you were me, though, would you still go with an already-launched company? But consider this -- do you really think Atom looked like a strong company in the months before they started? People probably thought they were totally clueless as well. And are they?
I understand your impatience, and yes, I am intrigued to see what will happen after you sign with Pop.com. But, as a friend, I don't want to see you making a negative or impulsive decision. If you were buying a lovely looking car and the seller said the hood was locked and you could not look at the engine, would the beauty of the bodywork make you buy it on trust? I think, in my case, it might. But that doesn't mean it would be a good idea. As absolutely NOTHING is going to happen for you until the site launches, wouldn't it be better advised to hold out on signing until at least they have a date set? That way, if something MUCH BETTER comes along in the meantime (things change pretty fast in this business) you can still bail without being trapped.
On my side, I have been talking to AtomFilms about doing a press release about the recent VERY BIG sale of my short. The trick is to find a way to make it print-worthy without mentioning the name of the buyer -- which would set an uncomfortable precedent for future buying negotiations.
After reading about 200 crappy feature scripts -- none of them passed on to me by a dotcom -- I've decided it's time for me to face my demons and sit down and concoct my own. Today I signed a contract to rent a small office nearby. I'm hoping that the financial commitment and spatial displacement will help me focus and use the summer to churn out a beautiful film, or perhaps even two, on paper. If I manage this daunting task, I'll be very interested to see how the various dotcom connections (which now seem to have their fingers in ALL the industry pies) can help connect the dots in getting the movie made.
I know this is what you are hoping from Pop.com, and I must admit, I'm beginning to hear success stories of short filmmakers (under five foot six) who have been given three picture deals with studios, deals spun effectively by their dotcom-comrades' hype machines.
Be bold... Try to get the feature deal as a condition of your short film contract?
I'd put my feature deal in the contract but that would only make sense if I had a feature in pocket. But I have a strange thing going on --having just been flown to L.A. to receive a big prize for my new short film, I have a conflict of interests.... because I want to ACT. These short films are a good test of the power of connections:
Can I turn a dotcom/short film success into a meeting where I can request anything -- like, an audition with Spielberg? Or a three-picture deal as director? Or both?
Prizes, unfortunately, do not lead me to piles of babes and my phone ringing off the hook with calls from studio heads. Instead, what I get are low-level executives, headhunters, junior agents and other 22-year-old guys in khaki pants and expensive sunglasses calling me to try to catch my rising star. My message machine is full of people who know nothing -- they may work at Fox or CAA, but they are powerless.
On the other hand, if I make the phone calls to bigger fish in the feeding chain, bigger fish than me, now I get my phone calls returned. That's the big difference. Suddenly I'm real because I'm in the trades. I think, to be surrounded by babes, I need to walk around with a sign saying that I'm a player. I suppose that's what expensive cars are for. My economy-rental putting through L.A. is more my style though. The lesson: get back to work.
I'm so glad you're going to be turning your overactive brain to writing for awhile. It's about time. This hustling thing can't be the whole deal.
So, Alan.... can I audition for you?
By the way, no ink yet with Pop. And now it's starting all over with the new film, before I've even closed the last. Reelshort, Pop, Atom, and the WallawallaFilmFestival are all calling about the new film. So I say to an unclosed deal with Pop -- you want some of this future action? Then do me right on the last one.