by Eugene Hernandez
In an ambitious stunt that underscores the passion and
creativity among emerging filmmakers, a self-proclaimed
"cyber-terrorist" is holding the Internet name to famed indie
producers-rep John Pierson's company, Grainy Pictures, hostage. The
incident, which sounds more like a segment from Pierson's television
show "Split Screen," reveals the lengths to which some are willing to go
to get the attention of people like Pierson, who can help jump start
their film projects as well as their careers.
Out of apparent frustration with John and Janet Pierson's refusal to
read the screenplay for his recently shot film, filmmaker Lee Michaels
registered the Internet domain names "johnpierson.com,"
"grainypictures.com" and "edgyfilms.com" and his holding them for
ransom. In a letter, dated April 4th, Michaels notified the Piersons
that he will not release the Internet names to them until they read his
screenplay and return, by overnight express, a ten question survey
proving their having read it.
On March 26th, following a request by Janet Pierson to register the
"grainypictures.com" Internet domain name, the administrator for the
Pierson's web service provider notified her that the names had been
taken by Michaels a few weeks earlier. Intent on setting up her
company's first website at the <grainypictures.com> domain name, she
sent a letter, dated March 31st, to Lee Michaels Productions. In it she
explained, "As you can see from the letterhead, we're incorporated as
Grainy Pictures and were hoping to set up a website under that name. Of
course, you got there first. Since it's a fairly new registration, we
just thought we'd write to see how committed you are or whether you'd
consider giving up the name to us."
Responding to the Pierson request in his April 4th correspondence,
Michaels wrote: "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Guru...I have taken John Pierson,
Grainy Pictures, and Edgy Films cyber hostage. If you check the net
under of these names, you will find a web page. I guess that makes me a
cyber terrorist." A sketch of Pierson tied to a chair is currently
posted at the http://www.grainypictures.com domain name, as well as at
the other site names Michaels registered.
In his April 4th letter, Michaels describes his movie, "Sex And Killing,"
as " a morality lesson disguised as a wacked out example of Venice
Beach. Almost every scene is thought provoking and designed to push
buttons. This film is also very funny." He closes the letter by writing,
"I hope you take my actions as a gesture of creativity and friendship.",
and adds the post-script, "The worst is you hate the script and you have
another wacked out story to tell. The best is you love it, you rep the
film, we go to festivals and prosper."
Clearly, John Pierson seems to have chosen the former option. During a
marketing seminar at the Avignon/New York Film Festival earlier this week, he
read from the letter and related the story to a laughing audience. Indeed,
Pierson tells indieWIRE, he has read the screenplay and that he finds
Michaels' stunt "amusing." Yet, as much as John and Janet Pierson are
impressed with the letters' creativity, they stop well short of
encouraging other filmmakers to go to such lengths to get their
attention. In fact, the Piersons' policy remains consistent -- while
they do not generally read scripts until further along in the process,
they openly accept videotape of filmmakers' work. John Pierson cautions,
however, that the turnaround time on submitted work these days is a bit
longer, now that Grainy Pictures is producing the "Split Screen"
Finally, reacting to Michaels' specific demands, John Pierson reveals
that he and Janet have yet to return the ten question survey. On the one
hand they are mildly disturbed at the fact that it must be returned by
overnight express -- Grainy Pictures relies on the far more economical
U.S. Postal Service (as they recommend all low-budget filmmakers
should). "We are demanding a more amusing 10 question quiz," Pierson
adds, "we refuse to answer this quiz -- its too dull."
In a telephone conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, Lee Michaels'
filmmaking partner, Greg Chamberlain, who concocted the
attention-getting scheme with Michaels, confirmed that they are willing
to consider amending the demand that the survey be returned by overnight
express. In an effort to break the stalemate, they will likely accept
its return by post or even electronic mail. Chamberlain added that he
and Michaels, who is out of town and unavailable for comment, created
the stunt "totally just for fun and not to offend [the Piersons]