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in Filmmaking
on Jan 13, 2008

Joseph Menn has written an article for the Los Angeles Times demonstrating that the hype about new internet content start-ups during the WGA strike is more than just talk.

From the piece:

At least three start-ups, each with a different business approach, are unveiling their corporate monikers and the names of their founders as they intensify the search for venture capital and top management. With names such as Hollywood Disrupted and Virtual Artists Inc., these new ventures have lured investors such as the Oscar-winning writer of “Rain Man” and the Emmy-winning scribe behind “Homicide,” along with prominent software developers and technology executives….

“We should show the studios some gratitude for getting us together,” said “Rain Man” coauthor Ron Bass, a member of the WGA’s negotiating committee and an investor and director of Virtual Artists. “This is not just an Internet play, but the beginning of what the future is going to look like.”

About 20 entertainment and software writers are investing an average of $10,000 for a chunk of Virtual Artists. Co-founded by Aaron Mendelsohn, a screenwriter who created “Air Bud,” Virtual Artists plans to fund projects as varied as shorts and feature-length movies. Its other investors include star television writer Tom Fontana of “Homicide” and “Oz”; “Hotel Rwanda” co-writer and director Terry George; “Chicken Run” screenplay author Karey Kirkpatrick; and John Logan, writer of “Sweeney Todd” and “The Aviator.” Susannah Grant, who wrote “Erin Brockovich,” and Warren Leight, who runs the TV show “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” also have agreed to invest.

Later in the article Menn discusses the business plans of Hollywood Disrupted (“…a marketplace for the creative community as well as a launching pad for completed work”) and Founders Media Group, which plans to “form a series of companies with writers and other creators. Each venture would zero in on a particular niche audience on the Web.”

Liz Gannes at NewTeeVee.com covers Virtual Artists as well.

From Gannes’s piece:

Mendelsohn has his elevator pitch down cold: “We are a coalition of top film and television writers and top tech innovators who are dedicated to creating and delivering professionally made content directly to the end user, and who believe in the model of freedom and inclusiveness over the model of control that has been employed by the big media conglomerates for the past 100 years,” he told NewTeeVee this week.

The strike, Mendelsohn said, has been crucial to the project’s inspiration in more ways than one: “Otherwise we’re all just too damn busy rowing the boat.”

Virtual Artists will offer professional writers deals to develop and produce films, TV shows and shorts for a reduced fee but a larger ownership stake. It will also look to acquire content. Mendelsohn said he was primarily targeting the 12,000 members of the WGA, “But if there’s a great movie that’s created by some kid in Iowa or Beirut who has a real gift for storytelling, we’re definitely going to be looking for the gems out there.”

NewTeeVee.com has other pieces covering this space. Here’s one on 60 Frames and Blowtorch.

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