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in Filmmaking
on Feb 7, 2008

Over at Wired.com, Megan McCarthy has an article about Dealipedia, a new start-up from Michael Robertson, who previously founded MP3.com, which he sold to Vivendi in 2001.

From the piece:

Michael Robertson, who made $115 million when he sold his startup MP3.com to Vivendi in 2001, wants every other entrepreneur to tell the world how much, or little, they pocketed during their business deals.

His new site, the recently launched Dealipedia, aims to become a hub of information about mergers, investments, acquisitions, and other business deals by encouraging the people in on the deals to upload information to its public wiki. The goal is to help entrepreneurs, VCs, and other curious parties understand what goes on behind the scenes of the business world….

As for the reliability of anonymous contributions, Robertson is relying on a communal intelligence. “We’re a wiki model, so we’re depending on the wisdom of crowds,” Robertson said. “If somebody types in that my company, MP3.com, was sold for $200 million, I’m going to say, ‘Like hell it was, it was sold for $385 million!’ People have a vested interest in making sure the data is accurate.”

Way back in 1995, Ted Hope wrote an article for Filmmaker entitled “Indie Film is Dead,” and one of his ten bullet points was the following:

The film industry, like all others, mystifies by design. All industries create their own vernacular, keeping the have-nots clouded in confusion. Variety takes this talent to an art form. The neophyte needs a class in how to read the trades, let alone understand them. Where is the information when you need it? Whether it’s a rolodex or a financial chart, good luck in getting up-to-date info. The industry promotes a paranoia and close-to-the-chest confidentiality in all its’ parishioners, whispering that if you don’t leap in, you’ll be out forever.

From the looks of various indie film business plans I occasionally review, Hope’s point is still valid: solid information on the financial returns of independent films is near-impossible to get. Although the wiki model has its obvious drawbacks when it comes to accumulating business data about independent films, it also has its benefits in that the dirty laundry that would come out about deals gone wrong, missed payments, and defaulting distributors would be authored by a neutral-seeming voice.

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