The DTVs do attract many, aside from actors, in the creative community looking to get the big directing break or to escape the more hands-on treatment of the networks on television movies. "Frankly, I'd rather do one of those than a regular movie of the week," says writer-director Richard Kletter. "They're less predictable, and you have quite a bit of creative freedom. You can afford to be a bit more daring."
To remain daring and different, with the glut of DTVs, is the current challenge. "There will be a market for these as long as we give them product that separates itself from the mainstream," says Mark Damon. "It has to have a good look, and be shot with some quality."
"Definitely the quality you need now is higher than we used to get away with," agrees Sundep Shah, executive vice president of Imperial ("Ulterior Motives," "Wild Cactus"). "The market for the low end of the direct-to-videos is dwindling, and the video stores and customers demand . . . better."
Blockbuster, the king of the video chains, says that it's hungry for the product but that there must be something inside the jazzy box. "We believe in that genre; in fact we are promoting bigger-budget direct-to-videos," says Ron Castell, senior vice president. "We don't buy everything: We ask is there any star power at all, is there any kind of marketing behind it? Generally, these movies have done well for us, and we especially like to see them come when theatrical releases are skinny. We ask our managers to talk them up and create word of mouth."