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FourSight Foresees Promising Market for Film Classmates

May 17, 2000|SARAH WOODWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tony Diamond, an aspiring commercial director then seven months shy of a USC School of Cinema-Television degree, was skeptical when four of his classmates, calling themselves FourSight Entertainment, offered to act as his managers.

"If I can't make the connections, how can they?" said Diamond, 22.

A student with no better options, Diamond signed with FourSight in November. Now, graduate Diamond has a housekeeping deal at No Prisoners, a visual effects and production company. There's no cash in the deal, but Diamond credits FourSight with launching his career.

Fortunately for FourSight, wannabes are easy to please. The new management company takes anxious students willing to work cheap and gets them jobs by positioning their company as the gatekeepers for really young talent. If these four college guys prove they can spot stars, they could be the next hot thing.

Their chances sound slim, but some in Hollywood already have taken notice. FourSight has a producer/mentor, industry-savvy attorneys and an alliance with an Internet firm.

Plucking raw talent from USC's 1,350 graduate and undergraduate film students, FourSight was launched last fall out of the apartments of partners Jonathan Abrams, 21; Jeremy Bell, 21; George F. Heller, 21; and Michael Lasker, 20.

"We're right in the middle of the youth market," Heller said, "so we know something the others don't."

So far, six aspiring screenwriters and directors have signed on as clients, and several more classmates are lining up for representation. The company also maintains http://www.foursight.com, a resource for filmmakers, and is trying to expand its turf via other colleges. Trips to Stanford University and the University of Texas in Austin were set up to scout talent.

Bender-Spink, a management company launched by two twenty-something guys with a slice of credit for last summer's teen hit "American Pie" and a first-look deal at New Line Cinema, have been FourSight's earliest champions.

In exchange for nothing more remunerative than advice and access to their West Hollywood office, Bender-Spink has the option to produce the projects FourSight is developing with its clients. Said J.C. Spink, 27: "If we help them, we figure they'll look to us. Sometimes those things pay off." Added Chris Bender, 28: "Hollywood is a business about relationships."

A former manager with Zide Entertainment (now Zide/Perry Entertainment), Bender first met Heller when the teenage scribe was looking for a manager of his own. After Heller arrived at USC, he started sending Bender scripts written by his classmates.

Bender introduced FourSight to the attorneys at Colden McKuin Frankel, who signed on to help as well. "Basically, I'm betting on their success," said Jeff Frankel, 35. "All people are talking about is Gen-Y. Who better to tap that market than four guys in film school?"

Ifilm, an Internet entertainment company, has asked FourSight to scout talent for its Web sites. In March, the firm began screening Diamond's self-produced project, a spec commercial for the "Got Milk?" campaign.

In spite of FourSight's modest success, not everyone on the USC faculty is certain splitting time between Hollywood and homework is a good idea. Drew Casper, USC critical studies professor, acknowledges the disapproval of some colleagues but thinks it is unfounded. "Kids get out of school and they find doors closed. Some of them, not all, but some have pretty good stuff. These guys are working for that shadow kingdom, getting doors to open. They're tapping a market that kind of falls through the cracks."

Now if they could just get Diamond a paycheck.

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