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Cybertainment

Sites Can Open Hollywood's Doors to Filmmakers, Writers

October 20, 2000|MICHELE BOTWIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Everyone knows how difficult it can be for filmmakers to break into Hollywood. But now a number of Web sites can help newcomers leap over the usual industry barriers.

While many sites demand money to consider submissions, the better ones, which tend to be well connected to studios and high-level executives, do not charge fees. Instead, they are on the lookout for unique projects and talented individuals.

Sites such as Nibblebox.com, AtomFilms.com and ProjectGreenlight.com are not completely altruistic, of course. In exchange for offering some level of assistance--such as equipment, compensation or exposure--they may require certain creative or distribution rights.

Nibblebox.com (http://www.nibblebox.com), co-founded by director Doug Liman ("Swingers," "Go"), former NBC executive Dave Bartis and Internet entrepreneur Elizabeth Hamburg, officially launched last month. The site provides an appealing slate of resources mainly geared to college students, including access to cameras and software and the opportunity to work closely with mentors from the industry, including Amy Heckerling ("Clueless," "Loser"), Steven Soderbergh ("Erin Brockovich") and Wally Wolodarsky ("The Simpsons").

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 21, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Contest rules--The Cybertainment column in Friday's Calendar incorrectly stated that the screenplay contest at ProjectGreenlight.com is open to any U.S. resident over the age of 18. In fact, there are some restrictions directed at people who are deemed professionals by virtue of having credits as a TV or movie writer, producer or director.

"A big part of our model is to reach out beyond Hollywood, to reach creative people who have potential but limited access and tools," Bartis said. "At the same time, we're pretty selective about what kind of shows make it through the development process."

In particular, the site is focused on developing episodic programs, including game shows, which may be appropriate to move from the Internet to broadcast television, cable or film.

Creators interested in signing on with Nibblebox should have ideas that are irreverent, smart and innovative, as well as cost-effective, realistic to produce and able to run in at least 12 short installments, Bartis said. People should also be aware that pay is limited to no more than a few thousand dollars per episode and partial distribution rights, Bartis added.

Currently, the site features eight shows, or nibbles, including two playful live-action comedies, "Sorority Crime Fighters" and "Virtual Rob," culled from two sets of USC students, and "Muffin Films," a quirky animated series about muffins, from UCLA film school graduate Amy Winfrey.

AtomFilms (http://www.atomfilms.com), founded by former RealNetworks executive Mika Salmi in 1998, accepts submissions for short films of all genres, provided they are less than 40 minutes in length and are available for commercial distribution. The site syndicates its films with more than 100 outlets, including TV networks (HBO, Sci-Fi Channel), airlines (United, Continental), technology companies (Intel) and entertainment sites (Entertaindom.com). AtomFilms' robust roster includes the feisty live-action flick "Bikini Bandits" and "10 Items or Less," a new comedy series starring Michael Rapaport and Adam Goldberg.

Project Greenlight (http://www.projectgreenlight.com) was recently launched by Miramax, HBO, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Chris Moore.

Since last month, the site has been running a contest in which any U.S. resident over the age of 18 can submit a screenplay online. The winner, who will be selected by an intense process that includes reviews from visitors to the site, will get to direct his or her film, which will be financed by Miramax with a $1-million budget and executive-produced by Damon, Affleck and Moore. In addition, HBO will air a 13-part documentary series on the making of the movie. The deadline for submission is Sunday. The winner is scheduled to be announced March 1, 2001.

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Michele Botwin can be reached at michele.botwin@latimes.com.

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