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Entertainment Leaders Bow New Web Studio

21 Apr, 2008 By: Kyra Kudick

April 21 marks the launch of Filmaka (www.filmaka.com), a global digital entertainment studio and online community for aspiring filmmakers.

Founded by independent film producer Deepak Nayar (Bend It Like Beckham) and led by former Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow, who was responsible for such shows as “The Simpsons” and “The X-Files,” Filmaka provides professional opportunities to new filmmakers through a variety of online film competitions.

The competitions are open to any member of the online Filmaka community, and anyone can join the community for free. However, each film competition has strict guidelines for content and submission, essentially asking the filmmakers to create content on spec.

“Unlike all the user-generated stuff, which is obviously a bottom-up business where people go out, shoot stuff, upload it, and then hope and pray somebody watches it, we have brought a top-down process to the business of discovering talent and creating content,” Grushow said.

The original idea was to have just the one feature film competition over the course of a year, but “we didn't feel that having one contest was enough,” Grushow said. “To build a whole business on the back of one person making one feature film at the end of the year did not feel like a sustainable business model.”

So they came up with additional contests, including branded competitions to address the needs of advertisers in the burgeoning online market. Grushow said the idea came together after meetings with advertisers, who expressed a growing desire to move more money out of traditional media and onto the Web, but also were frustrated because the quality of the content was not high enough for them to want to associate their brands with it.

“It's got to be ad safe, and for a lot of these companies YouTube is not advertiser friendly,” Grushow said. “So we see an opportunity to be the preeminent company in terms of creating high-quality, low-cost content.”

With the branded competitions, advertisers pay Filmaka a community access fee, and Filmaka asks the community to create content from a creative brief on behalf of the advertiser. The idea is that the advertiser gets hundreds of films from which to choose to sponsor, and the filmmaker wins a professional opportunity and compensation.

Another type of opportunity comes from media companies. Currently FX has enlisted Filmaka to generate ideas for a new television series. Community members compete within the guidelines set by FX for the opportunity to win a $40,000 budget to create a 15-20 minute pilot episode.

“We are not a single payoff,” Nayar said. “We are in the business of discovering talent.”

Grushow added: “We don't view ourselves as a being a destination site. The only people we wish for it to be a destination for is filmmakers. We are a studio that is simply using [online] competitions as a means to an end. We are going to distribute our content as widely as we possibly can.”

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