Small screen Gems

By Ad Published on .

As big bandwidth catches on big-time, the web is becoming an increasingly fertile ground for directors who seek to extend their talents to non-advertising work, or even for those aspiring to break into the commercials field. L.A.-based effects artists Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt, for example, dramatically improved their career possibilities when they strutted their moviemaking moxie on the web. On an ultra-shoestring budget of about $300, they created an effects-laden three-minute short, 405: The Movie. The mini-blockbuster depicts a runaway DC-10 making an emergency landing on Southern California's 405 freeway - on top of a Jeep Cherokee. Originally, Hunt and Branit launched the film on their own 405themovie.com, introducing it to friends and associates via a viral e-mail campaign. Within days, they heard from film site Ifilm.com, where they cut a non-exclusive deal to show their short. Soon afterward, Branit and Hunt left their day jobs and opened a production company called Strange Engine. More recently, they signed with A Band Apart for commercials representation.

Hunt says creating short films for the web and making commercials are two sides of the same coin. "We approached 405 with a commercials mentality," he explains. "Because of the limitations of the web, we knew it had to be short. It needed to be exciting and to get the idea across very quickly." Adds Branit, "In a sense, online films are much closer to commercials than they are to feature films."

Besides Ifilm.com, AtomFilms.com and MediaTrip.com are key venues for breaking into the short-film market. On Atom, coincidentally, the popular sexploitation saga Bikini Bandits was directed by Steven Grasse of Philadelphia's Gyro Advertising. The site also hosts work by online animation shop Jib Jab, founded by producer-director brothers Evan and Greg Spiridellis. The siblings signed onto Chelsea Pictures after their Capitol Ill interactive short, featuring a rapping George Bush and Al Gore, became popular with web surfers last fall.

Several production companies have also introduced short film festivals on their own sites. Crash Films (crashfilms.com) shows weekly mini-movies created by the company's directors. Executive producer Gary Ward says the site started as a sales tool to showcase reels, but it grew into something more. "It's a great way for directors to show what they can do on their own."

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