Madison + Vine: Chrysler offers up series to networks

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DaimlerChrysler is in discussions with cable and broadcast networks about turning its film-festival contest into a limited-run TV reality series.

The car marketer has just wrapped up its 10-month-long competition for prospective moviemakers called the "Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival." Universal Studios and Chrysler sponsored the contest, which was created by production company Hypnotic, along with Omnicom Group's Arnell Group and BBDO, Detroit. The contest is also featured online at chrsylermdff.com.

Now Chrysler, Universal and Hypnotic are signing up for year two of the promotion. According to Doug Scott, exec VP-marketing for Hypnotic, the parties are talking to Vivendi Universal's USA Networks, News Corp.'s FX, Cablevision System's AMC and Comcast's E! about a TV series based on the film festival. Two broadcast networks are also interested, said Mr. Scott, although he declined to disclose them.

USA Networks would be a natural partner since Universal is a sibling in Vivendi Universal Entertainment. However, a spokesman said the network is not interested in the series at this time. An AMC spokeswoman said the network has had some discussions about the series.

The winner of the just-concluded contest, Jeff Wadlow, was chosen from among 25 filmmakers. Mr. Wadlow will direct a feature to be distributed by Universal Studios' Universal Pictures division that will prominently feature Chrysler cars.

The plan for the reality series is to follow the second contest-a 10-month process of selecting 10 filmmakers. The program would follow their travails in putting together a five-minute film that would include one of two Chrysler models: the new Crossfire sports car, or the hybrid SUV Pacifica. Five filmmakers would be selected to enter a final round, and the winner will develop a $1 million feature film.

Mr. Scott sees this TV series "as much more of a hands-on competitive show, rather than a `Project Greenlight,' which was more of a glamorous making of [a movie]."

one-upping bmw

The Chrysler effort, according to some observers, is part HBO's "Project Greenlight" and part BMW Films. "Project Greenlight" was an effort of Miramax Television and producers/actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to find the next big up-and-coming film director. The program ran as a limited HBO series with brewer Sam Adams as sponsor. BMW Films' Internet- focused effort gives noted professional filmmakers a venue to develop short films.

Chrysler is looking to deepen its involvement with the film festival, and one-up BMW, by adding a TV show which could start in 2004 to the Internet component of the contest and feature-length film.

A Chrysler TV show could potentially have lots of competition. Plenty of new reality show prospects are in the works, spurred on by the success of Fox's"American Idol" and other programs. Mr. Scott said, "We have positioned this as `Survivor' meets `American Idol' with a twist of the `Wild On' [show] on E!"

contributing: david goetzl

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