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Inventor of the Online Film Festival

Inventor of the Online Film Festival

Articles - Internet

Michael Perry

ClickFlick’s Michael Perry

There aren’t too many peaks in
the motion picture world that Michael Perry hasn’t scaled.
After attending film school, Perry began directing television
commercials. From there, he launched a lengthy and successful
career as a music producer. And in 2000, he stuck a flag atop
the Internet with his company, ClickFlick. Launched in May of
2000, ClickFlick.tv is proving to be one of the most heavily traveled
movie sites on the World Wide Web. The site boasts approximately
one million hits per month. Here, Perry talks with MovieMaker about the philosophy of the site and the future of the Internet
as it pertains to moviemaking.

Jennifer Wood (MM): ClickFlick was launched
in May of 2000, but the idea came about much earlier. Give us
a brief timeline for the site.

Michael Perry (MP): I met Rus
Reinsel, who is a producer for UPN right now, when he was working
on Roseanne. We got to be good friends and thought about this
whole Internet thing. It took us three years to plan it all out
and figure out what the direction would be. In the beginning nobody
had broadband, and what you saw on the Internet was just horrible.
So we just waited it out.

MM: What was it about the
Internet that interested you most?

MP: The exhibition opportunities.
Before then, it was hard to see short films unless you were at
a festival. The possibility of exhibiting the stuff that we enjoyed,
without having to go directly through television, really interested
us. Plus, of course, it’s pretty much the future of exhibition.

MM: So ClickFlick applies
a film festival philosophy to the Internet. How does that work?

MP: We run awards twice a year,
in October and April, and each film gets a 60-day voting period.
The reason we did the “festival” is become nobody else was doing
that. AtomFilms, Shortbuzz (which is no longer) and a couple other
sites were distributors. We didn’t go that route because
we felt that, eventually, if the distribution thing didn’t
work that well, filmmakers wouldn’t want to send their films
in. A lot of them would get caught. With ClickFlick, you can remove
your film at any time–even within the 60 days–for
whatever reason. So we’re no threat.

MM: Besides flexibility,
what other ways does the festival format help moviemakers?

MP: One director took his feature
film and edited into a short. It wasn’t really a movie trailer,
it was just a short version of his feature, called Laughing Boy.
He toured it around to different festivals and used our site as
a way for people to see the film. He eventually signed a distribution
deal at a festival here in Santa Monica. He also advertised.

MM: Advertised?

MP: It costs very, very little
for filmmakers to advertise on our site. He advertised on our
site but provided a link to his own site, where you could find
out more about the film and where it was playing.

MM: What’s the typical
cost if a moviemaker wants to advetise?

MP: It’s as little as $75
to $100 per month.

MM: Take me through ClickFlick’s
submission process.

MP: It’s very simple. Go
to our site and click on the link that says ‘Submit Your
Film.’ The information we’re asking for is incredibly
basic. Because it’s a new media festival, artists with electronic
art may also enter. Enter the creator’s name, a little bio,
the name of the film and tell us what you shot and edited on,
as that’s very interesting to other filmmakers.

MM: And then what happens?
You wait to hear whether or not your film has been accepted?

MP: We try to accept most films.
There are some films that we haven’t accepted, as they were
more like home videos with no editing. Also, we don’t accept
movies that are incredibly violent. We’ve got action films
and some violent stuff, but we won’t accept anything that
we don’t think is good for the community.

MM: How do you decide the
festival winners?

MP: Voting is done by our online
audience. So that the voting is fair, we monitor these votes carefully.
You can only post one vote a day, and we really monitor where
these votes are coming from. We also have a jury that consists
of two professors from USC, a producer from UPN, a film critic
and then one of us.

MM: You mentioned how other,
similar-minded companies have already gone out of business. Why
do you think ClickFlick is still around?

MP: When we started this, we
went to an entertainment company in LA and they gave us a lot
of great advice. Basically, the other people aren’t around
because they borrowed millions of dollars. They did a lot great
advertising, they got a lot of hits, but there was no way to make
money. Our overhead is incredibly low, and we’re not going
away because of that.

MM: What are ClickFlick’s
plans for the future?

MP: We are doing an original
series that is going to be on our site. It’s an interactive
series about a musical group that sells their soul to the devil
in exchange for some hit songs. But the audience gets to pick
which direction the characters go. Say there were three characters,
the audience will be able to follow one of them and help them
make choices. The choices that get the most votes will be the
ones filmed. At the end of each ‘cycle’, we’re
editing all those individual characters and choices into a show,
and are working with a television company right now.

MM: That seems to be a fairly
significant departure from the film festival.

MP: In the future, the festival
may not be enough to attract people. What I foresee is that a
big television network, for example, will go and start swooping
up all these smaller sites that have good hits that they like
and charge everyone $5 to enter their network that has all these
50,000 to 60,000 purchased sites. To look good to them, you’d
need to have something more original than just the festival. That’s
what I think, but I don’t know. Nobody knows.

MM: What are some of your
favorite Websites?

MP: When people ask about books
for the new digital revolution, we send them to Focal Press (www.focalpress.com)
– they’ve got everything! Another site we really like is SoundDogs
(www.sounddogs.com). They sell sound effects by the piece – and
they’re top-notch sound effects. And they only charge $5 to
$10 per download.

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