Archive for December 18th, 2007

Writers Look Beyond Studios

18th December 2007

The L.A. Times reports that striking writers in Hollywood are looking for new opportunities for income from the Internet.

Seven groups have been created that are looking for venture capital to create alterative Internet-based businesses, and three of the groups are hoping to create models based on the United Artists production company started eighty years ago by Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith.

Silicon Valley investors historically have been averse to backing entertainment start-ups, believing that such efforts were less likely to generate huge paydays than technology companies. But they began considering a broader range of entertainment investments after observing the enormous sums paid for popular Web video companies, including the $1.65 billion that Google Inc. plunked down last year for YouTube, a site where users post their own clips.

They also have been emboldened by major advertisers, which prefer supporting professionally created Web entertainment to backing user-generated content on sites such as MySpace that can be in poor taste.

“I’m 100% confident that you will see some companies get formed,” said Todd Dagres, a Boston-based venture capitalist who has been flying to L.A. and meeting with top writers for weeks. “People have made up their minds.”

What effect this would have on the strike is unclear. So far, the percentage of the guild’s 10,000 striking writers who are in discussions with venture capitalists appears to be small. Any deal of this kind, however, could put pressure on the studios and help the writers’ public relations campaign. Writers who are talking to venture investors say the studios would suffer a brain drain if high-profile talents received outside funding and were no longer beholden to them.