Hollywood Stock Exchange, a company that started as a World Wide Web site launched by Prudential Securities managing director Michael Burns and former Shearson broker-turned-poet Max Keiser, is beginning production on its first feature film, “Atomic Highway.”
The film, starring Jason London (“Dazed and Confused”) and Brooke Langton (“Melrose Place,” “Swingers”), is written and co-directed by Sasha Gelbart and Eric Tipton. Gelbart is the grandson of writer Larry Gelbart.
Gelbart and Tipton had previously optioned a feature script, “Halfback,” to TriStar and another, “First Strike,” to 20th Century Fox.
Thesps London and Langton are clients of the William Morris Agency, whose Cassian Elwes and Rachel Shapiro brokered the deal with Hollywood Stock Exchange.
HSX, as the company is known, operates an online stock market game at http://www.hsx.com. Players who log on to play the game start with $1 million in cyber cash, which they can “invest” in films currently in production.
The site also includes a cast of eight characters who play out a running storyline, and users can type in feedback.
When HSX was launched in March, Burns told Daily Variety that he intended the site to be an entry point for Web surfers to get into film financing.
“Let’s say we have a million players around the world,” he said at the time. “We strike a deal with a filmmaker to raise $3 million with our game players. We tell our players they can put in $40 each, and effectively finance the movie.”
Burns said Monday that he expects the financing component of the Web site to be operational within 90 days.
Meanwhile, “Atomic Highway” begins production in L.A. on Dec. 7. Burns said the film’s budget was in the low seven figures. HSX is its primary backer. Distribution isn’t set yet, with the filmmakers hoping to make the festival circuit.
“I just loved the script,” said Elwes, of his reasons for getting involved with such an offbeat type of production company. “It’s the epitome of an independent film, and they have a whole range of projects they want to do.
“The Web game is great,” added Elwes. “Michael is a very smart guy, and this is a stepping stone to being in the business with him on a larger scale.”
WMA deal looms
Though HSX, Burns and Keiser aren’t yet WMA clients, Elwes said the parties are discussing formalizing their relationship.
“Atomic Highway” is targeted for a spring ’97 release. Burns – who still holds his day job at Prudential Securities – said he plans to produce four more features through HSX next year.