Leveraging relationship with U to intensify prod'n

ReelShort.com, the entertainment Netcaster backed by Universal Pictures, will relaunch today as Hypnotic.com as it tries to transform itself into an online film studio.

A Webcaster of shorts since its quiet bow last year, New York-based site is now trying to leverage its relationship with its Hollywood studio partner to ramp up production of original pics for the Internet and offline avenues.

Close ties to U makes the site an online source for untapped talent, including actors and directors, for production companies on the lot to use.

“Universal’s production and distribution resources allow Hypnotic to attract a new generation of filmmakers, while Hypnotic provides us consistent access to those emerging artists,” said Stacey Snider, chairman of Universal Pictures. “Artists and audiences will be drawn to Hypnotic because of the quality of the work, the clarity of the vision and the innovation in its presentation.”

$1 mil deal up for grabs

Venture’s first move under the new moniker is the Hypnotic Million Dollar Film Festival, which will award an aspiring filmmaker with a $1 million co-production deal. U will pony up much of the prize. Produced pic will eventually be distribbed on- and offline.

Fest runs Nov. 13-Dec. 31, with Netizens choosing the top five films screened on Hypnotic. Winning pics will then be screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

“By combining the support of Universal Pictures with the creative freedom of an independent film studio and the immediacy of the Internet, we can provide an exciting showcase for emerging filmmakers while also offering them major studio opportunities,” Jeremy Bernard, CEO and founder of ReelShort, told Daily Variety.

Universal has been looking to beef up ReelShort.com’s brand awareness since the studio took a significant but undisclosed stake in the dot-com in March (Daily Variety, March 24).

A major branding effort was being put on hold until the new moniker and relaunch was announced, studio officials said. The name ReelShort was considered forgettable in a space dominated by names like AtomFilms, iFilm, Reel, ShortBuzz and ReelPlay.

Behavior modification

“This new plan is a modification of our original mission,” Bernard said. “We are still discovering and incubating young talent, but our methods have changed. By changing our name and business plan, we are pointing out that we are more than just a Web company. Before, ReelShort was a little limited. Now we can take advantage of new business opportunities.”

Since March, ReelShort and U have always said the goal was to expand ReelShort’s role in attracting cutting-edge films and finding outlets beyond the Internet for those films.

“We really feel that we are broadening our horizons and getting away from specifically short film and the Internet,” Bernard said. “We are looking at all avenues of distribution, including theatrical, cable, homevid, Internet, airlines. We consider ourselves a studio within a studio. We can push the envelope but still have the support of the studio.”

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