Virtual film classroom

Exex launch 'Net school for global students

In a display of the Web’s growing importance as an educational medium for aspiring entertainment industry professionals, veteran legal and business executives Judith Merians and Bill Josey have launched an Internet film school, the Hollywood Experts Online (THEO).

Such film programs as USC already offer online extension courses. What sets THEO apart is that it permits students to register and work at their own pace, and provides around-the-clock access to chat rooms and real-time events using streaming video and audio. Merians projects that 5,000 students will be enrolled worldwide within the next six months.

In an effort to offer “the kinds of courses that are difficult to find in other venues,” Merians told Daily Variety, THEO will provide guidance for finding an agent and selling a script without an agent, and will offer various courses in film production and finance, including a class taught on camera by entertainment banker Lewis Horwitz. On the creative side, there will be a class on directing in which an original short script will be workshopped and even an acting class using digital video.

It remains to be seen whether the concept of paying between $65 and $200 a course — for an electronic classroom experience that may not offer the connections promised by other film programs — will catch on. But Merians says that THEO’s chat rooms and real-time events will provide sufficient contact with instructors, and will cater to those who, for reasons of geography or time, can’t attend a traditional film school.

Merians was previously senior veep of business and legal affairs at Saban Intl. Josey comes from Saban Entertainment/Fox Family Worldwide, where he was senior veep of business affairs and general counsel.

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