Longing for shorts

AtomFilms has acquired 5 at S'dance so far

PARK CITY, Utah — Internet company AtomFilms has snatched up rights to four more short films, bringing its bounty to five shorts and making it the most aggressive acquisitor of shorts at the festival so far.

The acquired films are Mark Tiedeman’s “Girl Go Boom,” Lawrence Greenberg’s “Men Named Milo, Women Named Greta,” Paul Charney’s “Sunday Afternoon” and Michael Horowitz and Gareth Smith’s “This Guy Is Falling.”

Earlier in the week, Atom picked up Jason Reitman’s “In God We Trust.” Prior to the fest, it snatched up Eva Aridjis’ “Billy Twist,” also in competition at Sundance, and actress Sarah Polley’s “Don’t Think Twice.”

Atom is also said to be interested in such fest shorts as “6 Miles of 8 Feet,” “Friday” and “Titler.”

Wide berth for shorts

Founded by Mika Salmi last March, Atom is a film marketing and distribution company with offices in London, Los Angeles and Seattle. The Internet company’s goal is to penetrate all possible distribution and marketing venues for short films, including airlines, television and the Web.

Seated in a suite in Park City’s Shadow Ridge lodge, Atom director of acquisitions Jannat Gargi said, “We are trying to build a short film community. We at AtomFilms are filmmaker friendly. We want to build long-term relationships with them.”

A weary Gargi said she has already watched some 80 shorts at Sundance, and she has been very impressed with the quality. “Our company believes in shorts,” she continued. “Many here at Sundance are intelligent and creative. We find them to be a viable form of entertainment.”

Along with such companies as Ifilm, Mediatrip.com and the Sundance Channel, Gargi’s acquisitions team has also watched dozens of shorts at Slamdance, NoDance, Digidance and SlamDunk. More acquisitions are expected before the fest’s Jan. 30 close.

But how does anyone make money off of short films?

Gargi explained that all deals with filmmakers are structured in similar ways: After signing a deal memo, the filmmaker is given a $500 advance and guaranteed a percentage of the pic’s gross from all possible revenue streams. In addition, the filmmakers are given stock options in Atom and promised that if sales fail to materialize, they will reclaim the right to their pic.

Once the filmmaker’s deal is signed, Atom execs evaluate each pic’s potential and pursue sales to such outlets as HBO, Cinemax, Channel Plus, the Sundance Channel, airlines and other Internet sites. Atom also has plans for syndicating to some 15 different partner sites.

How much does a successful short stand to make? “In the neighborhood of $50,000 over the course of a year,” said Gargi. “Over the course of two years, it could be four times that amount.”

Wheeler dealer

Like other Internet companies with display spaces all around town, AtomFilms has a marketing gimmick that makes it unique: the Atom Shorts Bus, which unspools short films on two monitors with a cozy pillowed bed in its camper-like section in the back.

Atom’s marketing has clearly worked. One filmmaker, Boston-based Nick Dullea, was all smiles when he boarded the bus on Wednesday. “This is the fifth time I have come on,” he said. “It’s a great venue to come in and see some well-made shorts. The idea that you can actually sell your short and make back the cost of the film is really inspiring, being someone with not a lot of money. It could help pay for my next film!”

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