HOLLYWOOD — It appears you can go home again.Dozens of execs who ventured outside of Hollywood’s walls in the last three years to seek their fortunes from online entertainment are quietly returning to more traditional gigs in showbiz. The return has been a relatively easy one for most, with returning industryites popping up everywhere, landing jobs as production or development execs at television and film shingles, business development toppers at major record labels, and as lawyers and agents — not necessarily the same positions they had previously, but, for some, better gigs than they had before. In the last six months alone, Chris Buchanan, who founded Flixer.com, an online community site for filmmakers, has become prexy of Joss Whedon’s Mutant Enemy Prods. (TV skeins “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and the new series “Firefly”). Hilary Meserole, one-time chief marketing officer at online entertainment destination Z.com, has joined CAA’s corporate consulting division as an agent. And Tom Lassally, founder of Web-based entertainment production entity Fusient Media Ventures has segued into producing films, with two pics (“Stay” and “Brad Pitt Wants My Girlfriend”) set up at New Regency. Where it once became fashionable to laugh at the so-called “dot-commies” who struggled (and often failed miserably) to build businesses out of showcasing short films or other fare on the Internet, the apparent undesirables have now become attractive must-hires. Previous industry relationships with those who “stayed behind” have helped with the transition back into the Hollywood fold, but so have a number of other factors:
- The returnees are seen as risk-takers: Hollywood isn’t known for breeding gutsy execs who often break with the status quo. While many complained about their development jobs, few left them. But something funny happened to Hollywood’s dot-commers: They’re being heralded as e-trepreneurs whose ideas were great but launched too soon.
- They have deep Rolodexes: At the height of the Internet boom, networking and attending countless parties was the name of the game. Meeting everyone who might help your business was key, including fostering relationships with toppers at the studios, broadcast webs, record labels and the tech sector.
- They work on Internet time: Execs who were used to developing projects at Hollywood’s slow pace had to quickly acclimate to the Web’s fast-moving world, building businesses from the ground up and making deals or producing content on an almost daily basis.
- They understand technology: With video-on-demand plus digital projection and film distribution rolling out, Hollywood is being forced to become more tech-savvy. Thus, in a biz where studio bosses still get their assistants to videotape Web sites, knowing how all things digital work is an asset.
- They know what works: Well, at least they know what doesn’t work. Using the Web as a platform to market movies is finally beginning to boost ticket sales.