Former Fox TV exec Sandy Grushow has joined with “Bend It Like Beckham” producer Deepak Nayar to create Filmaka.com, a web-based movie studio that is attracting aspiring filmmakers with promises of big coin for their feature films or series pilots.
Filmaka.com hosts a series of contests judged by a jury that includes Wim Wenders, Paul Schrader and Werner Herzog. The entrants submit a fee and a three-minute short, of which Grushow said the site has received 3,600 from 95 countries. Filmaka.com hosts the shorts for the curious, but when the contest is over, Grushow and Nayar will produce the winner’s feature film with coin “in the range of $2 million to $3 million.”
Though the studio hasn’t advertised its services, the volume of submissions has already been large enough for Filmaka to start producing Web series — Grushow said one of the shows has 12 episodes in the can. The series are funded cheaply — between $700 and $4,000 per episode.
Filmaka doesn’t exist in a vacuum; Grushow touts partnerships with William Morris, which is managing the company itself and has first rights on the talent that Grushow and Nayar decide to produce.
The site also hosts a competition to produce a $40,000 pilot for FX. Should FX choose to pick up the series, Grushow and Nayar would become exec producers. The site’s boilerplate for the competish emphasizes the style of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” as template for prospective TV directors.
Grushow cites the agreement with the “American Idol” winners as an example of the kind of contract Filmaka is offering its artists. Grushow helped to develop that show at Fox in 2002.
Nayar, Filmaka’s CEO, touts the opportunities that the studio will bring to international filmmakers, given that Filmaka’s headquarters is on the Web. With the level of access increased, he and Grushow hope to market their content not just to American film distribs and networks, but to international markets as well.
Both men emphasize that the Web-based contest format is useful to them as a way to find filmmakers who are adept at using their own resources to create material. If a writer-director can produce a flashy, professional-quality three-minute film without any outside funding, the Filmaka execs reason, what might he do with $3 million?
The winning entry of the feature film contest will be announced next week.